They've been rivals for the last several seasons, and their latest sectional final was Western New York's Game of the Year. So it's no surprise that eight out of 13 girls soccer players on the All-Western New York team came from Grand Island and Williamsville East.
Williamsville East advanced in the state playoffs in Class A after the two teams played to a scoreless tie and the Flames won in a shootout.
"It was definitely the best game I've ever been involved with, and I would have said that if we were on the losing end, too," said Williamsville East coach Chris Durr. "This year obviously it could have gone either way. We both have All-Western New York players, and I think it was unfortunate it had to go to a shootout."
There are many strong teams in various sports in Western New York, but there might not be another pair you can pencil in to the championship game on the first day of the season. This year was the fifth time in six seasons that the two have met for the sectional title. The Flames last advanced in 2000 -- in a shootout against Grand Island. The Vikings won five straight sectional titles in between and advanced to the state final four from 2002 to 2005.
"I think the best part of the success that we and Grand Island have had is that there's a real natural rivalry. It's a nice thing to have that rivalry and it's been very unique in that we both get there."
One year after having three players each on the All-Western New York team, each school had four. Williamsville East had senior goalkeeper and three-time first-teamer Molly Bojanek, repeat selections in defender Christa Morgante and forward Rachel Piemonte, as well as junior midfielder Jenny Griffin.
Grand Island also went back to front with defenders Jessica Kuehne (a repeat selection as a senior) and junior Jaclyn Coe, three-time first-teamer Alicia Barnaby at midfield and junior forward Catie Hilliard. The Vikings earned standout wins this season against two of the best of Section V -- Mercy and eventual state Class AA champion Aquinas.
A glance at the players' All-WNY questionnaires shows the richness of the rivalry. All four Flames' most memorable moment was beating GI this year, while even Hilliard's top moment of her career was "the game-winning goal against Will East in 2005."
St. Mary's kick-start
St. Mary's knows how to kick off a soccer program off the right way.
The Lancers, playing their first varsity season, won the Monsignor Martin Association's first small school championship by handing Buffalo Seminary its only league loss of the season in the final, 3-1.
St. Mary's also won the Western New York Sportsmanship Award, presented to the Lancers by Ken Lindstrom of the Western Niagara Frontier Board of Women's Soccer Officials.
The board collects information from referees following every game involving any of the 57 girls soccer teams in Western New York, and St. Mary's sportsmanship scores were the highest ever in the history of the award.
Lindstrom told the team that the score the Lancers achieved by September would be higher than the total the second-place team would have by the end of the season.
"The St. Mary's team by far scored the best on sportsmanship," said Lindstrom.
Lancers coach Amy Wesolek was awarded the officials' Coach of the Year honor, which was earned by virtue of her team winning the sportsmanship award.
Around the field
Brittany Heist of Lancaster was a repeat first-teamer, while Williamsville North's Shannon Algoe also made her second straight squad. . . . Williamsville East (Aleks Quenneville) and Grand Island (Allie Weisner) each had a second-teamer as well.