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Eden claims boys volleyball title in five-set thriller

Eden boys volleyball coach Robert Pierce has adopted a few mantras from Chicago Cubs skipper Joe Maddon for his team this year.

Chief among them is, “don’t try to be perfect, be good enough.”

The Raiders were just that in the Overall Division II Championship on Wednesday.

After dropping the first two sets, the Raiders stormed back by winning the final three to earn a five-set marathon of a victory over Hamburg and a spot in the Far West Regionals.

“Hamburg played a heck of a match,” Pierce said at Lackawanna. “And that’s a team that’s really hot and really physical. There’s nothing better than to have one of us victorious in a crosstown rivalry. Thankfully it was us this time.”

Pierce knew all his team needed to do was win that third set after falling in the first two, 16-25 and 26-28. After struggling in set one, the margin in set two was as close as it could possibly be. The arrow was trending upward.

“When you’re up 0-2 and feeling really good and lose the next one, things start to get really dicey,” Pierce said. “I’ve been in that other situation, too. We were fortunate enough to win that game three.”

After the Raiders won an intense third set, 29-27, the momentum was all theirs. Eden went on to win set four, 25-19, and totally dominate the fifth and decisive set, 25-12.

Junior Collin Rigley, Eden’s top scorer with 27 kills, took awhile to get his game under control. Pierce even resorted to subbing him out at one point at the end of the first set. But once he regrouped and got back on the court, that’s when the Raiders started to roll.

“Collin played an awful match last year, and I’ve told him that. I love the kid, but he had to learn that. Today, he got a little too up. His best mode is not at an 11,” Pierce said, gesturing with his hands. “It’s at a seven and eight, because he just can’t function.

“So I had to sit him. I was willing to lose that game, settled him down and then he started to play a little bit better. We made a few adjustments on his serve, and then he at times was the best player on the floor.”

Setter Gavin Musielak racked up 55 assists for the winners and was uncharacteristically solid at the service line.

“I have to give big time credit to my young sophomore,” Pierce said. “He’s been one of my worst servers all year long, so I sent him to the back of the wall and he just delivered.

“That’s what happens in championship games. Certain guys do certain things that they haven’t done before, and that can be one of the major turning points.”

Junior Drew Hesse also recorded 18 kills for Eden. The trio of seniors Alex Andrzejewski and Jon Gordner and sophomore Jake Couzens carried the load offensively for Hamburg. Statistics for them were not available upon completion of the match.

Next up for Eden is the Far West Regionals at 2 p.m. Saturday at Orchard Park. The Raiders will face the winner of Spencerport and Midlakes, which play Thursday for the Section V title. The winner Saturday moves on to states the following weekend at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island.

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