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Boys volleyball: Area’s best will move on to next level

It’s impressive when the All-Western New York volleyball team has one player who will compete at a big-time NCAA program. This year there are three.

Zach Yerington of Hamburg has signed with Ohio State, Jason Donorovich of Lockport will be on scholarship at Penn State, and junior Declan Pierce of Eden has given a verbal commitment, also to the Nittany Lions.

The numbers are impressive considering there are a mere 35 NCAA Division I and Division II colleges that offer men’s volleyball. If each roster averages 18 players, that’s only 630 spots available in the nation.

“And there will be more,” said Eden coach Robert Pierce. “We’re very healthy right now in Western New York. We have a lot of good players who are wanted around the country. We’re pretty happy with the situation.”

Canisius sophomore Griffin Schmit and junior Cam Bartus of West Seneca West are also moving along the pipeline after having big seasons on their national club level teams. Griffin is on the radar at Ohio State, UCLA, and USC while Bartus is getting looks from Pepperdine and Penn State. Schmit was the only sophomore to make All-WNY.

Canisius and Lancaster landed two picks each on the team. Trevor Gooch of Canisius was the only repeat pick and he was also the Player of the Year in the Monsignor Martin Association. The eight-player team, featuring just three seniors, was chosen by area coaches.

Penn State was one of seven Division I programs in the running for Donorovich. The 6-foot-8 middle hitter becomes the first player from Lockport to make All-WNY since the annual team’s inception in 1983. Donorovich said his most memorable moment was coming back from a 21-8 deficit in the fifth game to beat North Tonawanda.

Yerington had 25 kills in the sectional final sweep against Eden.

It was another huge season for Canisius (27-4). The Crusaders beat rival St. Joe’s to win the Monsignor Martin Association playoff title for the 15th year in a row.

Canisius also dominated with wins away from its league, beating McQuaid (twice), Penfield (twice), Eden (twice), Hamburg (twice), Lancaster, II-Burnt Hills and II-Bethlehem. The Crusaders won tournaments at Clarence, Burnt Hills and Hamburg.

Both of Lancaster’s picks were juniors: Kenny Rudz and Jay Bauman. The Redskins (23-5) swept ECIC I rival Orchard Park in three games to win its first Section VI title since 2006.

Eden (25-4) won tournaments at Lockport, Orchard Park and was runner-up at Clarence. One of its nonleague wins was against Canisius. The Class B finalists landed junior outside hitter Pierce on All-WNY. He was MVP at OP and All-tourney at Eden and Clarence.

“It was a terrific season. I loved this team,” said coach Robert Pierce. “They wanted to practice, wanted to train, wanted to be in the weight room. They understood it’s a program. They looked forward to practice.”

Fast facts

• League champions were: Lancaster (11-1, ECIC), Williamsville South (11-1, ECIC II), Eden (12-0, ECIC III), Lockport (12-0, Niagara Frontier League) and Canisius (8-0, MMA).

• On Oct. 16 eventual Section champs Lancaster and Hamburg met in the regular season. The Redskins won in five tough games. Lancaster’s Bauman had 26 kills.

• Canisius was voted the No. 1 ranked team in the final WNY Coaches poll. Tom Weislo, Canisius’ coach since 1995, was named the WNY Coach of the Year by his peers. He said he was surprised and honored to be singled out among all the other fine coaches in the area.

• This year’s postseason champions were: Canisius (Monsignor Martin), Lancaster (Section VI Class A) and Hamburg (Class B). Both section champions lost in the Far West Regionals to Rochester’s champions.