Eden fielded arguably the best volleyball team in school history in 2006. That's saying a lot as the Raiders have 24 Section VI plaques hanging in the hallway of their school. What they'd really like to compete for is a true state title, but that is proving to be the Raiders' toughest opponent.
Boys volleyball is the only sport in the NYSPHSAA that doesn't crown a true state champion among the state's 11 sections. Instead of going to a state competition following sectionals, Section VI joins Sections V, II and III and plays for what they call an Intersectional title. This year Lancaster won Class A while Eden, for the 13th time, won Class B.
While six sections would be needed to declare the event a state championship, it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon. The other sections in the state offer volleyball in the spring.
Section VI chairman Walt Stefani attends a meeting each April in Albany with reps from the state's other sections. In 2000 he had an agreement on paper to launch a state tournament, but he said Long Island (Sections VIII and XI) pulled out at the last minute.
"They said they'd play if we came to their side of the state. They would never come here. The other sections who play in the spring don't want to come to the fall, and I can't get a read on what the ADs want around here," said Stefani. "It's very frustrating we can't go much further [than the Intersectionals]."
Interest in a possible tournament was rekindled after Eden roared through the season with a 32-0 record. Half of the players on the All-Western New York team are from Eden.
"It's not about my team, my players -- it's about my sport. We should get treated like everyone else," said Eden coach Robert Pierce. "For the boys, it's kind of anticlimactic. I wish that it could be done right. I wish the other sections and the coaches of other sections would wake up and realize we should be playing at the same time. Down the road we need to get a little more organized down at the state level and make a commitment to it."
Freier to Ohio State
One of the nation's top men's volleyball programs awaits All-WNY pick Dale Freier of Lancaster. The Buckeyes have reached the NCAA Final Four three of the last six years.
The 6-foot-6 Freier led the Redskins to the Intersectional title, the Section VI Class A crown and a 22-3 record.
Ohio State coach Pete Hansen said he scouted Freier while he played at the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships and through the Eden Volleyball Club. "We felt he was a very well-rounded player in all phases of the game," he said. "He's a very good passer and defensively he has good skills. He's gotten stronger from the serving line and he's a good-sized athlete."
Around the halls
The members of the All-WNY team may play for different schools, but that wasn't the case this summer. Six of the eight first teamers played on the Empire State Games scholastic team that won a gold medal. . . . Pierce swept the WNY Coach of the Year and the Joe Gillespie Coaching award. . . . Orchard Park sophomore Mike Stefani was on pace to break John Klanac's single season kill record of 550 when the October storm canceled the Orchard Park Tournament and two league matches. . . . Eden was the unanimous choice for No. 1 in the final WNY Coaches poll. The Raiders' Intersectional title was their third straight.