The Eden Raiders boys volleyball team added some more hardware to an already large trophy case on Thursday as they took a 24-26, 25-16, 25-14, 25-16 win over Sweet Home in the Section VI Division II crossover match on Wednesday at Lackawanna High School.
Eden’s win earned the Raiders their 31st Division II title and the third in the last four seasons. Leading the way for the Raiders was Tome Filkov with 15 kills. Also making contributions were Drew Hesse (14 kills, 9 aces) and Collin Rigley (10 kills).
Sweet Home’s Dylan Aarum led the Panthers with eight kills while Kaleb Luton added four.
Despite the final score, things were not smooth sailing for Eden early. The Panthers raced to a 10-0 lead with Aarum notching two kills in that streak. Down early, Eden responded and chipped away, eventually tying the set at 18.
But late in the set Sweet Home regrouped and outscored Eden, 8-6, for a 26-24 set win, punctuated with a Luton spike off a Jon Miller set.
“I was proud of my team for staying mentally strong and pulling out that victory,” Sweet Home coach Rich Cicero said.
Early in the second set, the two teams played to an early 3-3 battle before Eden gradually pulled away with a nine-point victory, 25-16. Eden coach Robert Pierce said he believed his team built enough confidence in the first set, despite losing, to carry the Raiders through the rest of the match.
“The lead that we spotted them, and once you put that into perspective, you realize you’re starting to cook. You could see how we jumped out in the second set,” Pierce said.
Rigley added another factor into the reason for Eden’s turnaround: experience.
“Last year we were down 2-0 to Hamburg right here. That’s what I told the guys after the first set. ‘This is nothing guys, we’ve been here before and we know how to handle it.’ And we handled it pretty well,” Rigley said.
In the third set, Eden returned the favor to Sweet Home, putting up its own 10-0 spot en route to a 25-14 win. During that rally, Hesse held all the serving duties for the Raiders, notching two aces and scoring on another four service points.
The final set saw Eden put the exclamation point on its victory, taking another nine-point set win, 25-16. Eden advanced to play the Section V winner, Spencerport in the Far West Regionals in Webster on Saturday.
While coming up short, Cicero said Sweet Home, which went winless two years ago after keeping its current varsity team on JV in order for the group to grow, has plenty to be proud of.
The Panthers won their first sectional title since 1993 over Grand Island in order to advance to Wednesday’s game.
As far as the Raiders, their attention turns to revenge.
Last year, Spencerport knocked Eden out of the state playoffs in the regionals. It will be the first time the two have faced off since.
“We’ve been looking forward to the chance,” Rigley said. “We’ve been itching to get another shot.”