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Clarence Girls Volleyball Rallies Past Upset-Minded Williamsville North

The Clarence High School girls volleyball team seemed like a good bet to roll past rival Williamsville North on Monday. After all, the Red Devils swept past the Spartans in ECIC I play en route to a fourth straight division title and gunning for four straight sectional titles as well.

That’s why they play the games.

Top-seeded Clarence got a scare from the fifth-seeded Spartans but escaped with a 20-25, 23-25, 25-14, 25-12, 25-15 win over Williamsville North in a Class AA Section VI semifinal.

“We just had a mental break coming in here thinking we were just going to take it,” Clarence senior co-captain Lindsey Leipold said. “But this is playoffs, everyone is beatable. You’ve got to earn your right to get on the court. They played well and made us work for it.”

Clarence (16-3) will play in the sectional championship at 6 p.m. Thursday at Daemen College. The Red Devils will face third-seeded Lancaster (21-8), who knocked off No. 2 Orchard Park in five sets in its semifinal on Monday. Clarence swept Lancaster in the regular season, winning six of seven sets, but Monday’s game showed nothing can be taken for granted.

“We’re going forward playing as hard as we can,” said senior Melissa Ratzel, Clarence’s other captain. “Teams aren’t just going to hand it to us; we’ve got to come out fighting.”

Williamsville North’s season ends at 11-9. The Spartans, who do not have any seniors on the roster, showed they’re going to be a problem for opponents for years to come. But that inexperience may have showed up on Monday night.

“We played well the first two sets,” North coach Keith Hopkins said. “Then –  part of is it we’re young – we were kind of like ‘Oh my, look at the spot we’re in.’ We came out and I told them we were going to weather the storm for the first 10 points of Set 3 and we didn’t do it very well and we never mentally got back into it. We played not to lose instead of to win.”

Meanwhile, the Red Devils showed why they’ve been the premier large school program in Western New York the last few years. After the first two losses, Clarence was in control for the final three sets.

“My girls stuck together,” Clarence coach Michael Meyer said. “They could have fallen apart but instead they chose to rise above the adversity. We kind of got back to what we do which was started passing better. We started serving tougher and we started taking swings. That’s kind of Clarence volleyball.”

Jaide Cummings had 10 kills and Leah victor had nine kills, while Ratzel and Jenna Hugenschmidt added seven apiece for Clarence. Kennedy Oleszak had nine blocks and Lexi MacDonald had seven digs.

Allie Macon and Maia Reed had seven kills apiece, while Allie Brown had 20 digs and Maddie Farber added 17 digs for Williamsville North.

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