GLENS FALLS, N.Y. -- The Connetquot Thunderbirds always appeared calm and calculating. They never were unnerved by playing on the biggest stage that high school sports can offer.
For a team composed primarily of underclassmen, that's uncanny. But behind stellar ball control, sharp defense and ferocious hitting, Connetquot won the Class AA girls volleyball state championship, beating Pine Bush in straight sets Sunday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Coach Justin Hertz said it was the program's first state title. "We knew coming up the pipeline that this was a talented group of kids," he said.
Despite falling to Massapequa in the Long Island Class AA final last season, Hertz said he was pleased with the result, and that he knew this would be the year.
"This year, in our own minds, this was the expectation," he said. "This is easily the best, most cohesive group I've coached."
It was an all-around performance by the T-Birds, who never trailed in the first two sets against Pine Bush (25-17, 25-16). Pine Bush had Connetquot on the ropes in the third, leading 14-12, before the T-Birds scored seven of the next eight points to lead 19-15. They would win, 25-20.
That dominance came after a 5-1 showing in pool play, and the loss (to Shenendehowa) came after the T-Birds already had clinched a spot in the final.
As for what makes Connetquot so successful, Hertz said his players dictate the pace of every point. "Rarely does the ball just fall on our side," he said. "We make points last until we're ready to end them."
Everyone in the lineup contributed over the weekend, and Cassandra Patsos, Mackenzie Cole and Nicole Migliozzi earned all-tournament recognition. Migliozzi also earned MVP honors for her setting ability. But she and her teammates were humble afterward, acting like they'd been there before.
"It's a great honor, but I honestly couldn't have done it without this team," Migliozzi said.
Patsos shared a similar sentiment about her all-tournament recognition. "It doesn't mean much," she said. "We all couldn't have done it without each other."
The Thunderbirds will enter next season as the Class AA favorites. Cole, Migliozzi, and Patsos will be juniors. Mackenzie Taylor, Cory Carrara and Taylor Cole will be seniors. Only Katie von Kampen and Lauren Ballinger are graduating.
"Knowing that I won my senior year and that I made my senior season as long as it could be, it's unreal," von Kampen said. "I can't imagine what these girls are going to do when they get older."
Last year, Connetquot was the "Fresh Five" because of its five freshmen. This year, the T-Birds called themselves the "Soph Seven" for their seven sophomores. As for next year?
"I don't know," Mackenzie Cole said, laughing. "There's no number with a 'J,' so we're going to have to figure something out."
Whatever the snappy name may be, they'll also be called the defending Class AA champs.