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01:20:54 am

STATES 2011 — Suffern eliminated from State tournament

GLENS FALLS — It truly was one hell of a season for Suffern.

After losing two matches before the halfway point of the season, you would've thought Suffern was dead in the water; or at least they were nothing to keep an eye on.

But like last year's team that finished the regular season at 12-5, the Mounties came alive late in the season.

Coach Sean Barnes took his girls to a fourth consecutive Section title match, against Arlington, and won for the first time in three years. From there the girls took out Regional foes Corning Free Academy and Pine Bush to capture the first Region title in school history.

Going into States the girls seemed relaxed and just thrilled to be there from the start. I mean hell, they were the only ones dancing when the "YMCA" at 8:30 in the morning at the Civic Center. They were full of smiles and excitement.

The Mounties dropped their first contest, but to a team many expected to beat them. To boot, Suffern hung with them for a little while; no real harm there. After losing to Smithtown East in straight sets you could tell that a good chunk of the life of Suffern had been completed drained out. The Mounties still had an outside chance advancing, even with two losses; but it meant that they had to sweep Penfield in their final match and then have Baker sweep Smithtown East in the final match of the bracket.

The Mounties lost the first set, mathematically eliminating them from the tournament, but they still played through every point as if the game was still relavant - because it was.

For standout seniors Elizabeth Flaherty and Taylor Anderson, it was their last high school match. The last time they would don Mounties navy and baby blue. For some of the other seniors, it may be the last time they ever play competitive volleyball again. For Sean Barnes, it was his last match with the greatest team Suffern has ever compiled in a history that spans decades.

Suffern showed me a lot about heart and pride this afternoon. I've seen more high school matches of any sport than I can count, and in the passing weeks I've seen volleyball teams see their season come to an end with overflowing emotions. Most of the time, after a loss, girls take it with tears, hugs, whatever it takes to get out their pain.

After losing on a State level, I was blown away at how the Mounties handled themselves; with their heads held high. They didn't take the elimination as, "Oh my God it's really over" - they took it as, "We got to the New York State Final Four, and only three teams can say they went further," ... or at least that's what it looked like.

I'll go on record as saying that I hate doing post-game interviews after a loss, it's even worse in the postseason, and only gets progressively worse as the stakes get higher. It's awkward, upsetting, and again, awkward. There's really no words you can say to make a losing team feel better, but it's my job to ask them about the game, sometimes even if it hurts.

The girls were terrific with me after the game, as they've been all season. Always welcoming and helpful, making a painful process (on both ends) a bit easier, if only just a little bit. I understand it's not easy to talk after such a rough day and process, but I commend Suffern doing it with class and dignity.

Some coaches and players are waiting to talk to you after a win, then dismissing you after a loss. Some coaches want to laugh and be your friend after a win, while others think they're coaching NCAA Division I and requesting, "no comment" when asked about the game.

For the players like Flaherty and Anderson, who can handle themselves in a professional and mature manner, that is the reason they will go on to bigger and better things. They know that Suffern volleyball 2011 will not be a life-long burden of "what could have been," but rather just another chapter in their athletic careers.

If you can find one athlete that has never lost, then tell them to give me a call; my extension is 8237.

I thank and congratulate coach Barnes, Elizabeth and Taylor for everything this year. You deserve everything you earned this season, and beyond.

mzacchio · 60 views · Leave a comment
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