CALEDONIA — Plenty of high school teams begin their seasons with a loss. And all but a select few — the ones who win state championships — will eventually end their campaigns with a loss.
A team that can put together a winning streak that spans those two bookend setbacks has accomplished something truly impressive.
The Waterloo girls volleyball team saw its season — and its 18-game winning streak — come to an end Thursday with a three-set loss to Byron-Bergen in the Section V Class C state qualifying game at Caledonia-Mumford High School.
The Class C champion Bees fired on all cylinders throughout the night, winning 25-12, 25-19, 25-16. They will take on Section VI champion Eden in the Far West regionals Saturday.
The Class CC champ Indians, whose only other loss came to Wayne to open the season way back on Sept. 3, finished at 18-2.
Lauren Deming collected 11 digs, six kills and a block while Lindsay Johnson added six digs and three kills for Waterloo. Chelsea France produced seven digs and Whitney Conkey pounded down four kills.
Waterloo claimed its third straight sectional title and second consecutive Finger Lakes East crown this season.
“I’m very proud of them,” Waterloo coach Christal Jensen said. “They won the league for the second consecutive year, the third year for sectionals. And the majority of this team I’ve had for a long time — Lindsay (Johnson) for five years, Lauren (Deming) for the last three. Whitney (Conkey), Amanda (Webb), they didn’t play modified. Ehren (Nelson) did a great job of setting this year.”
The Bees (20-1) seized momentum right out of the gate thanks to a devastating serving game. Brittany Merrell (13 digs, 3 kills, 3 aces), Abigail Kelley (10 kills, 2 blocks), Lauren Burke (19 assists, 2 aces) and Erin Casey (5 digs, 2 aces) all used powerful jump serves that kept Waterloo out of its offensive flow.
“It’s high risk. You win with it or it could come back to haunt you,” Byron-Bergen coach Cindy D’Errico said of her team’s jump serves. “Tonight they were all serving really well.”
Game two went back-and-forth from the outset. Johnson and Conkey combined for four kills and a block in the early stages — each of which forced side outs and tied the game.
It was tied as late as 15-all when Merrell rattled off five straight points on serve, aided by a pair of kills from Kelley. Conkey ended the run with a kill, but the Bees held off the Indians for a six-point win and a 2-0 edge.
“Their serving made all the difference,” said Jensen of Byron-Bergen. “We shot ourselves in the foot, often, serving. We hit too many serves out. But in terms of them, they were phenomenal. The didn’t make many mistakes.”
Deming had three kills in the early stages of game three; the last one gave Waterloo a 4-2 lead. The Indians had their last lead at 6-5 on a Johnson kill, but the Bees secured four consecutive points and gradually upped their advantage from there.
“We were pumped, we were ready and the girls put three games together that were awesome,” D’Errico said. “We were aggressive serving. That’s what we had to do to keep (Waterloo’s) middles out of the offense.”