The Grand Island Vikings boys volleyball season has been nothing short of magical. And, for the team, the best part is – it’s going to continue.
Saturday afternoon, the Vikings defeated Section V’s Churchville-Chili Saints, 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-12), in the Division II Far West Regional.
Similar to GI’s Section VI crossover win versus Eden, the match didn’t start as planned. Despite a 5-2 lead to begin the opening set, the Saints countered the Vikings and eventually took a 10-9 lead. Grand Island came back to tie things at 19, but the Saints were able to close the first set and take a 1-0 lead.
In set two, the Bill Wieberg show of domination began. Up 10-6, Wieberg nailed three consecutive kills to stretch the GI lead to 13-6. Wieberg nailed six consecutive Vikings points, extending the lead to as many as eight. Churchville made it as close as three, but the Vikings shut the door and won, 25-21, to tie the match.
Set three was one of the best, if not, the best of the day. It was a contentious back-and-forth affair, but with a 21-18 lead, Wieberg and the Vikings closed it out strongly. Three kills and a block from the junior outside hitter iced a GI victory, 25-20, making it 2-1.
In set four, Wieberg spiked the final nail into the hearts of Churchville.
Tied at four, the Vikings embarked on an 18-5 run behind loud, hammering spikes from Wieberg, Tom Shemick, Nick Keller and Jon Simpson.
Up 24-11, Simpson hammered home the state final-four-clinching point for the Vikings. As the ball hit the hardwood, GI coach Bill Schultz jumped up and down with excitement while his team and the “Blue Crew” fan section stormed the court.
It’s been a long journey for Schultz and the Vikings. The coach was emotional following the win, but said he was excited for the season to continue. In addition, Schultz, the coach of 19 years, and the boys have a chance to bring Grand Island its first state title not just in program history, but school history.
“I think it hit me in that back half of the (last) game. It made me a little emotional, and now that I think about it I’m getting emotional,” Schultz said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and trying to get out of our section for 18 to 19 years is rough. We have a lot of good teams in our area. … Like I said, in those last couple points, all I was thinking about was, ‘Wow, we’re going to states.’ It is quite an emotional thing for me, because it doesn’t happen very often and I’m grateful for being able to do it.”
Anytime the Vikings set a pass towards Wieberg Saturday, it seemed as if the point total would always increase in favor of GI. The junior said, to play that well and aid in the team’s victory was huge for him.
“It felt great,” Wieberg said. “I knew I was going up and I was just going to hit it as hard as I could to a great spot and help the team out as much as I could.”
Schultz added that he felt Wieberg was the best player in Western New York. The coach continued that Wieberg took over the game and was an “animal.” As a coach, Schultz noted how much confidence he has anytime a pass heads Wieberg’s way.
“I’m almost 100 percent confident that he’s putting the ball away,” Schultz said.
As the Vikings march towards Albany for the state final four, Wieberg said he knows how much a state title would mean to the school, and he felt the team had what it takes to get the job done.
“This team is really special, I’ll tell you that,” Wieberg said. “This team works hard every day. On the bus, we’re always together, having a good time, always playing great music, and just this team is really special – we’re really special. … I like our chances. Our team is really good this year.”
Schultz added to Wieberg’s claim that the team is special and said, “They just work together. They’ve been playing together for a long time now. … They went through and they got walloped a couple times and I think it stuck with them to where they know what they have to do, how they gotta work together. I keep stressing to stick to our system, be disciplined on what we’re trying to do and it’s paid off. It’s just because they all like each other and they work together.”
For the Vikings (21-0), their next contests will take place at the Albany Capital Center, 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 23. At that time, GI will start off in pool play. If the team gets through to the final round, the finals are tentatively scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.
SIDE NOTES: Following the Vikings victory, there was a scary moment as GI assistant coach Shaun Quinn fell to the floor and had to be assisted by medical professionals. Following treatment, the coach was in high spirits about the team’s victory, excited to be moving on to the final four and was OK before the team made the trip home to the Isle.