It wasn’t easy, but the Homer Central girls’ volleyball team drew on the bond of togetherness since junior high school to pick up a win against Marcellus in the Section 3 Class B Tournament semifinal round Tuesday.
The second seeded Trojans earned a 26-24, 26-24, 25-19 victory over the visiting third seeded Mustangs to improve to 16-3 this season. Homer will face top seed, and defending state champion, Westhill in Saturday’s 4 p.m. championship match at Fayetteville-Manlius High
School. The Warriors (17-0) swept fourth seed Solvay (10-9) in straight sets. Marcellus closes out the season at 10-6.
With two nail-biting first sets, the third set win had an anti-climatic feel when Marcellus served the ball into the net for the Trojans’ winning point.
“Against Marcellus, with the history we’ve had, I’ll take a win no matter how that point happens,” Homer coach Jeremy Cook said. “We played them super close twice this year already and won.
Over the course of time in the fall, we’ve played them so many times in elimination games like this, you just never know what happens. I didn’t think we played great tonight. I think we can still play even better, but we did enough to get it done.”
Getting it done this season is what this group of seniors has been doing since day one this fall.
“This group of seniors has been together a really long time,” Cook said. “They play like they are extremely comfortable with each other. When they do get down by five or six points with some of those runs they still find a way to win point after point and never get to rattled where some other teams would just collapse. They find a way to comeback.”
“We have really come together as a team,” senior Kaia Hubbard said. “We’ve all been playing together for so long. We really have a strong bond together. I think our squad together helps us with our losses. We know we have to work hard together as a team.”
Hubbard is one of those keys in so many big wins this season and she delivered seven kills and four blocks Tuesday in her final home match. Classmate Allyson Natale had nine kills and 14 digs. Senior Celine Beaudry added four kills and sophomore Kloey Roos added two kills. None of that power attack would be possible without senior setter Delaney Hartnett who had 20 assists and nine digs in the win. Two other seniors have been crucial in keeping the ball in play and starting the offensive sets. Izzi Wallace had 29 digs with Caitlin Barber adding 15 digs and two aces in the winning effort.
Hubbard has been getting stronger as the season has progressed and her teammates are key to that.
“I think it’s just all coming together right now,” Hubbard said of her play. “Delaney has been my setter for I don’t know how many years. Playing with her, and knowing each other, really helps.”
Homer jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the first set, but Marcellus countered with a 10-1 run to take a 13-7 lead.
The Trojans trailed 17-10 before slowly chipping away at their deficit until a strong hit by Natale tied the set at 20-20. The score remained close until the end. Annika Roos served up the winning point. Roos had three blocks and six digs in the match.
The second set was similar to the first as Homer built an 8-2 advantage early. Marcellus came back to lead 15-11 and the Mustangs stayed in front until the late stages of the set. Annika Roos had a block to knot the score at 20-20, but an ace by Jessica Majo helped the visitors retake a 23-21 advantage. A block by Hartnett helped Homer stay in the set and a couple of Mustang mistakes tied things at 24-24. Hartnett served an ace to put the Trojans in front 25-24 and a well-placed deep ball by Hubbard gave her team another 26-24 win and a two games to none lead.
In the third set, the score stayed close, Homer never led by more than three points much of the way and Marcellus had no more than a two point advantage. The set was tied 16-16 when the Trojans began to pull away. A strong hit by Beaudry put Homer in front for good at 17-16. A four-point run at the service line for Annika Roos pushed the lead to 21-16. Hubbard got the Trojans to game point at 24-18 with a strong hit through a Marcellus blocking attempt. Homer lost the serve before the Trojans got the win on a serve into the net by the Mustangs for the 25-19 final.
Bronte Stahl had nine assists, four digs and three aces for Marcellus. Evelyn Webster had a team-high 23 digs with Jessica Majo adding 11 digs. Elaine Grattan provided 10 digs and three kills, Jenna Mattison six digs and six assists while McKenzie Gutchess had a team-high four kills.
Homer now turns its focus to Westhill and the Class B title match. Two of the Trojans’ three losses have come at the hands of Westhill this season. Homer lost 25-20, 25-14, 25- 21 on Sept. 9. The second loss came at Westhill by scores of 25-17, 25-18, 25-20 Oct. 3. Westhill defeated Solvay 25- 21, 25-18, 25-14 in Tuesday’s semifinal match.
The last time Homer reached the Section 3 finals was four years again after upsetting Marcellus in the semifinals in five sets. Westhill swept the Trojans in three sets in the 2015 final at Onondaga Community College. Homer looks for a better result this time.
“Westhill is really, really good,” Cook said. “They are extremely talented. They may have only dropped a couple of sets all year. We have our work cut out for us. It is cool we have a chance to go and show them what we’ve got.”