Henry Payne seems determined to exit his high school career on a high note.
The Clarence volleyball standout led his team to a victory in the Orchard Park Tournament last week. He was the Most Valuable Player, with 87 kills for the tournament and a hitting percentage of .560. Payne also was a standout player in a match earlier in the week against Hamburg.
Payne has been a big part of an outstanding season for the Red Devils, and he has been selected as the Prep Talk Male Athlete of the Week.
Position: Outside hitter
Uniform number: 22
Give us some details about the Orchard Park tournament: “We started out on a rough patch in pool play. Then we got on a roll during playoffs. We beat OP in the semifinals whom we had lost both sets to in pool play earlier. We defeated St. Francis in the finals whom we had split with in pool play. In both matches we played our best volleyball of the day. I was given the honor of receiving the Ken Nagel Memorial Tournament MVP award. It was a great way to cap off my last high school varsity tournament.”
What’s the rivalry with Orchard Park like? “I wasn’t able to play the first match against OP this year because my grandfather passed away. The team played very well against them but came up a little short. The second time we played OP, they beat us the first two sets and we came back and won the last three. It was a long night to say the least but very rewarding. There is definitely a rivalry between OP and Clarence but there is high level of respect for each other and every time we play it is always an intense and close match.”
How has your season gone? “It has been a great season so far. The thing about this season I’ve loved the most is how close our team is. We all get along and that translates to our play on the court. We won both the Sweet Home and Orchard Park tournaments for the first time since 2010.”
Highlight of your athletic career: “Having the opportunity to play with both my older brother, Dale and younger brother Teddy on varsity during my high school career at Clarence.”
Favorite thing about volleyball: “I love that it is a team sport and that everyone on the court has equal responsibility for the success of the team. So when you win it’s truly a collective effort.”
Favorite teammate: “My little brother Teddy, our Libero”
Toughest opponent: “Canisius High School”
Western New York athlete I look up to: “Matt Anderson, because he put Western New York volleyball on the map and proved that top players can come from anywhere.”
Pro/college athletes I admire: “LeBron James - because he went back to his hometown and brought a championship to Ohio.”
When I am not playing or practicing my sport, I’m …: “Spending time with friends and family.”
From his coach, Kevin Starr: “Henry is tremendously talented and very committed to being his best and leading his teammates. Having him at practices and in matches is literally like having another coach on the court. He’s also very humble, genuine, and kind. A few times this year, he’s crushed some balls that looked like they might have really hurt the kid that was hit by them. The first thing he does is try to find out if the kid is OK. He comes from a family full of people with big hearts, and he’s no exception.”
What’s ahead (athletics and/or academics): “NCAA D1 college volleyball and study kinesiology or engineering.”
Noah Keem, boys soccer, Sweet Home: Scored 10 goals and three assists in three games, including the winning goal in a 1-0 game against St. Joe’s.
Abdullah Hussein, boys soccer, I-Prep/Grover: Capped week in which he recorded five goals and two assists in three games by scoring game-winner in Friday’s win over Clarence for No. 1 small school I-Prep's 15th win in row.
Jack Haxton, golf, St. Francis: Shot 75 at Fox Valley to earn medalist honors at All-Catholic golf championships.
Aidan Shaw, golf, Orchard Park: Shot 75 at Sheridan Park to earn medalist honors at ECIC Championships. The freshman had a 36 on the back nine.
Coaches can nominate athletes of the week by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by Saturday night.