Boys volleyball wins first team state title in GI history

Photo courtesy Connor RaineThe Grand Island boys volleyball team poses on the court of the Albany Capitol Center after winning the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Division II championship on Saturday with a three-set sweep of Section III's Jamesville-Dewitt. 

ALBANY — The Vikings may rest. They’ve finished their quest.

What a season it’s been for Grand Island boys volleyball. After handling Section XI’s Westhampton in pool play, the Vikings overmatched Section III’s Jamesville-DeWitt in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship game Saturday at the Albany Capitol Center.

The Vikings were able to bring home not only their first boys volleyball state title, but the first ever state championship in a team sport in school history.

GI (23-1) has been dominant all season, but Saturday may have been the team's best stuff yet. The Vikings opened up the tourney by sweeping the Hurricanes, 2-0, in pool play by set scores of 25-21 and 25-20.

The Red Rams also swept Westhampton, which made to their win over Grand Island in pool play essentially an exhibition. Both teams made class-act moves because of it, playing their reserves ahead of the championship game.

Once GI got its starters back in rotation, it was time to go work once again.

The Vikings strolled through the title game in straight sets, 25-12, 25-16 and 25-11.

J-D head coach Kyle Michael said his team ran into a buzzsaw.

“They came out hot and they stayed hot,” Michael said “They came ready to rock and roll and ... they played a heck of a game. They really distributed the ball well. (We) just couldn’t get a read on the outside swings and they did a nice job with them.”

GI athletic director Jon Roth has seen the entirety of head coach Bill Schultz’s tenure. He talked about what he enjoyed most about watching Schultz and this team, as well as finally capturing an elusive state title.

“(It’s) unbelievable. I remember when Billy started this program, we couldn’t get any athletes on the floor,” Roth said. “He stayed with it, him and Shawn Quinn. And, I tell ya, now he’s got some athletes. And I tell ya, I’m so excited about the first state championship, I think, in history. It’s awesome, total team effort too.

“We are well coached and I think it showed up in the finals. We passed the ball, we digged the ball, we beat ‘em in all phases of the game. I can’t thank Billy Schultz enough for sticking with it.”

The championship-winning head coach had some thoughts of his own to share. Back in August, this was a moment he thought was attainable.

“I’m not one that likes to put things out there until it happens,” Schultz said.

“(But) did I think we had a chance? I did think we had a chance. I thought that Zach Cramer is an awesome setter. I know David Wynne is an awesome libero. I knew I had a big outside (hitter) with Billy Wieberg. I knew I had (Nick) Keller in the middle (before) I threw him on the right side towards the end of this year.

“Yeah I believed. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen, because I know volleyball. Volleyball, you never know ... we were one point away from being eliminated against West Seneca West. ... Sometimes there’s a hot team and they get going, and we made our way through that hot team, luckily. You know, we’re here, we’re state champs.”

In terms of analysis, Schultz felt that what separated his group from J-D was consistent serving and overall ball control. Being able to pick up roll shots in transition for points was also a factor.

Having been a player in the GI volleyball program and being a 1999 graduate of the school, Schultz spoke on what made this title run so gratifying.

“I’m proud to be a Grand Island person and to (have) grown up on the Island and grow up at Grand Island schools,” Schultz said. “And I worked hard as a player to get us just a section title at the time. ... I’m proud of this group. They listen, you can tell them where they’ve gotta be on the court, and they do exactly what I’m trying to get them to do.

“So I’m really proud of the program. I’m really proud of everything.”

For more from sports reporter Khari Demos, follow him on Twitter @riri_demos. Also, tune in to Khari as a guest on Tony Caligiuri’s ‘Inside High School Sports,’ 10 a.m. Saturdays on WGR 550.

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