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East Aurora, Eden, Randolph advance Lancaster's reign comes to an end with loss to Penfield

Eden coach Stephen Pierce wanted to bask in the euphoria of his daughter Katherine helping East Aurora notch a truly historic girls volleyball triumph Saturday, but he had to wait for his own team to handle its business.

Only after the Raiders dispatched Section V Nazareth in three games in the Class C Far West Regional showdown at Erie Community College's Burt Flickinger Center did he take the time to soak in the fact that he and Katherine both have a chance to win state titles in Glens Falls this upcoming weekend.

"I was thrilled about my daughter's team winning but I [just] couldn't enjoy it until this was over," said Stephen Pierce after Eden won its ninth straight regional title with a 25-13, 25-14, 25-22 triumph.

EA crushed V-Livonia, 25-15, 25-16, 25-11, in Class B to reach its first state final four.

Two-time defending state champion Randolph has a chance to make it three in a row, but defending Class AA champion Lancaster and Starpoint had their seasons ended by strong Section V opponents.

Randolph dealt V-Lyons its first loss of the season, 25-19, 25-19, 18-25, 25-13, behind Lacy Blocker's 17 kills.

Lancaster's championship reign is over courtesy of Penfield, which survived life without its best player in earning a 25-17, 25-22, 23-25, 25-18 win.

Starpoint and Victor played an exciting Class A regional, but Victor won it, 25-23, 35-33, 25-22. An estimated 1,000 fans attended the five regional matches.

The winners return to action Saturday in the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Katherine Pierce watched her father guide the Raiders to their fourth state title since 2000 last year. She's thrilled to be making the road trip as more than a spectator for a change.

"It's a great feeling knowing that I am part of a team get to experience as a high schooler what it's like to go to states," said Pierce, who finished with six kills and two aces.

East Aurora (22-2) never trailed during its 55-minute triumph. The Blue Devils usually rely on a strong service game to fuel their offense, but the "O" received an unexpected boost from the strong blocking of Ashley Gallagher (five solo blocks) and Audrey Zimmerman (five blocks, 13 kills).

"Everyone was so into it," EA coach Molly Schrantz said. "They were so composed that you'd think every year they've come this far and that it wasn't their first time."

Eden faced a Nazareth team with a pair of 6-footers stationed at the net, but they didn't scare senior Chelsea Hennigan or junior Heather Henry. Hennigan finished with 39 assists, moving the ball effectively to make it difficult for the Lazers to set up their block. Henry finished with 20 kills. The Raiders also received a boost from Katie Eschner, who added seven kills on nine attempts.

Henry's biggest contribution was handling back and front row hitting duties as normal middle hitter Stacey Smith was limited during the match by a sprained ankle.

"She delivered some key points for us," Pierce said.

It didn't matter that Penfield (20-1) had to play without its senior captain Stacey Yohannes (mono), a 5-foot-11 hitter who is a candidate for the state's player of the year. The Patriots still had enough size with 6-1 Julie Williams (nine blocks) and 6-footer Jessica Beyer (six blocks) and scrappiness on defense to handle Lancaster.

"We made too many mistakes tonight," Redskins coach Sue Pernick said. "You can't make that many mistakes and expect to beat a good team like that. I'm real proud of my seniors. . . . They went out swinging."

Lancaster (20-3) has won state titles two of the past three years and beat Penfield last year. But a Redskins crew featuring five seniors who were also a part of the 2004 state title run was slightly off the entire match, making a bunch of uncharacteristic hitting mistakes.

Brittany Anthon (15 kills) had three kills in a 13-6 run during Lancaster's third-game win. But 5-10 Laura Huselton (16 kills, three blocks) and Williams finished off the Redskins in the fourth game, each notching three kills.

"As a group we proved one player doesn't make up a team," Penfield coach Matthew Glover said. "Lancaster is a great team, a great program."

Both Starpoint and Victor coaches Sue Rexford and Shelly Collins have been coaching a combined 44 years and until Saturday neither had been involved in a game in which the winner finished with 35 points.

That middle game proved to be the key to Victor's sweep as it rallied from a 22-16 deficit to tie it, 24-24, on Kelsey Richardson's kill. Each team had a one-point lead five times before Victor finally ended the game on consecutive kills by Marilyn Glamack. Sara Palka led Starpoint with 14 kills.

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