The Lancaster girls volleyball team has won every tournament it entered this season. Will the Section VI tournament be any different?
This time the stakes will be much higher for the Redskins as they look to win their first sectional title. Lancaster is the No. 1 seed in the nine-team, Class A bracket. They were the No. 1 seed last year, but lost in the final to Sweet Home. Lancaster won tournaments this year at Frontier, Sweet Home, Eden and Horseheads.
Carrying the load this season for the 'Skins has been Katie Yearly, the MVP at Eden, and Lisa Jaszka, who made all-tourney at all four tournaments. Outside hitter Lindsay Garbacz leads the team in service aces. Miko Daluisio and Laura Grell, according to coach Sue Pernick, "are taking us places."
The sectionals begin today with 11 prequarterfinal matches. This year's format is single elimination instead of last year's tournament-style with pool play. Scoring will be best 3-of-5 up to 30.
No. 2 seed North Tonawanda, winners of sectional and state titles in 1997, 1998 and 1999, will be in the hunt. Andrea Hutton was named to the all-tournament teams at Frontier and the Lady Jacks Invitational. NT (15-1 league) has won or shared the Niagara Frontier League title the last seven years. "I don't see a dominate team out there," said coach Terry Brosius. "Clarence, Lancaster, Frontier, OP, NT -- I think it's up for grabs. It's all going to depend on who shows up." . . . The only losses this season for No. 3 seed Clarence (10-2, 14-2) were to Lancaster. Kim Koss earned MVP honors of the Clarence Tournament and Susan Barbaritz set a school record this year for career assists.
CLASS B: Sweet Home, winners of the Class A title last year and state runner-up, moves to Class B. The Panthers are seeded No. 2 behind Grand Island. Tracy Shields and Stephanie Hopkins give Sweet Home senior leadership. . . . At 19-2, Grand Island's Vikings set the school record for most wins in a season. Four-year player Michelle Delzoppo, Sally Head and Jen Breier hope to lead the Vikings to their first sectional title since 1991. Another challenger will be No. 4 seed West Seneca East, which beat Grand Island twice in the Amherst Tournament.
CLASS C: No. 2 seed Eden (16-0, 12-0) looks to capture the magic from a year ago when it won 27 consecutive playoffs games on the way to its second state title. Junior Ashley Doepp averages six kills per game. Senior Emily Engle is a three-year starter and team's best server. Junior setter Mallory Kam has picked up where her sister, Renee, left off. Eden has won eight sectional titles including the last two in a row. The Raiders have beaten all the top teams in the area this season including Lancaster (twice), Sweet Home, Frontier, St. Mary's and Clarence. . . . Last week No. 1 seed City Honors (13-0) put the final touches on its 16th consecutive Buffalo Public Schools title. A pair of senior lead the Centaurs: 6-foot Ifeoma Ifedigbo and Alex Valentine. . . . Portville (21-0) is led by Laura Sprague, considered the top setter in the Southern Tier, and Tanya Blauvelt. Watch out for much-improved Cattaraugus/Little Valley, which went from 11-8 last year to 18-2 this year.
CLASS D: da Vinci grabbed the top spot based on power points followed by No. 2 Pine Valley and No. 3 Panama. Defending Class D champion Randolph didn't qualify for the postseason. . . . No. 5 seed Chautauqua Lake played all Class C schools during league play except for three matches, so they're ready. Outside hitters Lindsay Raynor and Chelsea Cummings lead the Thunderbirds. . . . Panama has a nice combination with setter Bessie Palchak and outside hitter Marcey Furlow while Pine Valley's Kourtney Troutman and Alicia Abbey account for plenty of points.
CLASS A: What a regular season year it has been for No. 1 seed Lancaster. The Redskins, who have never won a sectional title, may be in their best position ever to break through. Lancaster (24-4, 14-0) won its first ECIC title this year, captured the Clarence tournament for the second year in a row, won the Eden Pan-Am Tournament, and took the Sweet Home Tournament. The Redskins are led by All-WNY middle hitter Brian Honsberger, John Paul Anthony and Tim Ulbrich. "We know we haven't won a sectional title, but the big thing is there are so many good teams out there, we can't worry about that until we get there," said coach Keith Hopkins, now in his fifth season. "It's a tough road to get to the final."
The 32nd Sectional Tournament begins today with two prequarterfinal matches.
Among the teams standing in Lancaster's way will be No. 2 seed and defending sectional champion Kenmore West. Last year's sectional title was the first for the Blue Devils since 1972. All-WNY Greg Higgins joins Chris O'Neil and Nate Wolfe as standouts from last year's team which went on to win the Intersectionals. "We've got a good core of kids who have experience, but as a coach and former athlete, I teach my kids that you can't rest on your laurels," said coach Mike Roy. "It's difficult to compare years to years. We can't even think about last year." The Blue Devils' 18-3 overall record includes the title of the North Tonawanda Tournament and a win over Msgr. Martin Association champion Canisius. . . No. 3 seed Lake Shore won the Lockport Boosters Invitational and was second in the Eden Pan-Am Tournament and the Orchard Park Invitational. The Eagles finished 12-0 in ECIC II to successfully defend their title. They are led by Adam Buczek, MVP of the Lockport Tourney, 6-foot-7 left-hander Justin Fladd and outside hitter Jon Brawdy. Lake Shore, winner of six sectional titles in Class B, is in its third season in Class A. . . . No. 4 seed Hamburg looks to win its first sectional title led by All-WNY Erik Hartman, one of the area's top passers, back row specialist Mike Lardo, and setter Kevin Murtha.
CLASS B: Eden. Period. The Raiders are heavy favorites to win the 19th sectional title in their history and their fifth intersectional crown. Eden won the ECIC III crown this year for the 20th time in the last 23 years. All-WNY Scott Funke was named MVP of the OP and Webster tourneys. Joe Klein, who is all over the floor, was MVP of the Central Square Tournament. A sectional title would be Eden's fifth in the last six years. . . . No. 2 seed Cheektowaga played Eden in the Clarence Tournament and lost both games in pool play. The Warriors (7-5 in ECIC II and 8-7 overall) are led by Dave Jachimiak. "Eden is head-and-shoulders above everybody else," said Cheektowaga coach Jon Marcussen. "We're not a tall team so we'll be relying on being aggressive on defense, playing scrappy and not letting the ball touch the floor." . . . Cheektowaga meets No. 3 seed Depew (7-3, 7-7) in Saturday's semifinals. Brian King and sophomore Eric Stahura stand out for the Wildcats.