CROSS RIVER – Carmen Bates had talked to her team often about how great of a volleyball player assistant coach Gina Perino was back in the day. Perino said she had “one good jump” left in her, and that she would save it for a dogpile if Westlake were to win the Section 1 Class B title.
Bates chimed in, “And I’ll jump higher.”
Both ladies honored their promises Saturday afternoon, leaping atop their players following the final point of an exhilarating 26-24, 23-25, 25-19, 15-25, 25-18 win over top-seeded Lourdes in the section final at John Jay-Cross River.
“All of our volleyball careers came up to this point, especially for us seniors,” Westlake senior captain Kelly Martin said. “This could’ve been our last game, and it’s just such an honor to be able to play with my family. We are such a family.”
Westlake huddled on their knees, coaches included, prior to the start of the fifth set.
“I said to them, ‘You should leave with purple shirts,’ ” Perino said, referring to the purple paint on the court of John Jay. “There is no tomorrow if it doesn’t happen. I’m a believer of, ‘You’re not looking for the next game — you’re looking just to get out of this gym, and get out of this gym with a pretty special title.’”
Junior setter Caleigh Carr texted Martin in the morning saying that the team had to avenge their section final loss from two years ago, which was also at John Jay. Carr said she had “war flashbacks” as the bus pulled into the parking lot.
Carr wasn’t about to let anything get in the team’s way of bringing home the hardware to Thornwood, injuries included.
“Laine Peterson has a bad back, and her back was hurting her the entire (final) two games and I said, ‘You can be hurt later, but we need to finish this game so that we can win,’ ” Carr said, holding on to the rubber chicken the team found midway through the season and has used as a good luck charm since.
Upon receiving championship medals, Bates placed a plastic, gold-beaded necklace with a chicken anchor at the bottom around each player’s neck, kissing each one on the forehead.
“We just kept working,” Bates said of the team’s progress throughout the season. “We played some great competition, and we learned to finish.”
Westlake (16-4) will play in the state regional semifinals Wednesday at SUNY Ulster at 3 p.m.