The only way Canisius’ boys volleyball season could have been any sweeter would have been if the Crusaders capped their 16th straight Monsignor Martin Association regular and postseason championships with a state title.
An unofficial one will have to do for Canisius since its season ends with just its league playoff.
Before crying foul, consider:
The Crusaders did the unthinkable during the 2015 season. They beat all comers for the first time in program history, a perfect season. Thirty-four up. Thirty-four down.
Canisius’ list of accomplishments during this rare season includes six in-season tournament championships, wins over perennial local powerhouses and triumphs over three of four state semifinalists, including two wins over eventual state champion McQuaid of Rochester.
“If we could participate in the New York state tournament we certainly would. But in the absence of being allowed to do that, that’s why we play the schedule that we do,” 20th-year Crusaders coach Tom Weislo said. “I can’t imagine a team in New York state that we wouldn’t have beaten this year.
“We won all six of our tournaments, all of our matches, all of the playoffs … it’s pretty cool.”
Besides beating McQuaid twice, Canisius also beat state Class A final four teams Cicero-North Syracuse of Section III and Section II’s Shenendehowa. The Crusaders also beat Rochester-area powers Fairport and Penfield, along with perennial local championship contender Eden.
One or two hiccups with this schedule would have been understandable, but to come out of it without any blemishes …
“I think it’s hard to go undefeated, especially with the type of schedule we play and also with the number of matches there’s a chance that for whatever reason you might drop one in a tournament somewhere,” Weislo said. “The fact the guys were able to raise the level of their games and keep them at a high level was pretty remarkable. We played pretty much all the best teams in New York state and a few from out of state down in Virginia. It was a pretty special season.”
Schmit Player of Year
A special season filled with special talents, including Griffin Schmit. The Canisius junior and three-year starter earned Western New York Player of the Year honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Schmit, who is being recruited by Division I heavyweights UCLA, USC, Ohio State, BYU, Pepperdine and Princeton, finished with 477 kills and 82 blocks.
“Griffin always seems to come up with a big kill or block at important times,” Weislo said. “And as his understanding of the game and his position continues to improve, he will keep getting better and better.”
Besides Schmit, a few other familiar faces dot the Coaches All-Western New York first team.
West Seneca West’s Cam Bartus was without question the Indians’ go-to guy during the season, and the Penn State commit responded by breaking his own single-season record for kills (618). The two-time All-WNY pick also led his team in blocks and digs. Bartus finished his last two seasons with a combined hitting percentage of .410 and 1,131 kills.
Fellow Penn State-commit Declan Pierce also is a repeat first team selection. The Eden senior and future college libero earned nine all-tournament selections, including one MVP, during his final three seasons with the Raiders. Eden went 74-20 during his career with the team, including a 48-0 mark in division.
Lancaster’s Jay Baumann also earns his second straight first-team selection. The senior and four-year starter earned numerous all-tournament honors during his career and was selected all-region last season after helping Lancaster win the Section VI Class A title.
Besides Schmit, the only other junior on the All-WNY first team is Clarence’s Henry Payne. Considering he often faced double or triple blocks in his matches, that didn’t stop Payne from finishing with a hitting percentage over 50 percent. Payne, whose Division I suitors include Ohio State, Penn State and Pepperdine, earned all-tournament honors at Sweet Home and Orchard Park but still considers his first all-tourney selection at OP as a sophomore as his favorite memory.
Other first-time All-Western New York first team picks include seniors Calvin Nowicki of Eden, Jason Manley of Orchard Park and Noah Chojnacki of Williamsville North.
Nowicki, whose top memory was returning for the first day of practice last season after breaking his hand during baseball season, was one of the top setters in the area and has a vicious jump serve.
Jason Manley recorded 24 kills for OP in its Section VI Class A title-game victory Lancaster. He led the Legends in kills and aces, en route to an all-state team selection.
Chojnacki, a three-year starter, will take a one-year missionary trip before attending BYU. He has a 95 average and is a member of the National Honor Society. He earned all-tournament picks at Sweet Home and Grand Island.