— AuSable Valley has been hovering just above the line between Class B and Class C schools for years now.
The Patriots had captured five consecutive Champlain Valley Athletic Conference Division II titles coming into this year, but were unable to capture sectional titles during that span against the larger Class B schools.
High School Sports Magazine
This year, however, AuSable Valley was under that line and participated in the Class C sectionals — capturing its first since sectional title since 1991-92.
The move to Class C certainly helped the Patriots’ chances this season, but it would mean nothing without the players to make a sectional championship happen.
A lot of the players on the team knew they were going to be good, but they didn’t know they would be this good.
“I knew we had a good team,” senior Haley Taylor said. “But, I didn’t think we’d make it to the final four.
“Once I started seeing the outcomes, with how many wins we had compared to losses, I thought it could be a possibility.”
That was echoed by sophomore Madison Rondeau.
“I thought we’d be really good,” Rondeau said. “We have all played together for a long time. But, I didn’t expect to be in the final four.”
The season started off with a bang for AuSable Valley, capturing seven straight wins, including going 5-0 in the month of December.
“We actually started off with a tough schedule to begin the year,” Patriots coach Roger Long said. “In a lot of those games we were challenged, especially by Peru and Plattsburgh, but we were able to pull away in the second half.
“Then came the Beekmantown game. We executed, but we exerted a ton of energy in that game and it just didn’t work out.”
The Beekmantown game, a 52-50 loss, was the first loss of the season for the Patriots, and Long was wondering how his team would respond.
The team came out a bit flat against Northern Adirondack, but was able to secure a victory. But, picked up their second loss in three games with a 42-31 loss to Class A Franklin Academy in a nonleague matchup.
“I was definitely worried about the backlash,” Long said. “We played NAC up there and (NAC) was ready to play.
“Then we had Malone at home and there was just no commitment to anything on the floor. I had eight girls on the team and I thought I had lost them.
“But we had four games in one week and went 4-0, and we played Malone up in their gym and pulled out the game. We got a solid commitment to defense and running our sets.”
Though he won’t take much of the credit, the girls on the team credit Long with helping them get to this point.
“He’s been motivating us all season,” Taylor said. “He’s pumped and excited and has believed in us all year. He gave us the confidence.”
“He’s really happy for us,” junior Logan Snow said. “He’s been good for us and has been pushing us all season.”
“He’s a great coach,” sophomore Meghan Strong said. “He keeps us motivated and this means as much to him as it does to us. Seeing what he brings really makes us work even harder.”
The Patriots moved into Saturday’s Class C state semifinal with a 48-43 victory over defending state champion Hoosic Valley out of Section II. Saturday, AuSable Valley will take on Section V’s Bishop Kearney.
“We are excited,” junior Taylor Saltus said. “We beat the highest rated team in the state, but we can’t underestimate anyone. Every game we get a little better.”
Strong, the Patriots leading scorer, agrees.
“(The win against Hoosic Valley) gave us a confidence boost,” Strong said. “We will go into the game like it’s our last and put everything on the line. If we execute, I think we will be playing Sunday in the championship.”
Most teams feel to be at a disadvantage with a team so young, but Long feels it may have helped his team.
“I don’t know that they’ve realized just what they’ve accomplished yet,” Long said. “I think right now they are excited and a bit apprehensive.
“If we focus on our game plan and commit to it, and we don’t get caught up in the moment, I think we will be fine.”