By MICHAEL MROZIAK firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — HAMBURG — The Grand Island Vikings held one lead, but once that was lost, so too were any further hopes of overcoming the top-seeded Hamburg Bulldogs, who eliminated the fourth-seeded Vikings in three sets, 25-12, 25-16, 25-15, in their Section VI Division II boys volleyball semifinal matchup Saturday afternoon at Hamburg High School.
There was no hiding the disappointment by the players or their coaches.
“Tough when you’re on the road, an underdog and a young team,” said Grand Island head coach Bill Schultz. “We had three seniors who are graduating but we had two sophomores starting on the court. These guys worked hard for it, they wanted it”
The loss means the end of high school volleyball for Brock Tetreault, who led at the net and at one point in the match looked to the Grand Island supporters in attendance to fire them up and help spark a hoped for rally. The senior finished the match with eight kills, five digs and five blocks.
“I’ve enjoyed him. I’ve had him since his sophomore year,” Schultz said. “He’s gotten better. He pushes. He wants to be a good player.”
In the first and second sets, Hamburg built a quick three-point lead. While Grand Island kept pace, they could never get within two points of the Bulldogs. Hamburg ended the first set with an ace.
In the second set, Grand Island kept volleys alive with several good blocks on Hamburg spike attempts. The longer the volleys continues, the more likely Grand Island would win the point. That stepped up play at the net helped Grand Island erase Hamburg’s early lead and tied the set at 10-10. However, the Vikings couldn’t seem to capitalize when it was again their turn to serve and it wasn’t long before Hamburg restored their lead.
Hamburg, for their part, also played well at the net and, led by Zach Yerington and Doug Horbachewski, pulled away and by their 20th point of the set never let Grand Island get within seven points.
Grand Island then took the first lead of the third set.
“Each game I made a little bit of an adjustment,” said Schultz. “I swapped my right side and my left side and switched them back to the taller guy on the left side. It seemed to help, we got off to a bigger lead but we had to sustain it and we didn’t. We just got back into that comfort zone and needed to plug away.”
The Vikings held the lead and went up by 7-3 before the Bulldogs mounted their comeback, aided in part by errors but also a couple of calls that had the Vikings and their fans shaking their heads. On one play, a Hamburg player’s fingers could be seen curling over the top of the net, breaking the plane, yet the officials allowed the play to stand, which resulted in a Hamburg point.
It wasn’t the first controversial call of the match. In the first set, with Hamburg ahead by 17-13, the ball rolled over the top of the net and was kept off the floor by Grand Island’s front line. The official overseeing the net blew the play dead, although it did not appear there was contact with the net. It was calls like those that frustrated Grand Island.
“It’s a big momentum swing,” said Schultz. “I always tell (his players) that it’s only one point but still it’s a big momentum swing when the ref makes a call that we think should go the other way.”
The officials, however, hardly had any influence in what really hurt the Vikings as the third set move on — unforced errors. Those helped the Bulldogs overcome an early deficit, build a 10-point lead and then clinch the match when Grand Island’s final serve sailed beyond the end line and landed out of bounds.
While expressing disappointment for Tetreault and other seniors on the roster, the coach looks ahead to a future with some young players who have already been key contributors including sophomore Kyle Burns.
“He’s growing fast and getting bigger and trying to take that role that Brock’s going to leave after this year, being the leader and the go-to guy that we can count on for all the kills,” said Schultz.
Burns did his part for the Vikings, scoring nine kills and three digs.
Mike Paternostro, meanwhile, had four kills for the Vikings, who finish the season at 10-3.