The Eden boys volleyball program has recorded its share of memorable victories over the years but earned perhaps its most unforgettable triumph just before Thanksgiving.
That's when the Raiders captured the one title – the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association plaque – that had been missing from their trophy case.
Eden capped its season to remember by capturing the ultimate prize when it rallied to defeat Bellmore-JFK in five sets in the Division II classification. In the process, the Raiders became the first team from the area to win a NYSPHSAA state championship since the state added the sport to its postseason tournament roster in 2010.
"For me personally I'm proud for the school," longtime Eden coach Robert Pierce said. "I'm happy for the program. … Being the first one out of Section VI (to win states) is pretty cool. It may be a little selfish but we're the cornerstone volleyball program started by Joe Gillespie (in the 1970s)."
Eden has won 31 Section VI championships and has won ECIC III 38 times the past 41 years.
In addition to all those sectional titles, the Raiders also have eight intersectional championships in their possession. The intersectional titles were the top championships in boys volleyball before the NYSPHSAA added the sport to its championship roster.
The Raiders lost in regionals in 2016. While Pierce wasn't quite sure how the team would build on that result, he knew he had a nice group returning.
So nice that two of them, Collin Rigley and Drew Hesse, are among the eight players to earn spots on the 2017 All-Western New York first team, as selected by area coaches.
Rigley, a repeat first-team selection, posted an impressive .350 hitting percentage and had 17 kills during the state championship match for Eden. That's not the only time the all-state tournament pick shined as the 6-foot-3 outside hitter averaged nearly 3.5 kills per set and earned the Region Player of the Year as picked by coaches.
Hesse had 19 kills in the state final and also hit .350 in earning a spot on the all-tournament team.
"They were tremendous leaders," Pierce said.
* Section VI Division I champion Lockport had a great season, too, as its only two defeats came against eventual state champion Penfield. The Lions won three in-season tournaments. Three who were key to their success, seniors Marc Bixby and Jesse Donorovich and junior Zach Schneider, earned first team All-WNY laurels.
Bixby served as the team's setter and finished with 350 assists. Donorovich, a middle blocker, had 147 digs, 52 blocks and 30 aces. Schneider, an outside hitter, finished with 230 kills, 140 digs and 52 aces.
* Troy Gooch of Canisius finished with 569 kills and made five in-season all-tournament teams. Third-year starter helped Crusaders win 18th straight Monsignor Martin regular-season and postseason titles. During his time with the team, the Crusaders posted an 88-10 mark.
* Campbell Schoenfeld of Starpoint will continue his student-athlete career at Harvard. The four-year starter capped his career by helping Spartans reach sectional final, where they lost to Eden. Recorded 31 kills in semifinal win over Maryvale. For the season, he averaged 4.42 kills per set and had a hitting percentage of .343. Finished 51 kills shy of 1,000 for his career.
* Jordan Nosal of Maryvale capped his five-year career as the Flyers' all-time leader in kills, amassing more than 1,300.