No. 2 Lockport downs No. 7 Lancaster in four sets Thursday. No. 3 Frontier is next at 4 p.m. Saturday at Orchard Park High School.
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
The Lockport boys volleyball team trailed in every set they played against visiting Lancaster in Thursday’s Class A semifinal.
But head coach Joe Whalen’s Lions got points and big plays from their big guns when they needed them most and walked away with a hard-fought, four set victory over the young, but talented Redskins. The scores were 25-21, 29-27, 16-25, 28-26.
Next up, the No. 2-seeded Lions (15-5) will play No. 3 Frontier at 4 p.m. Saturday at Orchard Park High School in one of two semifinals. No. 5 West Seneca West meets top-seeded Orchard Park in the other semifinal at 2 p.m.
Equally young and equally talented, the Lions were led throughout by sophomores Jason Donorovich (13 kills) and Brad Schneider (4 aces, 5 kills).
“Brad made the difference with his serves. Whenever we started to falter, he’d rally us and put points on the board,” Whalen said.
“Brad’s stats are deceptive — the way he runs the offense and the way when we need a spark, he’d hit some hard serves and force the other team not to run their offense — he was my MVP tonight.”
Schneider said good serving was a key to victory.
“We knew that if we served tough, putting the pressure on the other side of the court, we’d win the match,” Schneider said. “We’re excited about pulling out the key win and we’re ready for Saturday’s semifinal match.”
The Lions trailed early in the first set, 6-1, before chipping away at the Redskins lead. Junior Ryan Guyton’s spiking kill brought Lockport to within a couple, 7-5. Lancaster couldn’t break away, but the Lions couldn’t get any closer as the set went on.
Junior Eamon Yates’ left hand touch shot and an ace from junior Bryce Perry kept the blue and gold close. Trailing 19-16, Schneider went to the service line and reeled off five straight points with an ace to put LHS up for the first time in the match, 21-19.
The Redskins fought back, but another Perry kill after a great dig by Schneider, a kill by junior Jack Whalen and a powerful set-ending smash by junior Shawn Moore helped put the game away, 25-21 in favor of the Lions.
Lockport trailed early in the marathon, see-saw second set as well, then started to fight back as Perry and Donorovich both had kills. Yates went to the line and served up two points to tie it, 11-11, then trailing 18-15, the Lions got a blocking kill then junior John Traversone went to the service line and chalked up three straight points to take the lead, 19-18.
The Redskins tied it, but kills by Moore, Whalen and a super smash by Donorovich, set up nicely by Schneider, helped finish the set off. A Moore kill and a trick shot by Schneider, tipping it over the net when the Redskins were expecting an LHS pass, closed things out in the Lions’ favor again, 29-27.
The third set was all Lancaster, from start to finish, with many unforced errors on Lockport’s part aiding and abetting throughout. The score was 25-16 Redskins.
“I didn’t think that this match would be easy, because we knew they’re a good team,” Whalen said. “They beat Grand Island in five sets in their last match of the year, so it wasn’t surprising how scrappy they were and how hard they hit.”
Lancaster took an early lead once again in the fourth and final set before the Lions bounced back at the end to win that one and close out the match.
Trailing 18-13, Donorovich posted two kills, followed by a sneaky left hand kill by Guyton that fooled everyone and suddenly the Redskins’ lead was back down to one, 19-18.
Lockport trailed for the final time, 21-18, before Schneider went to the line for more of his high-flying spiking serves and got kills from Yates and Guyton and strong defense by everyone to take a 24-22 lead.
The Redskins refused to quit, however, as the match was tied 24-24, then 25-25, then 26-26, before Lancaster hit two straight shots into the net giving Lockport the win, 28-26.
“We had our ups and downs throughout the course of the match, but what’s amazing is it didn’t stick,” Whalen said.
“That’s probably the key point of the match — that when they were having down times, we found a way to score. I was also pleased with the way that Guyton had a big night tonight with some big kills that really energized the crowd.”
Freshman Jay Baumann led head coach Jason Stang’s Redskins (8-16) with 22 kills and junior Mike Spengler added 11 kills. Up from the junior varsity, sophomore Trevor Gabinmonte chipped in with 22 digs.
“We were young this year, starting two freshmen outside hitters,” Stang said. “We’re going to be even better next year.”
CLASS C QUARTERFINALS
3-Eden 3, 2-Wilson 0
WILSON — The Lakewomen’s great run in the Section VI Class C volleyball playoffs ended Thursday when they ran into defending state champion Eden in the semifinals.
Second-seeded Wilson (15-2) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set, all on serves from Kaylee Stewart, but No. 3 Eden took over from there, winning the match in three sets, 25-14, 25-15 and 25-14.
“They’re a powerhouse, bottom line,” Wilson coach Jackie Benton said. “They served very well against us, we didn’t pass well and we didn’t serve well ourselves, either.”
It was the second straight semifinal loss for the Lakewomen, and the second straight year they’d lost to the defending state champion. They lost to Falconer in 2011, when Eden was state champ in Class B.
“We were glad to play them,” Benton said. “We’d never played them before, and they were state champs something like seven of the past 10 years.
“We lost to the best of the best. They were the No. 3 seed, but we thought they should’ve been No. 1.”
The loss also marks the end of a career for seven Wilson seniors.
“There was a really sad moment after the game in the team room,” Benton said. “We have quite a few girls moving on to play in college, but that’s not high school volleyball.
“They fought hard; it’s not like they just gave up. The gym was full, and when the games were over, there was a complete standing ovation, from Eden’s fans and ours.”
The loss concluded a phenomenal season for Wilson, which went undefeated in the Niagara-Orleans league for the second year in a row.