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Beast mode: Billy Wieberg powers Grand Island's pursuit of volleyball state title

Billy Wieberg has elevated his game and exhibited a killer instinct for a Grand Island boys volleyball team on its way to the state championship tournament for the first time in school history.

With Wieberg’s dominance on display during Grand Island’s regional playoff victory last weekend, the Vikings’ Blue Crew student section bellowed:

Feed the beast!

Feed the beast!

“That was something new. It actually made me laugh on the court,” recalled Wieberg, a 6-foot-4-inch junior outside hitter in his third varsity season. “I heard it and I was just feeling good and going with it. I hope it becomes a tradition because it’s amazing.”

Zach Cramer, the Vikings’ junior setter, was sure to give the group of 60-plus Grand Island students who made the two-hour bus trip to Clifton Springs what they hungered for.

“The crowd hypes Billy up and makes him a better player,” Cramer said. “You can see that he’s playing great and you want to keep setting him.”

“It was awesome,” coach Bill Schultz said. “It got to the point where I was like, 'Yeah, keep giving him the ball. Let’s get this game and go to states.' ”

Wieberg finished the match with 33 kills and three service aces, accounting for more than a third of the Vikings’ points in a four-set win against Churchville-Chili. He had 36 kills in the Section VI Division II A final against West Seneca West and 23 kills in helping Grand Island defeat perennial power Eden for its first overall sectional title.

“Billy’s got that gene that you look for,” said Schultz, a 19-year coaching veteran. “They want to win and are going to do whatever it takes to win. They want the ball in a tight situation. Some kids can’t handle that pressure. He does. He wants it.”

Wieberg has 496 kills, 54 fewer than 6-foot-8-inch Jonas Stalyga’s school record, and a sterling .438 hitting percentage as the 21-0 Vikings — along with another Blue Crew bus — head to Albany on Saturday for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Division II state championship tournament.

“It’s so exciting,” Wieberg said. “We’ve never made it this far and to accomplish that is amazing.”

Grand Island won its first sectional crown last season before losing against Eden in the Division II crossover match. Wieberg received All-Western New York second-team recognition as a sophomore.

The Vikings showed they would be title contenders again by winning the Clarence tournament to start the season.

“When we won that Clarence tournament, I think it surprised a lot of people in Western New York,” said Cramer, whose 1,110 assists this season are a school record. “But in our gym, we knew we had the talent to win that tournament. And it put a target on our back from the start that has motivated us.”

In addition to winning the Orchard Park tournament and its own invitational, Grand Island went undefeated in Niagara Frontier League play for just the second time in school history. Senior libero David Wynne and senior outside hitter Tom Shemick joined Wieberg and Cramer as all-league selections.

Playing together on the sand courts at Wynne’s home over the summer helped the Vikings develop their skill and camaraderie, Wieberg said.

“Our chemistry is really good,” Cramer said. “Everyone gets along on the court and the culture aspect of our team has propelled us to do very well in the playoffs.”

Wieberg has led the way in raising his level of play to match the higher stakes in the postseason.

“Late in the year, he’s been getting more and more confident that he can’t be stopped,” Schultz said. “He’s further ahead than I would’ve thought as a junior. You would expect this kind of play more from a senior.”

Wieberg also plays for the Vikings’ ice hockey team and that was his favored sport before he started playing modified volleyball in seventh grade.

“My mom forced me to try out, and when I made it, I wasn’t too happy,” Wieberg said. “But I ended up loving the sport, and I’m so grateful she forced me to play.”

Wieberg went on to play with the Lockport Volleyball Club and, more recently, the Niagara Frontier Volleyball Juniors. He’s been selected to participate at a USA Volleyball training camp next month in California and aspires to play Division I college volleyball.

“He’s got real potential for the next level,” Schultz said. “He’s a little undersized for Division I, but if he can build up his vertical he can make up for it. He’s a side-out machine. He sees the block, sees the defense and he’s putting the ball away almost at a college rate.”

Not yet ready to schedule any official recruiting visits, Wieberg has his mind set on bringing a state title back to Grand Island.

“We need to go in focused,” he said. “Eat right, drink a lot of water, be healthy so we can play our best.”

In other words, keep feeding the beast.

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