When Heather Feldman attended Eden's volleyball camp as a fifth-grader, she saw a banner in the gym commemorating Ashley DoEpp being named the Gatorade New York Volleyball Player of the Year.
"I saw her banner up in the gym, and I was like, 'Wow, she must be really good, I want to be that good some day,' " said Feldman.
After being part of four state championships in five years, winning the MVP of this year's Class B state tournament and being named to the All-Western New York first team for the second straight year, the Eden senior is that good. Feldman achieved that banner-worthy accomplishment this year. She is the first player from Eden to earn the honor since DoEpp won it in 2001 and 2002.
"To think that my banner is going to go in the school and inspire other kids to work harder," Feldman said, "it's surreal."
Feldman is a 5-foot-9 setter whose all-around play and leadership helped drive Eden to a 48-2-1 record and its eighth state title this season. She recorded 1,367 assists, 455 digs and 108 service aces in her career and will play on scholarship at Division I Gardner-Webb in North Carolina next year.
The Gatorade award also recognizes high standards of academic achievement and character on and off the court. Feldman maintained an A-plus average while also volunteering at area nursing homes and with the Big Sister/Little Sister program.
The All-Western New York team, which included four state championship players and includes nine players who have signed with or who are being recurited by Division I programs, was selected by a panel of coaches in cooperation with The News.
Pierce to Penn State
Kendall Pierce passed up a scholarship offer from Syracuse to commit as a junior to attend Penn State -- which said it will take her as a walk-on. That's four-time reigning national champion Penn State, which won its latest title last Saturday.
"It will definitely be a challenge, every day, every practice, every minute of it," said Pierce, "but that's what I'm excited to do, play at the highest level and go for it every day.
"I've grown up playing at the highest levels with my uncle [Eden coach Stephen Pierce] and my dad [Eden boys coach Robert Pierce, who starred at Penn State] teaching me and playing at Eden, and I've always been inspired growing up watching Penn State."
There is a possibility that Pierce could be able to earn a scholarship later on. "Nothing is guaranteed," she said, "but they've definitely shown rewards to those who work hard."
Around the courts
*The eighth state title by Eden extended its state record total of championships, a record it established last year by breaking a tie with six-time champion Sweet Home (1990-95). This year's title was a state-record seventh as head coach for 18-year coach Stephen Pierce; that broke a tie with Sweet Home coach Sally Kus, who Pierce has cited as a mentor.
*With Eden (Class B), Falconer (C) and Randolph (D) all winning state titles, it made for Section VI's most successful year at the state championships since winning three in 2006 when Lancaster (AA), Eden (B) and Randolph (D) won.
In the 21 years that the state tournament has been held since 1990, only once -- in 2003 -- did Section VI fail to win a state title, thanks in large part to the success of Sweet Home, Eden and three-time Class AA champ North Tonawanda (1997-99). Since 2004, the year the state expanded from four to five classes, Section VI has won 13 of the 35 state championships.
*Marah Maycock earned state championship MVP honors for Randolph, which is what older brother Mike did last year. Mike, a senior quarterback who hadn't been asked to throw a pass nearly all postseason, had a great state final at the Carrier Dome to earn MVP honors as Randolph won the Class D football title.
"You know you're always talking, and now you have something to say back to him so he doesn't have the one-up on you anymore," said Maycock.
Marah returns next year, as does younger sister McKenna, an eighth-grader who earned second-team CCAA II honors. That's good news for the Randolph athletic program -- where their mom, Robin Maycock, is the athletic director and girls volleyball coach.
*Nikki Attea, a junior at Williamsville North, said that the in-state options of the University at Buffalo, Syracuse and Cornell are currently at the top of a long list of colleges who have been recruiting her, including Maryland, Boston College, Miami, N.C. State and Duke.
*Sacred Heart lost twice in the regular season to the powerful St. Mary's program each of the past two years, but both seasons ended with the Sharks beating the seven-time regular season champion Lancers in the Monsignor Martin championships.
"In the championship match we got some good revenge to show them we weren't the same team from the regular season," said Litwin.
*City Honors won its 25th straight Buffalo Public Schools championship this year -- again without losing a game all season. Natalie Southard earned second-team All-Western New York honors while the All-High team included a total of 14 Centaurs, six first-teamers, four second-teamers and four honorable mentions.