FORESTVILLE - First-class volleyball plus a whole lot of emotion was the order of the day Friday, at Senior Recognition Night at Forestville Central School.
In what was a non-league scrimmage since Section 6 playoffs have already begun, the Lady Hornets downed the visiting Fredonia Lady Hillbillies 25-18, 25-18, 25-19.
Prior to the game, Forestville recognized its seven seniors - Ryanne Dugan, Emily Gilman, Jessica Makuch, Cherish Pope, Bayleigh Raynor, Kendra Silleman and Sydney Youngberg. All of the Lady Hornets, and perhaps most of all head coach Jack Dugan, were left teary-eyed and emotional following speeches and gifts.
OBSERVER?Photo by Lisa Monacelli
Forestville’s Sydney Youngberg, right, and?Ryanne Dugan block a spike during Friday’s girls’ high school volleyball match.
"I want to thank all seven of them for their hard work," Dugan said. "Every single one of them went to camps, came to open gyms, did all the extras that led to their success this season and in seasons past."
The Lady Hornets shook off the emotionally draining ceremony and took the fight to Fredonia right off the bat.
As per Section 6 scrimmage rules, the score started off 4-4 before Forestville scored the first seven points behind the serving of Silleman and a couple of vicious spikes from Youngberg.
The Lady Hornets opened that lead to 20-13 before a pair of aces from Emma Storm spurred a 4-0 run to bring the Lady Hillbillies within three.
Forestville, as it has done so often this season, found a way to close out the first game rather comfortably.
The second game played out very similarly to the first, with Forestville jumping out a huge lead - 22-10 at one point - before Storm served Fredonia back into contention.
This time Storm recorded four aces as the Lady Hillbillies scored seven straight points.
"We've come together as a team and have really started to do some great things," Fredonia coach Chris Anderson said. "When we play well, we play really well. That's what we need right now. You're not going to find bad teams in the playoffs anymore."
Once again, the veteran Forestville squad was able to rebound and close the game out.
The third game was the very definition of back and forth. With both coaches taking out a couple starters, neither team led by any more than three until an ace from Lizzy Gilman gave Forestville a 19-15 lead.
Fredonia rallied to get within 21-19 before Forestville scored the final four points to win the game and the match.
The fact that the game was a scrimmage was obvious from the first serve. The girls were having fun while remaining incredibly competitive. Dugan and Anderson, amid a clear mutual respect, took part in some good-natured ribbing with each other. Even the referees were having a good time.
"Everyone had fun," Dugan agreed. "Chris (Anderson) and I had a lot of fun with each other. It was great for the girls to enjoy themselves."
Though both coaches experimented with players in different positions and were able to get everyone on their benches some playing time, the game had a lot of significance for a pair of teams that will look to continue to make some noise in the playoffs.
"It's always important to play and stay in game form," Anderson explained. "You never know how much longer you're playing. We could play Tuesday and be done, or we could play Tuesday, win and play again Thursday. We need to stay sharp and be ready to play."
"We open next week with Panama and they're a solid team," Dugan added. "Fredonia's playing hot right now. It was a good warmup for us."
No. 16 Fredonia upset No. 1 City Honors, Thursday in the Section 6 Class C playoffs and will travel to play No. 9 Southwestern on Tuesday.
No. 4 Forestville will host No. 5 Panama in the quarterfinals of the Class D-2 playoffs Tuesday.
Even with both teams preparing for big playoff games, it was a special night for Dugan and his seven seniors.
"It's nice to have this night because for the past four years, it's been everyone else who was the seniors and we cried for them," Youngberg said. "Now that we're crying for ourselves, it's a weird feeling. We never thought it would be us giving all the speeches.
"Coach Dugan has always been in my life," Youngberg continued. "He's honestly been one of the biggest influences for me. I'm going to miss him when I go away because he's always been there. He's the greatest coach ever. He can always pick anyone up and say the right things."
Youngberg, Pope, Emily Gilman and Ryanne Dugan have all been four-year starters while Makuch and Silleman have started for the past three years, so Jack Dugan has had the same core of players for quite some time now, a fact that made it a hard night for him.
"It was trial by fire at first," he said of starting freshman four years ago. "Obviously over the years I've benefited from their early start.
"It's been fun, but tonight was a tough night emotionally for me."
NOTES: Youngberg led Forestville with 10 kills, four blocks and an ace. Pope recorded four kills and a pair of aces while Silleman added six digs. Ryanne Dugan dished out 20 assists, registered four aces and one incredible kill that brought the home crowd to its feet. For Fredonia, Nicole Szymczak had 10 digs, Margaret Wright added another eight digs and Storm recorded six aces.