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NYS VOLLEYBALL: CANDOR DROPS 5-SET HEARTBREAKER TO CHAUTAUQUA LAKE IN STATE SEMIS (2023-11-18)

By TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
GLENS FALLS — Candor was unable to hold off a resurgent Chautauqua Lake opponent at the NYSPHSAA Class D Volleyball Championships on Saturday night at Cool Insuring Arena, dropping a 3-2 heartbreaker in the semifinals.

The Coyotes won the first two sets, 25-22 and 25-12, but the Thunderbirds snatched the momentum away early in the third set and went onto win by scores of 25-17, 25-14 and 15-12.

Chautauqua Lake looked like it would dominate early in the opening game, bolting out to a 7-2 lead behind a pair of aces from Ava Olson.

Trailing, 10-7, Candor watched the T-birds’ advantage double behind four consecutive errors. Quinlan called a timeout, which helped momentarily, but then CL widened the gap to 19-10.

“I said we're playing timid,” Quinlan said of the time out. “I said we can't play timid. I said, you've got to go out there and you've got to stay aggressive, and you've got to hit, like, we know how we can hit, and you've got to, just do again, the things that we've been doing all season.

“I thought we just got a little afraid, afraid of losing, afraid of making a mistake, I guess. And so I said, you've got to retake it, and have confidence in each other, and they pulled that out.

“Kudos to Chautauqua Lake. Every game was a battle. When you're fighting for a point here and a point there, it's the little things that, a miscue on a defensive play, a miscue on a pass. That's the game.”

Luci Ray drilled a side out shot back at the T-birds and Phoebe Swartz stepped to the service line as Candor reeled off eight straight points with a Grace Handy block highlighting the comeback.

Another key hit by Handy tied the game at 20, but the T-birds worked the next two points.

The Coyotes countered with a three-point burst behind a pair of impressive hits from Kate Stouffer, the latter pushing Candor in front, 23-22, giving the team its first lead since a 2-1 edge early in the game.

There was little doubt who was ruling the court in the second set as the Coyotes took the lead for good early, 4-3, on a Ray block and stretched it to 9-3 with some strong serves by Nicola Soper.

Chautauqua Lake never scored more than two points in a row until late in the set. Meanwhile, the blue and white rode three-point, four-point and five-point runs to a 23-9 cushion.

Stouffer’s block closed out the set to give Candor a 2-0 advantage.

A Swartz ace helped the Coyotes score the first point of game three, but the T-birds were able to turn the tide and grab a 7-2 advantage.

Candor kept its deficit to no greater than three points for the next several rotations, but a Breaunna Smith stuff at the net for a side out and a Brynn Engdahl ace made it 13-9.

Chautauqua extended its lead to 15-9, but some nice Handy hits and a Soper ace narrowed the lead to 15-12.

Breaunna and Makenna Smith went to the line to serve up a 7-1 run, and the Coyotes never got closer than six points, thanks to a pair of impressive Emmi Maki hits, during the stretch run.

Neither team scored more than two consecutive points in the early stages of the fourth set until Makenna Smith served six straight points, including a pair of aces, to break a 12-12 deadlock.

The Coyotes managed to put just two more points on the scoreboard after that as Chautauqua evened the match at two game apiece.

The teams were tied six times in the final set. Candor thought it had tied the game a seventh at 12, but the referee gave the point to the T-birds for a 13-11 lead.

Quinlan said her team played well in game two. Unfortunately for the Coyotes, they struggled to get their rhythm flowing after that.

“That happens sometimes when you dominate a game, or it fuels the other team a little bit too,” she said. “I thought we came out a little flat in the third game and struggled. At times we did some really good things. I just felt like there were times when we were just kind of struggling to be the team that we've been.

“I have nothing but admiration for my team. I'm not saying that we didn't play hard and that we didn't come out here and give it our all. I just think that there were times where things just didn't go our way. We tried to regroup and we just never were able to put together a four or five-point run.”

On a day in which the later matches started more than two hours late, this was one of just two of the 12 matches to go the full five sets.

Makie, Soper and Swartz ended the match with double-doubles.

Swartz handed out 33 assists and served 18 points, including four aces. She also had four digs. Soper contributed 11 kills and 11 points (4aces) and also had six digs. Makie chipped in with 10 kills and 10 digs.

Handy pitched in with a dozen kills, five points and one block assist; Stouffer had five kills, five points, nine digs and two block assists; Ray added three solo blocks and three assists; Jill Teribury had 12 kills and five points; and Emma Kelsey tacked on a trio of digs.

Candor closed out its season with a 16-3 record.

The T-birds (21-3) will face local favorite Lake George for the championship.

“I think I've said this before, you always want more,” Quinlan said. “You win your section, you want that regional game, you get that regional game, you want to get to the state finals, and you want to win that final. Anytime you don't get there, you still feel a little sense of, you had a great season. There's always a little bit of could've, would've.

“When you get here, all the teams are good and every team wants the same thing.

“I think for some of these kids, for most of them, I would think that some of the sadness they’re feeling now is they're feeling sad because it’s over. They enjoy being with each other. When you go this far, it's a long season. You're with each other for a long time.

“It's hard for everybody just because when you're family, you feel for your family.”

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PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.

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