It was a moment their school had been waiting for, for its entire history.
David Hatten and Nicolaj Prychodko combined for the game-winning block on match point as Hamburg swept West Seneca West to win its first Section VI volleyball title. The Bulldogs' 25-20, 25-20, 31-29 victory in the Class A match was played before an enthusiastic 500 at Eden.
In the Class B final, Eden won its fifth consecutive title and eighth in the last nine years, 25-18, 25-10, 25-19, over East Aurora. Hamburg (28-3) and Eden (24-3) advance to Saturday's intersectionals at Cicero North-Syracuse.
Hamburg got plenty of offense Thursday as Prychodko and Pat Abulone combined for 24 kills, but that's not the reason the Bulldogs left the gym with a plaque in hand.
"Our blocking was the most important factor," said Hamburg coach Brian Carroll, in his ninth season. "We blocked their left side, Kevin Lasky, and that was the key to the match because (6-foot-7 Matt) Anderson was going to get his kills whether we liked it or not. Lasky had to be stopped, and we did that the first two games."
With six of their top seven players over 6-2, the Bulldogs used their height advantage at every opportunity. They set up blocks on almost every swing, winning plenty of battles at the net. Jeff Hartman had 12 digs, while Prychodko and Rusty Gardner had seven kills each.
Like the Bulldogs, West Seneca West was also in search of its first sectional title. The Indians, top-heavy with seniors, were hoping this was their year after finishing 12-0 in ECIC I and eliminating last year's Class A champion, Orchard Park, in the sectional semifinals. West finishes 21-3.
Anderson, being recruited by Ohio State, Penn State and Brigham Young, had six kills and Lasky had seven.
"We played out of our minds, we were digging balls left and right," Anderson said. "Their blocking just destroyed our team. Every time I went to hit, they had a block up. We played our hearts out, they did, too, and they were just the better team."
Hamburg and West Seneca West were ranked 1-2 in the Western New York coaches poll.
West Seneca West coach Steve Schreiner blamed poor passing and serving that he described as "off." But he was thrilled with the seasonlong effort that gave the Indians the chance to compete for the title.
In the intersectionals, Hamburg will compete in round-robin play against the champions from Sections II, III and V. The two teams with the best records will meet in the finals at 4 p.m.
Thanks to a dominating performance by senior Chad Proudman, Eden eliminated the Blue Devils in 59 minutes. Proudman had 23 kills, five digs and two aces.
"There was no doubt in my mind we were in control the whole match," Proudman said. "The team played amazing today. We beat them pretty bad the first time we played them, and I didn't expect anything less."
Eden will play just one match in its intersectional, versus Victor of Section V, at 1:30 p.m. The Raiders never trailed in the first game, but the score was tied three times as E.A. kept it close on Eden's unforced errors.
"In the first game we tried to be too spectacular with perfect passes, perfect jump serves, and we forgot the object is to score the points," coach Robert Pierce said. "I told them forget about what it looks like. Trust your technique, training and skill level and you'll have the score you desire."
Eden closed the second game on a 7-0 run and rode an 11-4 lead in the third game to the win. Sixth-seeded East Aurora (10-9), the surprise of the tournament, beat No. 3 Depew, No. 11 Holland and No. 2 Grand Island.
"Our team isn't experienced at (Eden's) level, so it's hard to get them emotionally into the game and calmed down," said first-year coach Greg Lardo, a star player for Hamburg in 1998. "It took them a game and a half to start to play our style of volleyball. We didn't try to do anything special. We got here for a reason. Their offense was too much and it was hard to slow them down."