There may be a lot of new faces on this year's Canisius volleyball team, but it still has the look of a winner.
Despite heavy turnover, the Crusaders are one match away from a fifth consecutive Monsignor Martin Association title. In a rematch of last year's final, they face St. Francis at D'Youville tonight at 7.
"Ryan (Zettle) and Mike (Flierl) are our only starters from last year, so we had a pretty good overhaul," said third-year coach Brian Lombardo. "We have some juniors who've stepped up: Bob Powalski and Joe Montroy. Guys are starting to hit shots, and we've worked a ton on our serving."
With its nucleus of Zettle, Flierl and Kevin Sommers, Canisius finished 6-0 in the league to extend its regular season winning streak to 31 matches, dating back to 2000. Canisius (14-5 overall) won the Central Square Tournament and placed third at the Clarence and Sweet Home Tournaments.
St. Francis (10-7 overall) doesn't mind being the underdogs. "We're playing the best volleyball we've played all year. We've won four matches in a row," said Red Raiders coach Ryan Kingsland. "We lost both matches to them (Canisius) in the regular season, but the last time we played, we took a game from them."
St. Francis is led by junior setter Pat Wozniak and senior middle Andy Rich.
Section VI league play ended Monday night. The seedings meeting is Thursday with prequarterfinals starting Nov. 2.
In the 16-team Class A bracket, undefeated West Seneca West (12-0, 17-0) will be the No. 1 seed. Eden (12-0) will be the top seed among the 13 teams in Class B.
It's that time of year when Lancaster and Eden are thinking "catch us if you can."
The Redskins have won three straight Section VI titles while Eden is working on six.
Section VI embraces the five-class format for the first time. A field of 72 is broken down by Class AA (16 teams), Class A (18), Class B (14), Class C (13) and Class D (11).
Class AA: After No. 1 seed Lancaster (14-0) comes another league unbeaten, Lockport (14-0). The Lady Lions won the Niagara Frontier League for the first title since 1994.
"Our goal was to win the league, but to do that, and go undefeated, that in itself is a great accomplishment," said Lady Lions coach Liz Denniston. Leading an experienced lineup is senior Nicole Piette, a member of the varsity since eighth grade.
Class A: No. 1 seed Lake Shore finished 12-0 in ECIC II. . . . In its first year in ECIC III, No. 2 seed Starpoint finished 12-0. Winners of Class B last year, a young Starpoint team is powered by juniors Allie Matters and Amanda Boron.
Class B: Eden (12-0) joins Class B after winning Class C last year. Look for Eden and City Honors to meet in the semifinals if they both win Wednesday. The teams have faced each other in four tournaments this season, including the final of the Frontier Tournament, won by the Centaurs. Alden won this class last year.
"It's no cakewalk for us. We graduated a lot, and we're pretty young," said Eden coach Stephen Pierce. "City Honors has been waiting for a long time, and Alden has everybody back."
Class C: Randolph (14-0) and Westfield (11-0) won their respective league titles and are the Nos. 1-2 seeds. . . . Class D: Ellicottville is 16-0 overall and 8-0 in Cattaraugus III. Panama is the defending champ.
The Monsignor Martin Association enters the last week of its regular season with St. Mary's (10-1, 13-3) having clinched at least a tie for the title. Eight teams will compete in the All-Catholics, which begins with quarterfinals Monday.
The Lancers beat Clarence on Friday in five games with the final game ending 26-24.