By Will LeBlond
Another dominant season in the IAC is in the books for the Trumansburg volleyball team, but they’re not content with just that.
The Blue Raiders locked up their fifth straight unbeaten league regular season with a straight-set victory over Moravia on October 20, which also marked their eighth consecutive division crown. There was something else that drove this year’s squad though, as they wanted to avenge an IAC Championship Game loss to Watkins Glen from 2016. While they didn’t get to do it against the Senecas, T’burg beat Thomas A. Edison 3-1 on October 25 to reclaim the conference title.
Coach Angela McLennan’s team now has plenty of momentum heading into the sectional tournament after a 23-4-2 regular season mark, but their dominance wasn’t necessarily a guarantee when they opened up preseason back in August.
“When we started the season, I wasn’t quite sure how the season would go,” she said. “We were able to just work together as a group, and figure out that there wasn’t one shining star and that it was going to be a team effort this year.”
A four-member senior class was able to bring the team’s young core up to speed as well, with Shaylee Sprague at the forefront. The outside hitter put up team-leading numbers in kills with 138 during the regular season and she wanted to make sure the whole team gelled right from the start.
“We have a lot of younger players on the team this year, so we wanted to step up and give them something to look up to,” said Sprague on her and the rest of the older players. “We wanted to be there for them.”
The newcomers have not only stepped in, but they’ve been key pieces to a Blue Raider squad that has distributed the ball quite evenly. In previous years, Trumansburg has had the luxury of relying on one or two star hitters, but it’s been a story of offensive balance in 2017.
“This year, we’re distributing it between five different hitters,” said McLennan. “Which makes it that much more difficult to defend, because the defense doesn’t know who is going to be setting the ball and the hitters are consistent.”
On the other side, the strong defending of the Blue Raiders is something that IAC opponents are far too accustomed to.
“I think the constant has been the solid defense,” said McLennan. “We’ve been able to have a great defense the past few years, which has followed from year-to-year.”
The Blue Raiders hope their defensive success can translate into sectional tournament success, as their focus will now shift to the postseason. Trumansburg, who has not won the sectional championship since 2011, drew the number two seed in the Class C tourney, with Tioga at the top with the number one ranking. The Tigers and Blue Raiders played down to the wire during the regular season, with Tioga coming away with a three-point win and that loss has stuck in the memory of the team ever since.
“Not having won it in that long, and with me being a senior, I want to get as far as I can,” said Sprague on the tournament. “That’s something that’s driven me to be a leader. Knowing that we’re so close with Tioga makes it that much more of a driving factor.”
After the team could not make it past the sectional semifinal round last year, thanks in large part to a loss to Tioga in pool play, the expectation for McLennan is clear as they shift gears to the tournament.
“I’m looking for a sectional championship this year,” she said. “I know that it’s in our reach.”
The Blue Raiders tournament run will begin on Tuesday, October 31, with a home match against either Whitney Point or Unatego. If they advance past that round, they would play two days later in the semifinal round. The championship round will be played on Saturday, November 4 in Corning.