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Kenmore West beats Grand Island, 23-25, 25-18, 15-10. Can those numbers be right? What sport is this?

It's the new rally scoring being used by volleyball teams in Western New York as part of a move toward playing by international rules.

Rally scoring means a point is awarded to the team winning that rally, regardless of which team served. Regular season matches are still best two-out-of-three, but games are played to 25 points (no cap, win by two) now instead of 15. Matches going to a third game will be played to 15 (no cap, win by two).

The move is meant to eliminate the slow spots in games where no points are scored for several minutes.

The new scoring system isn't the only major rules change this season. A libero, or back row specialist, has also been introduced with the idea of promoting longer rallies, putting execution at a premium and bringing the smaller player back into the game.

The libero only plays the back row and may not serve, block or kill. The libero will wear a different color jersey and his use is optional by the coach.

"The idea is to improve play since the defensive specialist will be in at all times, he can bump and the passing will be better," said Lancaster coach Keith Hopkins. "It gets the big, lumbering guys, who really can't play defense, out (of the game) and gets somebody in there who's quick and small."

Hamburg senior Mike Lardo is considered the top defensive player in Western New York. He was the libero for the Western Region's Empire State Games team, and for his club teams, Power Station and the Pace Bootleggers out of Rochester.

"He's probably the fastest player I've ever had," said Hamburg coach Brian Carroll, now in his fifth year. "He knows where the ball is going to go before it gets there. He's got excellent foot speed and knows how to track a ball down."

Boys preview

Here's a look at some of the top teams and top individuals as the 2001 season begins:

Class A

Kenmore West is one of a slew of teams with the talent to win Class A. The Blue Devils won the New York State Class A Intersectionals last year, but didn't experience that usual drop-off in talent after a big year.

The Blue Devils are deep with eight players out of 12 returning. Three starters are back, including All-WNY OH Greg Higgins, setter Nate Wolfe and Ken-Ton Tournament MVP Chris O'Neill.

The Blue Devils won their first sectional title since 1972 last year, finishing 26-2.

Lardo is one of four starters returning for defending ECIC I champ Hamburg along with go-to guy Erik Hartman, an All-Western New York outside hitter, Kevin Murtha, one of the area's top setters, and James Anderson, who also excels at track.

No. 1-ranked large school Lancaster joins the hunt led by senior Brian Honsberger, an All-Western New York MH, two-time Clarence Tournament MVP and two-time ESG gold medalist. Senior Jon Paul Anthony and junior Eric Honsberger will help the Redskins win a lot of matches. "We feel we can really bang from all five spots on the court," said Hopkins.

Orchard Park boasts 6-foot-4 junior Mark Rumschik, whom area coaches are calling the best all-around player in Western New York. "He's got it all," said first-year coach Matt Lexner, who takes over for Walt Stefani. "He's an all-around athlete, he plays three sports and excels at them all." The Quakers reached the sectional final last year.

Lake Shore returns five starters from a team that won ECIC II with an 11-1 record. Back are all-stars Justin Fladd and Adam Buczek along with OH Jon Brady, S Joe Tilert and OH Cliff Schmitz. . . . Frontier may be a little "raw," according to coach Chris Luksch, but the Falcons do return junior Neil Starzynski, senior Craig Kilgore and senior Chris O'Brien. . . Clarence returns junior Jeff Donhauser and 6-8 senior Andrew Klein, who both got better in the offseason playing on Eden's club team. . . . North Tonawanda looks for more after sharing the Niagara Frontier League title last year with Kenmore West. . . . Mike Rosek is a leader for West Seneca West.

Class B

Eden may have won the New York State Class B Intersectional title last year and extended its ECIC III winning streak to 44 matches, but coach Robert Pierce says this may be his best team ever.

"Everything's in place for us to repeat. Our expections are always high," said Pierce. "I don't mean to sound overconfident or cocky, but these guys have done everything in the offseason to win another championship. I'm lucky to have a group of juniors that have been with me for a while and have been playing at a pretty high level."

The Raiders are not very deep with a roster of only nine, but they are balanced and mentally tough. They'll start five juniors and a senior as they chase the sixth state title in the program's history.

Senior OH Scott Funke is an All-WNY pick. Setter Joe Klein, known as a real gamer, is back. He's joined by junior Dennis Telaak, a small (5-9), gritty player. Eden finished 22-7 last year and won the sectionals for the fourth time in the last five years.

Iroquois is big and scrappy and led by senior outside hitters Brian Argauer and Jim Tanous. . . . Amherst, last year's Class B finalist, lost four starters but does return OH Steve McBeth, a three-year starter, and 6-3 senior Sean Ferretti. . . . Maryvale returns its setter, all-star Eric Kujawa. . . . Nathan Baker will help a much-improved Depew team led by first-year coach Mark Schlesinger. . . . Providing senior leadership at Lew-Port will be Henry Richardson.

Msgr. Martin Association

Canisius is coming off an 18-3 season and looks to defend its Msgr. Martin Association title. MB Mike Sellick was the only sophomore named All-Catholic last year. . . . MMA runner-up St. Francis, returns All-Catholic setter Dan Kick. . . . All-Catholic second-teamers returning are Joe Battin (Canisius), Tom Barus (O'Hara) and Chris Salhab (St. Joe's). . . . This year's All-Catholic Tournament final is Oct. 24 at Canisius College.

SaturdayEden Pan-Am Invitational
Sept. 29Williamsville South Tournament
Oct. 6Sweet Home Tournament
Oct. 6Lockport Tournament
Oct. 20Orchard Park Tournament
Oct. 24All-Catholics at Canisius College
Oct. 26College Preview Tournament
Nov. 7Sectional Finals at Kenmore West
Nov. 10Far West Regionals at Webster

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