Lakers are champions again

Chris Gill
Hammondsport’s Lori Gordon spikes the ball against Prattsburgh Saturday in Avoca.

Julie Amsden hit the trifecta Saturday.??

A player on Hammondsport’s 1987 sectional championship team, an assistant coach for the Lakers during their 2008 title run and, after a three-game sweep in Saturday’s Section V, Class D title match against Prattsburgh, Amsden brought home a third banner as a head coach.??

“It is extremely special and this is a group I started with when I first started with the program – when they were fourth graders, now they’re seniors,” Amsden said Saturday at Avoca Central School’s gymnasium. “I consider them my kids and it’s really special to bring home a sectional championship in their senior year. We’ve been talking about this for eight years.”

??Only the third sectional crown for a program that’s dominated the Steuben County Athletic Association for decades, and a staple in the sectional final four, Hammondsport volleyball had cause to celebrate following the victory. A new bunch of Lakers left an indelible stamp on what’s become a tradition at the southern tip of Keuka Lake.??

“To leave our mark on (the program) like this, there are only two other teams that have ever done this in Hammondsport and we’ve been working with our coach literally since I was in third grade,” said Section V, Class D MVP Lauren Binnert. “It’s such an incredible feeling to walk away with this.”??

As the top seed, the Lakers carried weighty ??entering Saturday’s match against a Prattsburgh team they face twice annually. The Vikings were seeded second, and made their first sectional finals appearance. In the first set, it was apparent which team felt more pressure.??

Helene Lie Hermansen served up four aces in a 7-0 Hammondsport run to start the match, and in response Prattsburgh used a 7-1 run to stun their SCAA rivals. Tied 11-11, Hammondsport shook off early- match jitters and started pulling away from the Vikings for a 25-19 win. Prattsburgh wasn’t going to let Hammondsport get away easily.??

To start the second set, the Vikings jumped out to a 6-2 advantage behind a pair of aces from Kristin Wise and built a six-point lead to the amazement of a sizable sea of Lakers purple in the stands. It was around this time that Hammondsport’s front three started to get on a roll.??

Lori Gordon and Carly Presley began hammering down kills from the outsides and Brooke Clark sent in stingers from the middle, all orchestrated by Binnert’s mix of sets from all angles. Soon, the six-point deficit was a five-point advantage and a 25-19 set win.??

“I think they just started to relax. When you come in as the No. 1 seed, beating Prattsburgh twice, there’s a lot of pressure and a lot of expectation from a lot of people,” Amsden said. “I think they just settled in and once they got that first set under their belts, they started playing their game.” Or as Binnert simply put it, “Everybody wanted this more than anything. Sometimes it just takes a while to warm up I guess – get the nerves out. Everyone was nervous because it was sectionals.”??

Prattsburgh couldn’t turn the tides under the blitz of Hammondsport’s rediscovered attack at the net.??

The Vikings never lost the grit and fight they had in the first two sets, but the Lakers were unrelenting, never trailing in the final set and punctuating their return to glory with a 25-12 set victory.

??“I’m proud of them because the last time we met Hammondsport, it wasn’t good,” said Prattsburgh coach Sandy Lewis, who brought the program to the finals for the first time. “The last time the entire match lasted 25 minutes, so I’m very proud of them.”??

Prattsburgh (12-7) was led by do-it-all outside hitter Caitlin Lewis, who recorded nine kills and nine digs, while Victoria Squires had four kills, four service points and three blocks. Wise finished with four service aces, seven points and six setter assists.

??Hammondsport (19-1) was led by Gordon, who rained down 14 kills, Clark with nine and Presley with six. Binnert amassed 36 assists in the match – in addition to her quarterbacking skills – while Alissa Walruth had 11 digs and Alyson Binnert had five aces and six digs.??

To reach the state final four, Hammondsport will have to go through two crossover playoffs (matches among the D, DD and DDD classes) and compete in the regional title match. The first crossover match will be held in Canandaigua on Tuesday against a foe yet to be determined.

Prattsburgh’s Kristin Wise sets up a shot.