MHAL volleyball semi-finals: Presidents go down swinging

It took close to two hours to wrap things up at Ulster Community College’s Senate Gymnasium on Oct. 25, but Millbrook varsity volleyball beat Hyde Park’s Roosevelt 3-2 in the Mid-Hudson Athletic League semifinals. The Presidents, however, didn’t leave without a fight.

The teams were neck-and-neck to start things off, and Roosevelt grabbed the advantage late in the first game, going up 22-18. A late Millbrook rally, however, put the Blazers back in the mix, and a long Roosevelt serve tied things up at 23 and forced a Presidents’ time-out. Millbrook, however, nabbed the last two points to ice the first game 25-23, gaining the upper hand and the momentum.

Roosevelt played from behind in the second set, having trouble capitalizing on volleys that weren’t set up for a spike — an issue they’d have throughout the match — but then grabbed a 9-8 lead and stayed in control for the rest of the game, even through a Millbrook rally that brought things to 21-20. FDR called a timeout to cool the Blazers, and it worked; the Presidents took the final four points to end the match 25-20.

After two matches, the disparity between Roosevelt’s and Millbrook’s styles was evident. Roosvelt, a spike-heavy team built on sets, and Millbrook, built on a slow-and-low return game, are on different ends of the volleyball spectrum.

“Millbrook is really good about … not letting the ball hit the floor unless someone is diving,” said Roosevelt head coach Sam Lowe. “No matter where we place the ball on the floor, we know someone is going to get under it. That’s the biggest thing, they have excellent defense.”

Game three was squarely Millbrook’s. The Blazers led 18-11 at one point, but some solid Presidents volley-work brought them to within three points of Millbrook. It was a moot point, though, after a rough series of FDR mistakes gave Millbrook a comfortable lead; they took the game 25-19.

Game four was all Roosevelt. The Presidents handled Millbrook’s heavy-on-placement game well in the opening act and cranked out a solid lead. The Blazers came within four of the Presidents at one point, but Roosevelt cruised to a 25-16 win in style on a Shannon Kelly ace.

Millbrook brought the big guns out in the final game, though, forcing the Presidents to play some high-level defense and not letting them settle in to plays. The Blazers took a 3-0 lead and never gave it back. Roosevelt shot for a rally and almost got one, but the Blazers rolled through the last five points and scored their 24th on a spike. They won 25-20 and advanced to the championships. There they lost to Spackenkill in four games.

Despite the loss, Coach Lowe said of her team, “They played down from what they normally play. I have to give them credit — this is a really stressful situation for them to be them. And they came back — they never let it go. They could have, but they chose not to. They took two of the games and I’m really proud of them.”.

The loss brings the Presidents’ record to 15-2.

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