Pelham tops Eastchester for first title
One of Pelham’s goals this season was to defeat defending champion and perennial powerhouse Hendrick Hudson. The Pelicans accomplished that twice — once during the regular season and then in the Section 1 Class B semifinals.
Their other goal was to win a Section 1 title. They did that, too.
No. 1-seeded Pelham topped No. 2 Eastchester in straight sets (25-18, 25-10, 25-11) to capture the Section 1 Class B crown on Saturday at John Jay-Cross River High School. The Pelicans claimed their first sectional title in program history.
“This is everything that we’ve been working for,” said senior setter Lauren Keller, who had 38 assists and five digs. “My last three years on varsity we’ve always wanted a sectional championship so it’s really just amazing to finally win it.”
The first set was deadlocked at 18-18 before Pelham scored seven unanswered points.
“During practice we always work on those tight game situations,” said junior outside hitter Helen Gandler, who had 15 kills and seven digs. “We know as long as we play our game and don’t make unforced errors we can pull back and win.”
Eastchester actually got out to an 8-5 lead in the first set.
“The first few points, we were all very excited and our serves kept going out,” Keller said. “But we knew we were not losing that game.”
Pelham cruised in the second set, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. The third set was more of the same.
“We served and passed a little better,” Pelham coach Mark Finegan said of the second and third sets. “Once our passing came — our setting and hitting has been consistent all year — we were really able to put the ball down.”
Sophomore Megan Krause had 11 kills for Pelham (18-1). Juniors Tori Bowser and Alyssa Luciano each had six kills. Senior Loren Cecil had 10 digs and junior Rachel Courtien added five aces.
The Pelicans faced some adversity heading into the final. Junior outside hitter Amanda Dempsey, a starter, suffered a sprained ankle the day before the championship game at practice and wasn’t able to play against Eastchester.
“Alyssa Luciano played in her place and played outstanding volleyball today,” Finegan said.
It isn’t the first time Pelham suffered a crucial injury. In their first scrimmage, top outside hitter Devi Kinkhabwala was injured and has missed the whole season.
“We’ve overcome a lot,” Finegan said. “We lost in the final last year (to Hen Hud) and they were focused for 12 months from that day forward. They really went out and got it today.”
Amy DePippo contributed 10 assists and Caroline Reid had 25 digs for Eastchester (13-8). Samantha Longlade (six kills) and Samantha Hernandez (six digs) also chipped in.
“Eastchester is a very good team that plays us tough every year,” Finegan said. “They played phenomenally, particularly in the first set.”
Pelham will take on Section 4’s Owego in Elmira on Thursday in a Class B regional contest.
“We want to keep pushing and doing our best until the very end,” Keller said.