Sam Lowe, head coach of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt girls’ volleyball team, knew that her players would have their hands full in their first game of the Section 9, Class A playoffs.
Having received a first-round bye following a 15-1 regular season record, the Presidents faced Saugerties High School Nov. 1 in the Class A semifinals, a team they had beaten 3-2 in an intense match back on Sept. 20.
Before the game, Lowe preached to her players to focus on the end goal, not get down on themselves if they made mistakes.
The Presidents responded, and behind the strength of seniors Sarah Hof (17 kills, 15 assists) and Shannon Kelly (19 kills, four blocks), FDR defeated Saugerties for the second time, 3-2.
With the victory, the Presidents advance to today’s Class A final, where they will play Cornwall High School. The match starts at 2pm at SUNY New Paltz.
“I was nervous coming in; they [Saugerties] are an exceptional team,” Lowe told The Observer. “They are a very tough opponent for us and are highly competitive. I’m proud of how we played, especially down the stretch.”
From the opening set of the semifinal, both teams showcased their competiveness and flair for the dramatic. The Sawyers went on a 7-2 run to start, and at one point had a six-point lead over the Presidents. But with the score at 19-16, FDR stormed back, going on a 5-2 run to tie the set at 21, and win 25-23.
In the second set, Saugerties once again started off with the lead, but FDR showed their resiliency to grab the lead back at 7-6. The two teams tied at 9 before Saugerties scored three straight points to take a lead it would not relinquish, ending the set on a 4-1 run to win 25-20.
With the match tied at 1-1, FDR took control of the third set, dominating Saugerties on offense and defense to take the first double-digit lead of the match, 15-5. Despite a late run by the Sawyers, the Presidents took a 2-1 match lead by winning the set 25-15.
FDR had an opportunity to close out Saugerties in the fourth set, but it was an opportunity wasted. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead, the Presidents were bombarded by an array of strong kills and defying blocks by the Sawyers. Saugerties went on to win the set 25-16, tying the match at 2-2 and setting the stage for the win-or-go-home fifth set.
Before the set began, Lowe brought her players together to remind them not to lose focus in the heat of the moment.
“I told them, ‘You can’t get down on yourself. Once you start getting down on yourself, that is when the points start rolling in; you have to keep the level of play up,’ ” Lowe said. “That’s basically what I told them.”
Taking their coach’s words to heart, the Presidents refused to back down against the Sawyers in an exciting final set that saw three lead changes and two ties. FDR used an early 4-1 run to establish a commanding 17-10 lead. But Saugerties refused to go away, going on a 6-1 run of its own to make it 18-16.
A 3-1 run by FDR put the home team back in control at 21-17, and once again, Saugerties battled back, and the Sawyers only trailed by one, 22-21. But the Presidents scored the final three points of the set, sealing the victory, 25-21, and their trip to the Class A final.