VICTOR, N.Y. (WROC) — A team finds out just what they’re made of when their backs are against the wall. Victor girls volleyball, down 24-21 against rivals Penfield in the decisive set of the sectional final, dug down deeper than they ever thought possible.
“Honestly, I don’t even know,” said senior Alex McKenzie with a laugh when asked about how they pulled off the comeback.”
Whatever it was, it was good for a 27-25 win and a second straight sectional title.
“Seniors find a way to step up and our kids found a way to grind it out,” said head coach Matt Glover.
The five-set match could prove to be the toughest they’ll face along the way to a state title. Victor is first in the latest state rankings, with Penfield ranking second.
“I went back to serve and looked at Emma [Werkmeister] and we just said that we have each other’s backs and we’re not letting this go until the last point,” said McKenzie, an outside hitter. “We were all ready to put 100% in and we were all on the same page of ‘it wasn’t till it’s over’. We just had each other’s backs and did what we always did and pulled off the win.”
The Blue Devils are a senior-heavy team, twelve in all. Only one junior cracks the rotation. They’re now on to the state semifinals, something they knew was possible on the first day of training camp.
“Everyone was there saying, ‘we’re going to grind out, we’ve got goals to accomplish, and we’re not settling for less.’ So right on that first day, I knew that this was going to be a special season,” said senior Emma Werkmeister.
Werkmeister, an outside hitter, is the workhorse of the group who leads an extremely talented roster. The UConn commit dazzles with her thunderous kills and shines when the stage is brightest.
“She really just knows when to rise up and when to point-score for us and she’s just a very trustworthy teammate,” said McKenzie.
“She’s a stud,” said Glover. “She has a very heavy arm swing. She finds a way to get a kill. Our team knows that when we need a point, we’re going to Emma. Emma wants that pressure, she wants that ball. Good athletes want the ball in key moments.”
“I play for my team. I don’t want to let my team down, I don’t want to let my coaches down, I don’t want to let my family down, I don’t want to let everybody down,” said Werkmeister. “Knowing that my team has my back and I have there’s just allows me not to get timid in those moments.”
Werkmeister has an impressive volleyball pedigree. Her mother, Candi, played for the University of Buffalo and is in the program’s athletic hall of fame. Her dad, Rob Jr., played on the UB men’s team and was a captain for the Bulls.
She attended her first volleyball tournament when she was just three weeks old and says that ever since then she knew she was going to play volleyball.
“They had so much insight to help me along the way and so much love and support that they gave me,” said Werkmeister. “It not only made me love the sport of volleyball but made me know that they’re there for me.”
Glover has been building the program around the twelve seniors since they were in the 5th or 6th grade. Now they have one final chance to win the state title that has eluded the program the past few years.
“In 2018 we lost to Long Beach in the finals of states, in 2019 we came a little short to Mercy going to states, 2020 was taken away due to COVID, and 2021 is here,” said Glover. “This is their year to finish that unfinished business and I think that it would mean the world to them and this program to finally finish it.”
Werkmeister was a freshman on the team that lost in the finals and remembers Glover telling her that they have unfinished business.
“We just want to go out with a bang. There is no next year for us,” said Werkmeister. “We want to leave it with the best experience ever and that would be winning a state championship.”
“It would mean the world, not just to me, but to all of us,” said McKenzie. “Knowing that we did this together and we had each other’s backs the entire time would be amazing. I think we can do it.”
A state championship would be the first for the Blue Devils since 2009. Pool play begins Saturday morning in Glens Falls.