By Dave Ricci
Special to The News
Three years ago Troy Gooch watched his older brother, Trevor Gooch, get hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates during a victory celebration.
This time it was Troy's turn.
Troy Gooch had 20 kills as Canisius bested St. Mary's of Lancaster three sets to none to claim the program's 18th consecutive Monsignor Martin Athletic Association volleyball playoff title. It was part of a championship double header that was played at Sacred Heart Academy Friday night.
"It means a lot," Gooch said. "It's a great tradition for the school. Seeing my brother up there gave me goosebumps and it made me want to work as hard as I could so I could be up there (my senior year) and lead this team. It's a great bunch of guys."
The Crusaders won by scores of 25-22, 25-16 and 25-17 to close out the season at 22-8.
"I think it says a lot about this group," Canisius coach Tom Weslo said. "They're certainly aware of it. And it kind of becomes part of the season focus every year. And that's what's great about high school sports. Every year you get new guys playing, contributing and trying to carve out they're own part of the legacy. "
The Lancers, who were trying to win their first playoff title since 1998, threw a legit scare into the Crusaders in the first set. But Canisius experience enabled them to weather the storm.
Canisius setter Brian Herrmann (32 assists) flawlessly ran the offense.
It was better news for St. Mary's in the girls title game as the Lady Lancers topped upstart Sacred Heart three games to one to win their seventh playoff title in a row. Final scores were 25-23, 24-26, 25-19 and 25-16.
"It's amazing. This group of girls is so close," said St.Mary's Summer Slade, who was named league MVP. "Honestly, our team chemistry has really helped with our success. Coming back from that set that we lost really boosted our confidence and it feels so great to win."
Slade delivered a series of game changing serves in the crucial third set that helped the Lancers gain control.
The Lancers had more controlled touches on ball and better communication on the floor as they answered coach Don Pieczynski's season-long challenge to play tougher.
The front row play of Hannah Mulhern, who had 14 kills and four blocks, was also key to the Lancers win on the Sharks home court.
"I could put (Hannah) anywhere and I know she's gonna come through," Pieczynski said.
Jillian Vitale had 40 assists for St .Mary's.