LACKAWANNA — There's nothing like avenging past postseason failures.
Division II-A champion Grand Island won its first ever Section VI Division II crossover championship over II-B winner Eden on Thursday night, 3-1, to advance to its first ever Far West Regional. The Vikings were able to enact some revenge on the Raiders, who eliminated them in the same game last season.
Eden (18-2) came out hot, taking a 20-13 lead early in the first set. GI (20-0) would cut the deficit to four, before falling, 25-20. The Vikes would get back to work from there, taking the next three sets to secure the title.
The second set was an absolute battle, with both teams matching the other's moves while coming out to a 10-10 start. GI would take several five-point leads in the set, then the Raiders clawed back to make it 23 all. The Vikings would remain calm, finishing out the set in extra play, 26-24.
Set three was just as exciting. After matching point for point up to 12, GI would eventually go up by five, 22-17. Eden would not give in that easily, cutting the margin down to one, 23-22. Once again though, the Vikings' resiliency prevailed, fending off the Raiders to take the third frame, 25-22.
The Vikes carried all momentum from then on out. They took as a big as a 10-point lead in the final set before closing things out, 25-16.
GI head coach Bill Schultz was proud of the way his team battled throughout.
"I think we knew they were gonna be a tough team on the pins. We did some talking about it in practice the day before, trying to figure out what we wanted to do," Schultz said. "Made some more adjustments in the game. ... It just was working for us tonight."
Schultz knows his team is moving on, but he does not want to look past regionals to the state title game.
"Let's just take regionals first. I'd love to go to states but Rochester schools got tough volleyball out there," Schultz said. "So we've got to be ready for them first, then hopefully we can talk about states."
Junior Zach Cramer was a member of last season's team that was knocked out by Eden. He talked about being able to get that win back on the same stage.
"It feels awesome. Last year, we had a tough loss to them after a great game the night before," Cramer said, in reference to the D II-A title win over Hamburg last season. "And this year we wanted revenge. And we came out, got down, (came out) a little slow, and we came back and got a good win."
Cramer may have another high school season left to play, but he has already experienced a ton in GI's program. He talked about being a leader with this group, as he continues to be in plenty of action as the team's setter.
"There's a lot of new guys this year stepping up with a bunch of veterans," Cramer said. "It feels good to lead this group. (We've got) a lot of great players and we've gotta keep the momentum up on Saturday."
Having taken down a foe that has consistently thrived in Section VI, Schutlz is gracious of how his team showed out in this moment.
"They're always good. They play discipline volleyball almost every single point," Schultz said. "And I think they had a hard time with that tonight and we played a little bit better, (more) disciplined volleyball than they did. I mean, it feels amazing. Robert (Pierce) is a great coach. Volleyball, he knows it.
"So, its just we worked on stuff and we had a little bit better edge through the middle and we took advantage of it."
GI advances to the Far West Regionals against Section V's Churchville-Chili at 1 p.m. Saturday at Midlakes High School in Clifton Springs.
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 WGR550.