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Volleyball success inspires loftier goals for ECC team

A few weeks into the season and the goals had to change.

That can happen sometimes when you exceed expectations quickly.

For the Erie Community College women's volleyball team, the initial goal was to have a .500 season to qualify for the Region III Tournament with a shot at advancing to the national junior college championships.

At 21-2, that mark is a given.

Now ranked seventh in the National Junior College Athletic Association polls, the Kats are looking for something loftier than just making the playoffs.

"We feel like losing is not option anymore," said freshman outside hitter Alex DiGiore.

"One of our goals was to make the region championships," coach Craig Starzynski said. "It's something we haven't done since around 2002. That was one of our goals to start. Now, we're just looking for a really high seed and hoping to make it on to matches."

In his fourth season at ECC, Starzynski has encountered the typical junior college difficulty in recruiting. Many local players didn't even know ECC had a volleyball team. And two of his top outside hitters were unsure if they were even going to play.

"At first I wasn't really going to come here and play volleyball," said DiGiore, who played at Frontier. "My high school coach told me he was interested in me playing so I thought might as well. I like volleyball. I might as well play."

"First I wasn't going to come," said Julia Matters from Starpoint. "I had a job and school with night classes and Saturday classes but coach was like, we can work it out. We can work around things. And it's working out fine. I'm really happy I did it. I'm having a lot of fun. All the girls are really nice and of course winning makes it easy."

DiGiore and Matters both said that the team clicked from the beginning of practice. Volleyball was fun and the fun created winning. And the winning is fun.

And so goes the circle that has brought the Kats success while the team continues to improve.

"I think offensively we're the toughest team in our region," Starzynski said. "Our defense has been getting better and better but offensively we have more firepower. Alex and Julie are our two freshman outsides and are easily the best one-two combination in the region, which is out of 19 teams in New York. It's a huge help and our passing is really good and that's the key to running a good offense."

This weekend, ECC plays at the Tompkins-Cortland Community College Tournament. Three home matches remain, including Oct. 15 against Niagara County Community College and Oct. 20 against Alfred State, before heading to the Western New York Athletic Conference Tournament on Oct. 24.

The Region III Tournament will be Oct. 31 at Corning Community College with the winner getting a berth in the national championships Nov. 13-14 in Rochester, Minn.

Men's lacrosse: When is a scrimmage not just a scrimmage? When it serves as the final tryouts for the 2010 Canadian World Championship Team, involves Notre Dame and is played at Orchard Park.

Notre Dame and Team Canada will play each other Oct. 11 at Orchard Park High School Stadium. They will play two complete games beginning at 10 a.m.

The game marks the return of Matthew Ciambella to OP, where he was an All-American and the leading scorer in Western New York for two years. The senior attack played in 16 games for the Irish last year with four goals and two assists.

Team Canada won the last world championships while Notre Dame, a preseason top-10 team, went undefeated in the regular season before losing to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA playoffs.

Women's volleyball: The University at Buffalo earned its first win over Bowling Green since 2003 -- and first ever in Ohio. It also marked the first time since joining the Mid-American Conference in 1998 that the Bulls won a match in the opening weekend of conference play.
Cross country: Hilbert will host the Meghan Memorial run at 10 a.m. Saturday at Frontier High School to honor the memory of Meghan Sorbera, the cross country runner for the Hawks who was killed in a hit-and-run accident last year. The race is open to the public with a student division and an open division. Information is available at and at
Milestone watch: UB men's soccer picked up its 300th victory with a 2-0 win over Robert Morris. Coach John Astudillo has led the Bulls to 168 of those victories. . . . The double-digit dig streak is still alive for Niagara women's volleyball sophomore Sam Morgan, who has 44 straight matches with double figures. . . . Medaille senior soccer player Gary Boughton tied the record for most assists in a game with five against Mount Aloysius -- all in the first 18 minutes. He has 72 career assists -- 10 more than the previous NCAA Division III record. . . . Canisius senior soccer player Sylvia Kowalski ranks fourth in the country in points per game (2.56) and sixth in goals per game (1.0) while leading the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with five game-winning goals.

Tweet of the week: From "Saying goes 'Champions are made when no one is looking.' A total of 7 teams are working out around campus before 7 a.m."


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