MAYVILLE — The Village of Mayville received some well-deserved publicity not too long ago over the building of a giant ice castle. That hasn’t been the only attraction in town this winter.
The Chautauqua Lake girls basketball team has been grabbing its share of headlines in what has been the most successful season in its history.
The ice castle was an impressive structure, made of 1,200 blocks of ice. Built by volunteers on the banks of nearby Chautauqua Lake, it was the centerpiece of the Mayville Winter Festival. The girls basketball team has been building something as well, as an experienced team heads to the state final four this weekend.
From the popular Sweet Spot Cafe on North Erie Street to the American Legion on South Erie Street, this community of 1,700 is ready to welcome its first team state championship since the Mayville and Chautauqua high schools merged in 1996-97.
The Thunderbirds, winners of 19 in a row, are two victories away from the New York State Class C title. They will play Haldane of Section I (Hudson Valley) in today’s 12:30 p.m. semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. If they win, they will play for the championship at 1:45 p.m. Sunday against the winner of Hoosic Valley (18-4) versus Harpursville (23-0).
The players are not the only ones who are excited. Jenn Obert is the village treasurer, but she also knows what it’s like to be a state champion. She played on the Mayville volleyball team that won back-to-back state titles in 1993 and 1994.
“I think it’s totally awesome, when we went to states for volleyball it was very exciting,” Obert said from her desk in the Village Hall. “I remember coming back into town, there were a whole bunch of people waiting for us. It’s an experience you never forget.”
The village sent this year’s team off in style last week before they left for the Far West Regionals at Finger Lakes CC. People lined the sidewalks as state police escorted a parade of three fire trucks, a rescue vehicle and an ambulance in a procession that started at the school, went past the lone street light, and looped around the village.
John Crandall is a fire chief, the village clerk and a close follower of the team.
“As far as the village, we’re always excited when we have a team of any caliber headed toward a state championship,” Crandall said. “The fire department, whenever we’re asked, we’re there for a parade or whatever we can do to help. We’re all about that.”
American Legion Post 493 has shown its support with a sign out front that reads: “Congrats and good luck girls, bring it home.”
That sentiment was shared by the school when the team boarded a bus Friday morning following a pep rally. The Thunderbirds like their chances. The only blemish on their 22-1 record is a loss to Jamestown, winners of Class AA.
Coach Eric Schuster has seen Haldane on tape and thinks his team matches up well.
“They have a point guard who can really handle it, No. 10,” he said. “I think we’re going to see a very similar team to what we saw last week” with Keshequa. “They’re a good, quick team that likes to push the basketball, and they’re going to play in-your-face-defense.”
Haldane will have to find an answer for the Thunderbirds’ front court of 5-10 junior Jenna Einink (20.1 ppg, 12.1 rpg) and 5-9 junior Ashton Albanesius (15.1 ppg). Junior guard Courtney Hewes (10.0 ppg) can also be dangerous if left unchecked. They will also have to tighten their defense, which gave up 11 three-pointers to Keshequa.
Haldane has its share of weapons with Sam Lisikatos, who wants the ball when the game’s on the line, along with top defender and younger sister Marissa Lisikatos. Their post players include the sure-handed Jessica Harrison and standout soccer goalkeeper Cali Schweikhart. Junior guard Allie Monteleone has skills that can hurt a team in several ways.
Chautauqua Lake looks to put this team on ice. This week they were selling T-shirts in school that read: “Section VI Class C Far West Regional Champions.”
“I’m sure if by chance we can come home with a state title, we’ll have some new shirts made,” promised Schuster.