by Eva Potter

They’ve practiced since last June with one – and only one – goal in mind: the State Championship title. Well, the rest is history! The Lady Eagles volleyball team had an unbeaten record at the end of regular season play and they intended to keep it that way.  And they did, beating Section I Haldane in three straight sets to take home the title of New York State Girls’ Volleyball Champions.

Last year’s volleyball season ended with 19-3 record. It had been a challenging early season, but “this year we took care of business,” explained Coach Kelly Unverdorben, a 15-year veteran volleyball coach and former player, who has taken teams to the state and national championships. She knew a state championship title was within reach.

This past summer, when Coach Kelly Unverdorben showed the team the plan for getting to the state championships, she was met with disbelief. There were some moments of frustration as the season progressed from the summer league into the fall school schedule. Unverdorben had moved players into key positions she knew would play off the team’s strengths, creating what she felt was an unbeatable combination. In the end, it was the team’s commitment to each other as a team, belief in themselves, and the full trust and confidence in their coach that ultimately created the winning formula.

The unbeaten Lady Eagles took out North Collins to become the Section VI Class D Champions. The next stop took them to the Rochester area where they triumphed over the Section V Lyons in the Far West Regionals. That win catapulted this close-knit, talented group of ladies to the New York State Championships in Glens Falls, N.Y., last weekend, taking on Section I Haldane in the final round. It seemed the steamroller was not to be stopped, but Haldane didn’t go down without a fight.

According to Unverdorben, at the beginning of the first set, there was something that the team had agreed on, and that was “to never give up on each other, ourselves, our coach or the entire team.”

She told the team, “No matter what, if you fall a little behind, don’t worry about that point or the last point. Worry about the next point and how you’re going to get it. Just keep working one point at a time.” That strategy resulted in a first set 25-23 win for ECS.

The second set was the nail biter, because the team knew whoever took that set could mentally make or break the match.

“If Haldane had taken it, we would have been dead even – back to the start, you know,” said Unverdorben. “By taking that set, the Eagles knew they could psychologically dampen the spirit of the other team.” That mindset lead the Eagles to a 26-24 win.

After the second set, Coach Unverdorben scrutinized the faces of the Haldane players and saw they were very upset and dejected. She knew it was going to be very difficult for the Haldane coach to change the team’s mood, which told her exactly what her team would have to do to prevail.

“Before the third set, I told them, ‘This is going to be your easiest set to win and the hardest you’re going to have to work. If you work and give it all you’ve got, you will take this set from them and it will be the easiest set you’ve taken because they’re already down, so you’ve got them where you want them,” said the confident coach.

The results spoke for themselves: Eagles win the championship 25-12!

“It’s surreal. It was pretty cool,” said Unverdorben of the win that made the ECS Lady Eagles the New York State Volleyball Champions.

“They are young. They’re high school girls and the maturity level they showed was more like a college team would do,” she said.

To Unverdorben, her “entire team was standout. Every single one of them did their part that they knew they had to do to reach our goal.”

These talented girls also garnered prestigious accolades. Jenae Hamilton made the New York State All-Tournament Team along with Courtney Scanlon, who was also named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the NYS Championship game. Three players from the volleyball team made the 1st Team All-Stars: Jenae Hamilton, who was also the MVP of the league; Courtney Scanlon and Madison Szpaicher. Voted to the 2nd Team All-Stars were Kayla Dunkleman, Marissa Hamilton and Grace Hall.

A big congratulations to all – you make this community proud!

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