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Storm headed to 4th-straight final

Saranac Lake sophomore Mia Sanford puts the ball over the net during Wednesday’s match against Northeastern Clinton. Pictured on the right is Saranac Lake’s Madie Gay. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — With an opportunity to advance to the Section VII, Class C championship match for the fourth-straight year, Saranac Lake’s volleyball team was all business in its semifinal contest Wednesday on the way to a 3-0 victory over Northeastern Clinton.

Playing at home, the top-seeded Red Storm swept the Cougars by 25-9, 25-10 and 25-15 scores. After defeating NCCS in about an hour, Saranac Lake will now look to three-peat as the Section VII, Class C champions when it takes on AuSable Valley in the final on Saturday at Saranac Central.

The Cougars were the last team to beat Saranac Lake in the sectional final back in 2016, and since then, the Red Storm has chalked up two crowns and are now looking for three in a row. They have five seniors, dubbed by coach Mike Navarra as the “Fab Five,” who are also hoping to be named three-time champions competing in their final season of high school volleyball.

That group consists of Sydney Andronica, sisters Madie and Katie Gay, Meagan O’Brien and Nora Glover. They’ve all come through with strong efforts this season and have been bolstered by a number of juniors and younger who have stepped into their roles with the Red Storm.

“We do have some goals, and one goal is to win Class C again,” Navarra said. “We want to also reach that next step. If we can win a regional semifinal and somehow make it further, that’s really our goal. If we can make an appearance at the state level, I think the experience for these ladies, as well as myself, it would be memorable; see what the rest of the state is like.”

Saranac Lake senior Sydney Andronica focuses on the ball while making a play during Wednesday’s Section VII, Class C semifinal volleyball match at home against Northeastern Clinton. The Red Storm won 3-0 to move into Saturday’s final where they have a chance at claiming their third-straight sectional championship. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Saranac Lake had another balanced performance against NCCS while improving to 12-4 overall. Eight players registered points in the win and Katie Gay led the way with 12 points and five aces. Andronica had a team-high 23 digs and O’Brien chipped in 10 assists.

“Saranac Lake is a tough team tough team,” Cougars’ coach Dana Berry said. “Mike is a great coach and he’s pushed them hard, they hit hard. Hitting hard is something that we’ve struggled against. Coming here, our kids were pretty jazzed, pretty focused. We came in here seeing what we could do; maybe take a set our two, but that didn’t happen. We pushed hard, did as well as we could.”

Wednesday’s match may have gone as expected with Saranac Lake sweeping a young Cougars opponent that won just once this fall, but Saturday’s title battle may not go so easily for the Red Storm. They’ll be taking on an AuSable Valley foe that defeated Saranac Lake the first time they met this fall and also pushed the Red Storm to five sets before falling 3-2 in Monday’s Champlain Valley Athletic Conference regular-season finale.

Saturday’s battle will be the rubber match with a winner take all scenario.

“They’re a scrappy team,” O’Brien said. “Tonight, we got back in our rhythm. Our offense was much better and hopefully we can keep that going.

Kelsey Leeret of the Red Storm plays the ball while teammate Tailor Whitson follows the action during Wednesday’s match. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

“We always have a championship in mind at the beginning of the year,” O’Brien added. “We’re excited. It’s our last year and we’ve been there since our sophomore year. We just want to win.”

Navarra said just about every match this year has been difficult, and added that AuSable Valley has turned out to be a real tough foe to take down. He expects that to be the case again on Saturday.

“I think AuSable is a wake-up call for us. Every time we play them, it’s a great challenge,” Navarra said. “Honestly, I don’t know what it is about them. The team said the same thing. There’s just something about their defense. It’s like they are always in the right place at the right time.

“We’re playing hard, but we’re playing somewhat timid at times because the girls don’t want to make mistakes,” Navarra continued “I think against AuSable, getting into the right position was a real big issue, and then hitting. We need to make better decisions when we’re attackers.”

The second-seeded Patriots also advanced to Saturday’s final by way of a 3-0 semifinal sweep at home over Saranac Central.

The Saranac Lake-AuSable Valley match is part of a Section VII championship triple header being hosted at Saranac Central Saturday. Action begins at 11 a.m. with the Class D championship match between Lake Placid and Northern Adirondack. Saranac Lake is then slated to play at 1 pm., and that will be followed by the Class B final between Peru and Plattsburgh.

Saranac Lake stats vs. Northeastern Clinton — Sydney Andronica – 2 aces 1 kill 23 digs 9 points; Kelsey Leeret – 3 aces 2 kills 8 digs 7 points; Georgia Bickford – 1 dig 1 point; Mia Sanford – 3 kills 3 digs 1 block; Meagan O’Brien – 1 ace 2 kills 10 digs 7 points 10 assists; Katie Gay- 5 aces 4 kills 11 digs 12 points; Madie Gay – 2 aces 3 kills 12 digs 8 points; Alison Hewitt – 1 ace 4 digs 1 point; Tailor Whitson – 1 ace 3 digs 3 points 1 assist.