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South Side refuses to give up at state girls volleyball tournament

Sophia Jackson of South Side looks to spike

Sophia Jackson of South Side looks to spike against West Irondequoit during the round robin portion of the state girls volleyball Class A championship at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, N.Y. on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. Credit: James Escher

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – The South Side girls volleyball team did the math.

After dropping their first four pool-play sets in the state tournament at Cool Insuring Arena on Saturday, the Cyclones knew they couldn’t advance to the Class A championship. But, they still had to take on Burnt Hills in the final matchup of the day.

So, with two sets left in the season, South Side refused to linger on earlier mistakes, defeating the Spartans, 26-24, 25-19, and ending the year on a win.

“We all got together and discussed it and said, ‘We need to make this the best game we’ve ever played,’” said senior Jaden Garelle, who had five kills in the final two sets. “We’ve had a great season and the teams we played today were excellent, but we felt like we had to give our all out there.”

Senior Katelyn Tollefsen added that the Cyclones, making their first appearance in the state tournament since 2002, wanted to “have fun” in the last sets.

“Our goal was to leave everything on the court,” Tollefsen said. “We got here, and we wanted to celebrate that.”

South Side’s late-day rally was highlighted by strong offensive play, including a seven-point scoring streak in the second set that gave the Cyclones (17-5) an 18-10 cushion. Junior Sophia Jackson recorded an ace during the stretch, while Garelle helped spark the Cyclones with some strong play at the net.

"Our communication and our ability to hype ourselves up really worked,” Garelle said. “Our skills, our defense, how we moved the ball around, especially against the players on [Burnt Hills] was great.”

South Side struggled to find that same rhythm early.

The Cyclones faced a quick 8-1 deficit West Irondequoit, before falling 25-12, 25-21. They then lost to Hendrick Hudson, 25-20, 25-8.

Coach Cheryl Scalice said she “couldn’t put a finger” on the reason for South Side’s play, but credited the team for its determination down the stretch.

“The goal for us, at that point, was that we wanted to be able to leave here and pat ourselves on the back and say, ‘Hey, we did show a little bit of what we really are like,” Scalice said.

With a host of players set to return next season, the Cyclones are hoping this experience is something they can build on, already planning for another run at a state championship.

“Everything that happened is a feather in their cap,” Scalice said. “Those kids that are returning now have experience to pass on and maybe that gives them the strength to be able to play a little better under pressure in the future."

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