The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys volleyball team proved it's still the one to beat in Section II.
The Spartans swept through their Suburban Council opponents before beating Section VI power Canisius in three games to win the BH-BL Mid-Season Tournament last Saturday at Union College.
The effort improved BH-BL's overall record to 19-1, with its only loss coming to Orchard Park in the finals of the season-opening Eden Tournament. And, the Spartans have done it with a roster featuring several new starters after most of last year's regional championship squad graduated.
I think a lot of people around the state didn't think we'd be as strong as we are showing right now, said BH-BL coach Paul Sander. "We're showing we can be competitive."
After going 6-0 in pool play, the Spartans defeated Columbia and Bethlehem in straight sets to reach the tournament finals. Canisius won the first game in the finals 25-22 before BH-BL took the final two games 25-22 and 25-16.
"We were a little bit flat in the first game but we had a good third game," said Sander.
Mike Pelletier had 54 kills for the Spartans and was named the tournament's most valuable player, but he was hardly the only one leading BH-BL. Alex Houghtalen recorded 29 kills, Mike Fischer contributed 24 kills, Matt Bynon chipped in 31 digs and Alex Houghtalen added 102 assists in the tournament.
Several of those players were part of last year's regional championship squad, but didn't gain starting roles until this year. Yet, the experience of being part of the team helped players such as Pelletier, Houghtalen, Fischer and Bynon, said Sander.
"Last year, we had an extremely deep bench," he said. "The guys who are producing this year were on the bench last year."
Sander said his Spartans will need to continue to perform well, as the Suburban Council has gotten tougher.
"There's several very solid teams with Bethlehem, Shenendehowa and Niskayuna," said Samder. "So, the league is pretty competitive."
Canisius reached the finals by defeating Shen 25-16, 25-19 in the semifinals. The Plainsmen pulled a mild surprise in the quarterfinals by beating Niskayuna 25-19, 25-23 before falling to the Buffalo-area school.""