After missing out on playoffs by one spot in the wildcard points, Clarkson/Leigh's volleyball season is officially over.
The Patriots won their first round game in the sub-district tournament against Battle Creek on Oct. 29, 24-26, 14-25, 28-26, 25-18 and 15-7 then lost to No. 1 Stanton in three sets 25-17, 25-18 and 26-24.
In Class C-2, 12 sub-district winners automatically advanced to the district final round. Four other teams advanced as well based on the wildcard points.
Battle Creek, the loser to Stanton in the sub-district final, was the third-highest wild card team remaining, Doniphan-Trumball was fourth and Clarkson/Leigh fifth.
The Patriots were edged out by the Cardinals by just over a half point in the wild card averages. To make matters even more frustrating, Doniphan-Trumball, Hastings St. Cecilia and Blue Hill were all assigned to the same district and all advanced due to the wild card points.
Clarkson/Leigh was essentially the 17th team out of the 16 that advanced.
"Our performance against Battle Creek was phenomenal," said head coach Becky Schneider in comments sent to the Sun. "We had a little bit of a rough start going down sets 0-2, but these girls persevered and played lights out to take them in five.
"It was absolutely amazing. We thought our performance against Stanton was good, but it could have been better. We definitely battled with them and played point-for-point until mid-way through the sets. They found a way to break us and go on a few runs late in each set and we couldn't quite recover.
"Stanton is a solid team and we gave them our best shot."
Senior Hannah Kasik led the Patriots in kills with a total of 26 during the sub-district tournament, senior Sara Mcevoy served seven aces, junior Ashlynn Novotny blocked a total of eight shots, senior Halee Steffensmeier tallied 20 digs and senior Kaegan Held dished out 70 assists.
"Throughout the season, we don't talk about power points because in the end, realistically, we cannot control that factor. We don't want our girls being so fixated on that, that they lose sight of what we can control and that's putting in the hard work and taking each game one at a time," Schneider said.
"We want them to focus on playing our game, staying aggressive, doing the little things right, and the rest will fall into place. They did that. They did everything right the whole season. In the end, it came down to the factors that we couldn't control."
Clarkson/Leigh finished the season with a 24-8 record, the third season in a row the Patriots finished above .500.
Team statistical leaders included Novotny with a team-high 304 kills and 63 blocks, Steffensmeier was accurate on 94.4 percent of her 301 serve attempts and led the team in digs with 327 and Held dished out 791 assists.
"Our team chemistry was awesome. We had seven seniors that have played together since before junior high and they just really understood each other," said Schneider.
"We also had two underclassmen that just really added to our dynamic and helped our flow."
The seven seniors who finished their career after the loss with Clarkson/Leigh are Held, Beth Wiese, Steffensmeier, Paige Moore, Mcevoy, Holly Kuhr and Kasik.
"They all shared the role, and did a great job stepping up as leaders both vocally and by example," Schneider said. "They knew what was expected of them, they were positive influences and encouraged everyone.
"We made some adjustments at the beginning of the season that we felt were necessary to better the team. With those adjustments came some disappointment for two of our seniors. They both lost some playing time and had to share the starting position. It's never easy, especially as a senior, to have to go through that, but these two ladies did an exceptional job at accepting their new role."
Last season, the Patriots went 25-10, that mark along with their record this year shows the impact the Class of 2019 has had on the program since their freshman year when Clarkson/Leigh went 11-19.
In their sophomore year, they improved that number by six wins and had their first winning record going 17-15.
"These seniors have been such an amazing, talented group of girls since they came in as freshmen," Schneider said. "They've worked hard every day, they were dedicated to improving not only themselves, but dedicated to improving the team. They had the kind of drive and passion that every coach wants for their team.
"The success of Patriot volleyball stemmed from these seniors. Over the course of their four years, they have helped turn our losing records into winning records. The last three years, they have broke and re-broke school records, and have helped establish a solid foundation for our program. All in all, we have been so fortunate to have had such a hard-working, dedicated, and well-rounded group of seniors."
With the season over, Schneider turns her focus to 2019, which could look dramatically different with the departure of several starters.
"We'll have a little rebuilding to do," she said. "We return two middles that have had great experience, and we've got some salty athletes that are more than ready to step up. Over the course of the season, the starting varsity did an amazing job at pushing our JV's to make them better. The underclassmen are positive, they work hard, and they know what the expectations are for next season."
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter The Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at SCHsports@lee.net