The Lancaster girls volleyball team is deep, experienced and athletic, but there's one more thing it would like to have going into this weekend's New York State Championships.
"I know you make your own luck, but sometimes a little luck goes a long way," said Lancaster coach Sue Pernick.
The Redskins (21-0) would like to see their luck at the states change. They've reached the championship match each of the last three years but lost every time.
Their fourth attempt to bring Lancaster its first state title in a girls team sport begins today with pool play at Cortland.
"This is probably the most athletic team with the most volleyball experience that I've ever taken to states," said Pernick. "(Seniors) Stef (Jansma), Kristine (O'Hara) and Lacey (Severins) have been with me since their freshman years. Stef has started since she was a freshman. That's a huge card in our favor. The other girls, between club experience and experience with the softball team going to states, these girls are used to being in big games."
Lancaster's Class AA bracket includes Ward Melville of Section XI, Pine Bush of Section IX and Horseheads of Section IV. Ward Melville beat Lancaster in last year's final, and Horseheads beat the Redskins in 2001.
Lancaster will be joined by two other Section VI teams who survived the Far West Regionals.
Eden is no stranger to the state finals, having appeared in the last five Class C matches and winning three. The Raiders (22-2) are in the Class B bracket this year with XI-John Glenn, I-Ardsley and II-Cobleskill-Richmondville.
Eden didn't lose a match last year until it faced John Glenn in the title match. Senior Jodi Smith looks to play in her fourth state final in a row.
The state tournament is new to Class A Starpoint (21-3). The Spartans have come a long way from a team that just wanted to fare well in its first year in the ECIC.
The Spartans are playing their best volleyball of the season, having swept Lake Shore in the sectional finals and Wayne in the regionals.
"We've kind of heard it said about us that we're a little nonchalant," said coach Sue Rexford. "We don't take that as a negative. We know what we want to do. I said a long time ago we've got a mission. We know we have a shot at this. And it's my job to keep them focused."
Three seniors start -- Lisa Batt (middle blocker), Amy Rhoads (setter) and Jessica Oppee (back row) -- but the big hitter has been junior Allie Matters.
Standing in Starpoint's path to a state title is VIII-Wantagh, I-Hendrick Hudson and III-Burnt Hills.
Lockport ready to run
Lockport, which has been waiting for another shot at Fayetteville-Manlius, gets its chance Saturday at the New York State Championships.
F-M of Section III is a heavy favorite to win the Class AA race at the Chenango Valley State Park course in Binghamton. F-M is the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, according to Harrier Magazine, while the Lions are ninth.
If Lockport pulls the upset, it would be its first state title since 1973.
At the Oct. 2 McQuaid Invitational, F-M finished 1-2-4-5-7, averaging 15:20 a runner in a lopsided win of the seeded large school race. Lockport finished second, averaging 15:48.
The Lions are confident they can close that gap. Another incentive to run well is they are hoping for one of the 16 bids to the following weekend's Federation meet and ultimately an invitation to the inaugural Nike Team Nationals on Dec. 4 in Portland, Ore.
"Our fate is in our own hands, we can't ask for much more than that," said Lions coach Bob Eberhardt. "They're aware of what they have to do and what they're up against. At McQuaid, we didn't run our best race. We've continued to improve, but of course they've (F-M) run pretty well the whole year."
According to TullyRunners.com, the East Aurora girls are projected to finish No. 2 behind Honeoye of Section II in the Class B race. Randolph is being picked to finish No. 3 in the girls Class D race.
Trench Trophy finalists named
Monsignor Martin Association League AA champion and top-ranked large school St. Francis was the only team to have two players selected as finalists for the 2004 Trench Trophy.
Seniors Chris Smith and Doug Worthington of the Red Raiders were among 11 finalists for the second annual award, given to Western New York's Lineman of the Year. The finalists were announced by the Lancaster Elks Lodge's Trench Trophy Committee, which scouts and grades lineman throughout the season and determines a weekly honor roll.
The nominees are: Tim Brown (Burgard), Steve Coan (Frewsburg), Matt Langworthy (Southwestern), Ian Margerum (Hamburg), Matt Miller (Portville), Alex Port (North Tonawanda), Adam Rosner (Depew), Adriel Santiago (South Park), Jason Weber (Orchard Park), Worthington and Smith.
Finalists will receive plaques, and the winner will be honored at the 18th Western New York High School Sports football banquet Dec. 11.