Saints put up a fight vs. Fulton

Katie Burgess, of Saranac Lake, sends the ball over the net for North Country while Fulton-Montgomery’s Raina Danylak (5) and Gabrielle Smith defend during Wednesday’s match in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — As a program in its infancy, the North Country Community College volleyball team always faces a challenge when its players step on the court.

Competing at home on Wednesday, the Saints proved to be a worthy challenge for one of the top squads in Region III. Although they didn’t win a set, the Saints put up a fight against Fulton-Montgomery in a match that saw the Raiders win by 25-19, 25-15 and 25-19 scores.

With its sixth-straight win, Fulton-Montgomery improved to 5-0 in Region III and 16-5 overall.

A year ago, the Raiders went unbeaten during the regular season and marched all the way to the Region III final where they fell to Jefferson Community College. FMCC coach Rachael Salvione said three returning players from that team — Bri Eagan, Megan Ryder and Gabrielle Smith — have paved the way to a successful season so far.

Salvione added that North Country has come a long way as a program in just its third season of junior college volleyball.

Rebecca Reys plays the ball for North Country during Wednesday’s match against Fulton-Montgomery Community College. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

“They’ve made huge strides from the beginning to now,” Salvione said. “It’s really hard to build a program, to recruit when you are brand new, and they’ve made remarkable improvements from the last two years when I’ve seen them. They have some strong hitters and they kept the ball in play. They were digging up some of our hard hits from our No. 1 Bri Eagan. They were getting under the ball. They’re just committed, dedicated and have nothing to lose.”

Second-year Saints head coach Susan Waters was very pleased with her team’s effort against the Raiders, who are currently ranked fourth in Region III women’s volleyball.

“We did a good job today. I’m really proud of these girls,” Waters said. “A lot of these colleges we play have 12,000 students to choose from. I’m lucky to have seven or eight people playing. Last year we had all basketball players. This year, all but one of our girls are volleyball players. That’s Jadeen (Chisholm). She plays soccer and lacrosse.

“As a coach, I always need to utilize my strengths and build an offense around those strengths. We are not a tall team. Our strength is our serving and they are quite scrappy on defense. We have two new blockers who are still learning the ropes. We need more experience at the net in blocking and we could use some height. Our tallest player is 5-10, but we have some 5-4 girls who can jump.”

Waters said Saranac Lake graduate Katie Burgess has made an impact for the Saints and leads Region III in aces served per set. She added that Rebecca Reys is also a highly ranked server on the team.

The Saints roster also includes two more area graduates, Saranac Lake’s Jaclyn Latourelle and Tupper Lake’s Haley McCottery, as well as Marlie Conners, Savannah Fiorino, Amanda Burnett and Anganese Gomez. Chisholm hails from Australia and is the only team member from outside New York state.

The Saints dropped to 2-17 with the loss, but there’s little doubt the team can play competitive volleyball.

NCCC will next be on the road Wednesday at Herkimer. The Saints, as well as the Raiders, will be back in the area again on Saturday, Oct. 4 participating in a six-team event at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid.