Lockport's intense effort was the same — the concentration, the drive, the communication, the teamwork. But gone to graduation are some of the greatest boys volleyball names in school history, young men who played at a height and skill level that will long be remembered and revered in Lions' Boys Volleyball Country.
That's why Grand Island's dominating 3-0 win at LHS on Monday was an outwardly quiet, but realistically significant changing of the Niagara Frontier League guard, as the Vikings dominated the two-time Section VI-champion Lions on their home court, winning games by a score of 20-14, 20-14, 25-19, improving to 3-0 in the NFL.
“I lost a bunch of trees, there's no other way to put it,” Lions head coach Liz Smorol said, referring to her tall, highly-skilled two-time Section VI-champion Lions team that graduated almost a half dozen senior all-stars, led by All-American outside hitter Zach Schneider. Other starters lost to graduation are all-stars Rhees Perry, Duane Barrow and Sean Denniston
“That's a big difference. All that veteran mindset is gone,” coach Smorol said, after her team dropped to 1-1 on the young season.
“My senior libero, (the team's only returning starter) Colin Fragale, still does an amazing job, but he doesn't have that seasoned team of veterans around him. I have a starting middle (senior) Larente Shelton. This is only the second year he's ever played volleyball and he's doing an amazing job. Can you imagine if he'd played four years? And I've got sophomore Andrew Mullane, who got pulled up to varsity early. Technically, he should only be a JV kid, but we're a young team.”
Schultz was asked whether Monday's big win signified a “changing of the guard,” making his team the new NFL front-runner.
“I hope so, yes,” he said, smiling. Among GI's key returners are high-flying juniors Billy Wieberg and Zach Cramer, who both had big games against the Lions. Sean Murray also played a strong game in the middle for GI.
“Wieberg, he's a hard working player who plays a lot of club and puts his work in,” Schultz said. “Cramer's our junior setter who also plays club and puts the work in.”
Next up for the Vikings is today's match against another league front-runner this season, Luke Hodgson's North Tonawanda Lumberjacks (1-0 NFL), which lost five players to graduation. Returning seniors at NT are John Evans, Dylan Sutter, Kyle Lafferty and Rion Uschold.
Smorol said the Jacks are always a tough team to beat.
“NT's always scrappy,” she said. “Their kids play club and they're always athletic. I think we might be a good matchup for them.”
Among other NFL boys volleyball teams this year:
Head coach: Jim Proefrock. 7 lost to graduation, including co-captains Kyle Otminski and Billy Scullion. Junior returners: Collin Janese, Ramone Crockett, Evan Rohring, Chris Dyer, Cameron Miller, Quinn Darlak, Corey Connery and Zach Stanley.
Head coach: Luke Hodgson: 5 lost to graduation, Junior returners: John Evans, Dylan Suter, Kyle Lafferty, Rion Uschold.
PENDLETON — Spartans head coach Kirk Spitler said many of this season’s juniors and seniors, “have already cut their teeth” at the varsity level and are looking to carry on their predecessors' winning ways.
Starpoint finished 11-8 overall a year ago.
“Many teams would be devastated to lose the likes of senior captains Adam Converse, Owen Jauch and All-ECIC Division II First Teamer and All-Western New York Honorable Mention player Niko Zhilevich, but this season’s Spartan spikers are far from an empty barn,” Spitler said.
Senior captain Jack Putney and returning starter and senior captain Kyle Lemma are ready to lead the Spartans into a late season playoff run again this year. To assist in this pursuit are the junior trio of Ian DeWilde (OH), Brad Converse (S) and Shawn O’Callaghan (RS).
Starpoint senior Riley Nesbit will anchor the defense at the libero position. Rounding out the starting rotation is varsity newcomer AJ Moskaluk (OH). Seniors Andrew Sheedy(OH/RS), Trevor Johnson (S) and Brandon Petricca (MB) will be coming off the bench along with juniors Jake Pytlik (RS/OH), Sam Lee (OH/DS), Colby Siegamnn (OH) and Cole Benson (RS/DS).
The garnet and gray will compete this season in the ECIC's Div. IIB, along with Williamsville South, Williamsville North, Sweet Home, Amherst and West Seneca East.
After an uncertain start to the season at the annual Eden Tournament, coach Spitler said his team has learned much about its strengths and weaknesses and is looking to resolve these issues en route to another double-digit win season.
“The league, so far, appears fairly balanced,” Spitler said. “However, early on, West Seneca East appears to be a strong contender for the ECIC IIB title. Sweet Home is always a formidable opponent and this year is no different in that regard.”