The Penn Yan girls stared down a tough, seasoned opponent, and came out on top in the Section V Championship match.
Outside it was a gloomy, cloudy day that was spitting rain. Inside the gym at Bloomfield High School Saturday afternoon was a different matter entirely. The Penn Yan student section was singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” the bass from the sound system was thumping, and the Lady Mustangs volleyball team was getting ready to take on LeRoy’s squad for a chance at its first-ever Section V Championship. When all was said and done, the Mustangs earned a hard-fought three games to two win to take the crown.
It certainly was not easy, even though Penn Yan jumped out to a two games to nothing lead with scores of 26-24 and 25-20. The student section responded with a rendition of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” in anticipation of the team taking the championship home to Penn Yan, but LeRoy dug deep and made it difficult.
In game three, Penn Yan held a 6-3 lead, but LeRoy tied it up at six and the teams traded points until it was knotted at 15-15. The Oatkan Knights then rattled off five straight points to make it 20-15 on the way to an eventual 25-18 win. Any momentum LeRoy might have gained looked squelched though, as Penn Yan burst out to an 8-1 lead in the fourth set and 24-18 lead after a Caitlin Wunder cross-court kill. The Penn Yan students broke into Crazy Frog’s “Kiss Him Goodbye,” thinking the match was all but theirs. In retrospect, it was a bit too early. LeRoy scored eight straight points to take the game 26-24, leaving the students to wonder if their Top-20 Countdown might be over.
The penultimate game five saw the Mustangs fall behind 3-0 early and 20-13 late. The team put themselves in a big hole to climb out of and the crowd was all but silent. Head coach Eileen Wunder refused to believe the team would fail though. “I knew that if they kept going for one touch at a time we could come back and win it,” Wunder explained. “They just needed to not give up on themselves. They chipped away and I could see them starting to believe.”
Believe indeed. Penn Yan claimed the next four points, forcing a LeRoy timeout with the score at 20-17. Any chance the timeout would quell the Mustangs’ late rally were stymied when Penn Yan tied the game at 21 apiece, sending fans into a frenzy. LeRoy took a 22-21 lead, but it would be the last lead they held in the match as Penn Yan continued to control the ball and feed Wunder for an eventual 26-24 win and the championship.
Coach Wunder’s squad clearly has the talent of a champion, but Wunder also wanted to make sure the support of the crowd was acknowledged. She said a “huge thank you to our fans. I know for certain they contributed to the outcome of last night’s game as well as others in the season,” she explained on Sunday. “To get that kind of support, especially on the road, is a key factor in our success.” Now Wunder and her girls can take a cue from that supportive student section and belt out Queen’s “We Are The Champions” any time they want.
Caitlin Wunder finished the match with 24 kills and two aces, Serina Sheradin had 31 assists and nine digs, Hanna Brodmann added 14 kills, 10 digs, and an ace, while Akiya Brewer had 15 digs and three aces.
In addition, Caitlin Wunder was named tournament Most Valuable Player and joined Brewer and Brodmann on the All-Tournament Team.
The Class C1 Champion Mustangs will play Class C2 Champion Warsaw in a match Tuesday at Wayland-Cohocton. The winner of that match will compete in the Far West Regional match next weekend.