By Allison Collins
BAINBRIDGE – The Lady Bobcats did it again last weekend, clinching the state volleyball title for the second consecutive year in a matchup against Panama at the Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls.
Last year marked the first time any Bainbridge-Guilford athletic team won at the state level.
The Bobcats, led by coach Tami Selfridge, enjoyed three winning sets—25-18, 25-19, 25-19—during the Class D final of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.
Entering the arena, Selfridge said, the girls carried the weight of being defending champs.
“I was nervous and I think the girls felt a lot of pressure to repeat,” she said. “The competition level at the pool play on Saturday was also a lot higher than it was last year. Panama was the same, but the other two sections had new teams … and they were just better.”
In addition to Panama, B-G faced Section II Albany-area winners Mayfield and Section IX champions from downstate, Mount Academy.
By Sunday, she said, a calm had descended on the 15-person, seven-senior team. Senior players included Abi Selfridge, Makenzie Drown, McKeyli Decker, Marissa Cuozzo, Zamira Caldwell, Leah Gregory and Alexis Carr
“Last year, we all felt really calm going into Sunday and felt like it was super-relaxed and we were just ready to play; there was a similar feeling this year,” she said. “We struggled a little on Saturday … but the girls were just a lot calmer (on Sunday) and they played with a lot of confidence and energy that I hadn’t seen on Saturday.”
Selfridge said, despite Sunday’s sense of calm and the final scores, the girls’ win wasn’t inevitable and required strong on-team leadership.
“To look at the scores, it seems like we had an easy time,” she said, “but none of the three games was easy, especially during the middle of the games.”
In each of the three sets, Selfridge said, B-G earned an early lead, battled through close or tied scores, then pulled ahead in the end.
The second set, she said, proved the most challenging.
“Both Panama and Bainbridge were out of timeouts when we were winning 14-10,” she said, “so it really came down to experience on the court, which team wanted it more and true leaders.
“They were definitely a good team and fought us hard all during the three sets,” Selfridge said, “but (B-G) played with a lot of heart and they really wanted it.”
Selfridge’s 17-year-old daughter Abi proved a pivotal leader throughout that second set, earning her back-to-back tournament MVP titles. Abi finished with a team-best 22 assists, four aces, nine kills, three blocks and five digs. Zamira Caldwell and Abi’s sister Erica were also named to the all-tournament team.
“Abi’s contributions on the court go way above her volleyball skills,” Selfridge said. “That second set, when we were out of timeouts, I asked her to get in and make contact and she seemed to really rise to that occasion … and show her leadership ability.”
Citing Abi’s commitment to Clarion University, made early last week, Selfridge added, “I think she’s all set to play Division II volleyball in western Pennsylvania next year. She’s a great player with a high level of intelligence for the game, so (the title of tournament MVP) was definitely well deserved.”
Underscoring all Bobcats volleyball, Selfridge said, is an emphasis on quality of play over victory.
“Most of these girls have a lot of experience with me as coach, so they know what to expect and the expectation is high,” she said, noting that three of the seniors began with her as coach in seventh grade. “But I told them it isn’t about winning or losing; I wanted for them to play a game they could live with for the rest of their lives and go out into the world knowing they’d played the very best game they could.”
“The fact that they won,” she added, “is just icing.”
Since returning home, Selfridge said, the Lady Bobcats have been celebrated by young and old.
“The community response is always so awesome,” she said. “Tons of people came out on Sunday night (for a parade) and the school district has been super supportive. They’re excited to have another state championship team.”
Despite losing seven of her two-time, title-winning players to graduation in 2019, Selfridge said, the future of Bobcats volleyball remains bright.
“Last month, when JV ended, there were four girls that I moved up,” she said, “so there are eight girls on the team that have had a pretty good start to our varsity-level program. I will have to start girls that have never played at the varsity level next year, so it’s a rebuilding year for sure, but these are also really good, talented girls.”
To learn more about Bainbridge-Guilford athletics, visit bgcsd.org.