It's always a challenge putting together the Final Power 10 for the school year.
So many worthy teams yet only 10 can earn coveted spots in the annual year-ending ranking.
Two years ago there were 15 state champions crowned across the fall, winter and spring seasons. That meant there were teams that won the very last game of their respective playoff tournaments – every competitor's goal – that were outside the final top 10.
Indeed, it is can be a cruel arithmetic putting this together. This edition of the year-ender is no different.
This will be the first one compiled by this corner in which none of the top teams in the final Spring Power 10 made the final cut.
The reason is simple. Since the postseason matters when putting together each of the season-ending Power 10s, that logic must apply for the last one of the entire school year.
Ten teams won state champions – each of them doing so either in the fall or winter. There were several near misses in each season, including three tough-to-swallow losses in state finals during the spring (Williamsville East and Depew softball and St. Joe's lacrosse).
Near misses do not trump championship moments.
Without further ado, here is the final Power 10 for the 2016-17 scholastic sports season.
1. St. Joe's hockey. The Buffalo News Prep Talk Awards Team of the Year went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team during the winter season. It's the only season-ending Power 10 champion in 2016-17 to pull that off. The Marauders ended the season on a 22-game unbeaten streak en route to winning their second straight New York State Catholic High Schools Athletic Association championship. St. Joe's (25-1-2) also can make the argument that it's the undisputed champion of New York considering it defeated two Division I Public Schools final four teams, including eventual state champion Williamsville North twice during the season. St. Joe's also defended its championship at the prestigious Mount St. Charles Academy Tournament in Rhode Island, beating that state's eventual champion and runner-up in the process. The Marauders have posted a 51-3-3 record the past two seasons.
2. St. Mary's girls volleyball. The Lancers, who played their usual difficult schedule, won their second state Catholic championship in three years and 18th title overall. St. Mary's defeated all of Western New York's top teams, including Eden twice and state semifinalist Williamsville East. Coach Don Pieczynski's Lancers also defeated eventual state Class A champion Panas of Section I, which finished ranked just outside of the USA Today Top 25.
3. Canisius football. The Crusaders (10-2) captured their second state Catholic title in three years with a 50-44 comeback triumph over Cardinal Hayes. Canisius reached the final by winning its fourth Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association championship in five years. The News large-school poll champion lost its two games by a total of 11 points – with one of those a four-point loss at eventual unbeaten Pennsylvania state champion Cathedral Prep.
4. Eden girls volleyball. What's bigger: Stephen Pierce guiding the Raiders to their eighth straight state championship or seniors Sam Burgio and Molly Breier capping their six-year careers with a sixth state championship? All of those feats are impressive so there really isn't a wrong answer. Pierce rides off into retirement following his state-record 995th career coaching victory and 14th state title.
5. Williamsville North hockey. The Spartans won their first state championship since 2011 and fifth in program history under longtime coach Bob Rosen. An unselfish team filled with solid players did the little things vital for success during a 21-4 season. That included closing the season with four straight one-goal wins – a run that began with a 3-2 overtime victory over Lancaster in the Section VI final.
6. Section VI girls gymnastics. The section's best gymnasts proved they are the best in the state for the second year in a row. Area
competitors won each event at the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championships with Prep Talk Awards Gymnast of the Year Zoe Kyriakopoulos of Williamsville North winning the floor exercise in state-record fashion and also taking first in the uneven bars. Fellow Spartan Madison Penetrante (balance beam) and Williamsville South's Gabbie Gare (vault) also fueled the victory charge.
7. Maple Grove cross country. Maple Grove boys captured the state Class D title and would have been the highest Section VI finisher at states if the results from all races (Classes A, B, C and D) were merged. Red Dragons' girls, like the boys, won the Section VI title and placed second at states.
8. Newfane girls cross country. It's the third year in a row a Section VI team won a state title in Class C but it's the first time Newfane captured a state championship in any sport. Those who played a role in the historic moment included Kimberly Goerss, Nina Burkard, Vanessa Burkard and Lydia Chunco.
9. Panama girls volleyball. The Panthers captured the school's first state championship by rallying to defeat Argyle in the Class D final. Panama became third straight Section VI team to win the NYSPHSAA crown in this classification. Cool moment for several team members, who have had a hand in Panthers reaching three straight final fours in basketball.
10. Ellicottville skiing. Eighth-grade twins Hayly and Logan Fredrickson led a fifth-year Section VI program to historic NYSPHSAA alpine team championship. The first team from the area to win a state title in this sport beat eight other section champions to win it all.
The broken hearts club
Those who just missed a top 10 spot who came close to winning it all include:
-- Grand Island boys soccer. An imperfect finish in the quest for the perfect season as Vikings suffered only loss of season in double overtime of state Class A final.
-- Maple Grove football. The quest for 13-0 and a state championship ended on the final play of the season, a two-point conversion by Cambridge in double overtime.
-- Williamsville East softball. The Spring Power 10 champion. A well-placed grounder in hole late in Class A final produced game's only run and helped foil Flames' quest to join hockey in winning a state title.
-- St. Joe's lacrosse. Marauders (16-5) ran the table against area foes (12-0) to capture second straight Monsignor Martin championship. Sizzling Kellenberg ended St. Joe's quest to join Timon as only MMHSAA team to win state title.
-- Depew softball. Quest for historic state title ended with loss to unbeaten Solvay in final. After defeating unbeaten Babylon in semifinal, a shocking catcher's interference call on a bang-bang play at plate produced only run of state final.
High honor roll: Akron boys lacrosse, Cardinal O'Hara girls basketball, Canisius basketball, Canisius volleyball, Clarence baseball, Clarence girls soccer, Frontier girls lacrosse, Frontier/Lake Shore/Orchard Park girls hockey, Niagara-Wheatfield wrestling, North Collins baseball, North Tonawanda boys basketball, Panama girls basketball, St. Joe's baseball, Sweet Home track and field, Williamsville North softball.