This was far from Connetquot’s best volleyball.
The girls team, which had gone undefeated on Long Island this season and lost just two sets all year, started off on about as sour of a note as possible.
Powerhouse Penfield decisively swept the Thunderbirds, 25-22, 25-14, in the first two sets of the state semifinals at the Glens Falls Civic Center Saturday night. But in true T-Bird fashion, they rose to the occasion and won the next four sets in pool play against Corning-Painted Post and Shenendehowa to advance to Sunday’s final against Penfield.
“Tonight they were on their ‘B game,’ ” coach Justin Hertz said. “We didn’t play our best skill-wise, but they fought like hell once again and they found a way. And if we play our a game tomorrow, anything can happen.”
Consistency was hard to find, even in the four-set streak that clinched a berth to the final, which will be played Sunday at 2 p.m.
There were a bevy of service errors, long hits and miscommunications. Hitters weren’t swinging with as much confidence as previous matches.
Simply put, they didn’t look like the team that won last year’s state AA championship.
A team as talented as Connetquot (20-0) can occasionally get away with not playing its best. With Long Island’s top defense – anchored by Mackenzie Cole and Daniella Balsano — the Thunderbirds can resist allowing points long enough to score their own.
“If we’re going to be able to find a way to New York State title, it’s going to be because we are the best defensive, ball-control team out there,” Hertz said.
In the final match of the evening between Connetquot and Shenendehowa, whichever team swept would advance to the final. If the teams split sets, there would be a one-set playoff to determine the winner.
The Thunderbirds trailed 17-11 in the opener. Migliozzi’s sparked a run with from the service line, bringing Connetquot back within two at 17-15. Then she took over the game as the setter.
Migliozzi used all her weapons — Cassandra Patsos, Taylor Cole, Kiarra Roth and Taylor Konzen — to bring Connetquot back at 19-19. After a block and kill from Roth, a freshman, the Thunderbirds took their first lead of the set.
They closed the set on a 14-3 run to win.
“I think we came back through hard work,” Migliozzi said. “We knew that we needed to be here tomorrow and we weren’t going to let this particular game stop us.”
In the deciding set, Connetquot trailed 18-17. But Patsos tallied three late kills to clinch the game and send the Thunderbirds back to the state title match.
There’s little time to celebrate the victory, though, as Connetquot will have to overcome the height of Penfield, which features nine players of at least 5-8.
But Migliozzi didn’t waver.
“Definitely, we’re ready for it,” she said. “This was a warmup.”