Many times in sports you'll hear about how teams are one big family.
This year's Grand Island boys soccer team is just that. Actually, it's a family of families.
Go down the roster and you start connecting siblings the way the Vikings string passes together.
Grand Island has eight sets of brothers between its varsity and junior varsity teams. Ryan and Kiel Clarke, and Alex and Andrew Missert are on the varsity. J.R. Certo, Chris Benninger, Marcellus Hogan and Steve Doermer each have a brother on the JV, while Josh Billica has two brothers on JV.
J.R. Certo's father, Russ, is the coach of the JV, which also happens to include a set of identical twins, Ryan and Justin Samland. Russ Certo is a former Grand Island player, one of four second-generation families in the program (along with Doermer, Samland and Billica -- Ray Billica is also an assistant coach).
Did we mention the sisters? Senior captain Adam Ungaro, Robert Lorence and Kevin Buyer have sisters that play JV. The girls varsity includes Natalie and Nicole Fischer (their brother plays JV), Sara Hilliard (whose sister plays JV) and standout sophomore defender Jessica Kuehne.
Jessica's mother, Jude, played at Grand Island, while her father, Peter, is the boys varsity coach.
All this brotherhood has helped the Vikings to another standout season. GI is poised to make a run at a second straight sectional championship after winning Class B last year. With this year's expansion from four to five classes, GI is in Class A. Sectional seedings for the boys and girls tournaments will be announced Saturday; the girls tournament begins Monday and the boys start Tuesday.
The Grand Island boys (8-4-3) appear primed for the postseason after recent ties with Niagara Frontier League rivals Kenmore East and Lockport, Class AA powers who have spent the season atop the coaches' large school poll.
Those involved in the sister act on the girls team are cruising along under coach Peter Prozik, in his eighth and final season with the girls (he coached 23 seasons with the boys) before turning the program over to JV coach David Bowman. Prozik's career record is 131-17-12.
Rival Kenmore West gave the Vikings girls a good run last week, taking a 1-0 lead into the second half before Dana Szczepaniak saved a 1-1 tie. The Vikings moved to 12-1-3 with a 2-0 victory over Lew-Port on Monday.
Eden's scoring Schichtels
Dan Schichtel will get teased from time to time, from teammates or even his dad: Sure, you're scoring lots of goals, but not as many as your sister.
Lauren Schichtel, a senior at Eden, has 25 goals this year and a school-record 58 for her career. She set the school's single-season record last year with 33.
Dan, a junior, broke the Eden boys records for goals in a season (24) and a career (45) this year. That matched Lauren's feat.
Brother and sister are fast with a knack for the net, skills that have been honed in their backyard ever since they played on their first team together in Boston Town Soccer eight years ago. Younger brother Matt, a freshman, also plays varsity; older brother Mark played football and graduated last year.
While the boys have struggled in tough ECIC IV, the girls team is in second behind powerful East Aurora.
"These guys are the reason I'm scoring all these goals," Lauren said, pointing to her teammates.
Sophomore center midfielder Sarah Bihl (11 assists) and junior Sam Soltis (eight goals) help up front, while seniors Ashley Bulger, Lisa Romano, Jessica Klima and Lindsey Kleinsdienst lead an aggressive defense.
"Eden soccer has really come a long way," said 10th-year girls coach Jill Hamouche. "We came from having just a varsity team to having modified, JV, travel and indoor, and it's really starting to make a huge difference."
Of Lauren, Hamouche said: "She has a really good touch, she turns quickly and she's able to finish quickly. She's a born striker. (Lauren and Dan) are the type of players you wait and hope for."
"We ride him once in a while about catching up to his sister and ask him what the dinner table's like," boys coach Kevin Witman said of Dan. "He's a great finisher, and Matt's going to be good. I wish there were more coming."
There is one more Schichtel, but not for the boys team. The youngest is playing in the Eden travel league: 11-year-old Nicole.
Around the fields
St. Joe's was ranked seventh in the state in the Class B poll last week, although it should probably be moved up to the large school divisions (AA or A) in the near future. Confusion over whether it should be in a large or small school poll had kept the Marauders (10-1-3) out of the local polls until appearing eighth in today's large school rankings.
Nardin -- which beat Clarence in overtime last week after Clarence upended Williamsville North -- and the rest of the Monsignor Martin girls teams begin their postseason Saturday with 1 p.m. quarterfinals at the West Seneca Soccer Complex.
Girls coaches should visit www.section6girlssoccer.org, a first-year site organized by North Tonawanda coach and Niagara Frontier League Chairman Steve Sabo.
The defending Class D state champion Ellicottville girls play at Iroquois at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
City Honors, whose boys and girls teams went undefeated in the Buffalo Public Schools' regular season, will try to sweep the city championships for the second straight year this week. Semifinals are today with championship games at 4 p.m. Thursday (boys at J.H. Williams, girls at Delaware Park).