Team celebrates as Calhoun defeated Burnt Hills during finals at...

Team celebrates as Calhoun defeated Burnt Hills during finals at the New York State Public High School girl's Class A volleyball championships at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, New York on Nov. 20, 2022 Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

A three-match losing streak right before the playoffs can rarely be viewed as a positive, but what happened next was even rarer for the Calhoun girls volleyball program.

Winning a state title.

Calhoun lost three in a row before defeating Mineola in its regular-season finale entering the Nassau Class A playoffs. The Colts suffered all five of their losses over a seven-match stretch late in the season.

But that losing streak, which did consist of injuries to some key players, refocused the Colts.

“I think it’s really important as a team to humble yourself,” junior Gianna Lucchi said. “Once we got humbled, we knew what we needed to work on and what we needed to work out and once we figured that out, we were off from there.”

“We wanted vengeance,” senior Victoria Zovich said. “We were out to show someone that just because you lost a game or whatever, we could come back to where we are today. We just wanted to show everyone who we were.”

Who they are is the best team in Calhoun girls volleyball history.

Calhoun defeated Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 25-11, 25-19, 25-19, in the girls volleyball state Class A final at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls on Nov. 20 to win its first state title in program history.

The late losing skid sent Calhoun into the playoffs as the No. 3 seed. But the Colts knew once they were healthy and playing together, they were capable of defeating any team.

“That time was really hard for us,” junior Grace Miller said. “But I felt we always knew we could get out of it and every team goes through a rough patch so I’m glad we did it when we did so then we came out twice as hard. I don’t think we’d be here or we would win or it would feel as good if we didn’t have that.”

Julia Lawrence, who led the team in kills and is also a standout beach volleyball player, was playing through pain and missed some matches during Calhoun’s losing stretch. Lawrence said the team just needed a reset and to work through some miscommunications, and that the Colts came out better for it.

“It’s the hungry mindset,” coach Christina Strezenec said. “It’s that, ‘no one expects us to win’ mindset and that whiteboard mindset. It’s that dream that we were chasing after. We were dream chasers throughout the whole season.”

Then Calhoun (16-5) went on its final run of the season. The Colts only dropped three sets in their four Nassau Class A playoff contests, which included four-set victories over No. 2 Wantagh and No. 1 South Side. They beat previously-undefeated Sayville in straight sets in the Long Island Class A championship and won five of six sets in pool play during the state championships.

Calhoun won 22 of its 26 sets in postseason play, proving that a rough stretch in the regular season is nothing that can’t be overcome when the points matter most.

“We just sat down together and realized everything was in front of us,” senior Ella Maldonado said. “Losing those games was tough, but we still had a lot to play for and we had to play with a chip on our shoulder." 

“It made us thirsty,” Zovich said. “We wanted to come back and win it all.”