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Eden seniors Holscher, Pierce on drive for five state titles

A SHOT AT FIVE — Eden seniors Heather Holscher (pictured above top) and Lainy Pierce (directly above)go for a remarkable five state titles this weekend. Photos courtesy of Ron Larson/David Eckhardt.

In all probability, Lainy Pierce and Heather Holscher have already accomplished a feat never before done since the establishment of the New York state championships.

The Eden seniors are four-time state champions, having been members of Raiders girls volleyball teams that have won titles in every season, since starting as eighth graders on the 2009 varsity squad. The two are now on the verge of an even more remarkable five straight championships, as the Raiders are off to the state’s final four in Class C this weekend (Nov. 16-17), at Glens Falls.

“It’s something we’ve pictured in our heads and that’s what motivates us the most: thinking about winning that fifth state title is just insane,” said Pierce, who has verbally committed to play at the Division I level next season, at Penn State. “It drives us, not only to win it for our team and school, but to have it in our back pocket, to say we were able to do it.”

It’s a topic of conversation Pierce and Holscher have chattered about since the beginning of the season. They started together on the varsity team as state champions and they would like to finish together that way.

“Coming into my eighth grade year, I didn’t think I would amount to much, but now getting my fifth title would be awesome,” said Holscher, who will attend and play volleyball at Division II Daemen College. “In my last year as a senior, it would be special, and I know the other girls feel the same.”

Eden head coach Stephen Pierce said that the Raiders believe they will be right up there to contend for a state title, every year. The potential of a fifth straight for the program and two of its athletes makes the honor even further enticing.

“They can do something that I don’t know if anyone in Western New York has ever done – five in a row – that’s phenomenal, so hopefully we can do it,” he said.

When Pierce looks to refocus his team, especially after a poor serving night on Wednesday (Nov. 6) against Cazenovia in the state regional round, it’s his pair of veterans to whom he looks, especially with them having so much on the line. Eden again won in straight sets, defeating Byron-Bergen three days later.

Lainy Pierce said she and Holscher try to bring maturity to a team with only three seniors – also including Taylor Mitchell – but she also credited a team that, at times, plays three freshmen, with stepping up its game.

“There are a couple things we need to tune up in practice, especially serving, as well as passing and setting more consistently,” Pierce said, on Wednesday. “If we can do that, I think we’ll be golden.”

Holscher said that this group has grown into one of the best teams on which she has played, and that is saying a lot, considering some of the quality players and cores of past teams. Three current Division I players have played on the teams the past five seasons, including Georgia senior Stacey Smith and Gardner-Webb junior Heather Feldman. “It’s a pretty young team, but it’s a great team and we’re all pretty close,” Holscher noted.

Stephen Pierce acknowledged that Holscher and Lainy Pierce are two of the best players in Western New York. Lainy, his niece, took on the role of setter the past two seasons and, with her instincts for the game and quickness, has thrived. The smooth-swinging and hard-hitting Holscher is the player Eden goes to when it needs a kill, he said.

“Lainy’s been playing out of position for two years, but she’s done a nice job,” Stephen Pierce said. “Usually, we like both of them to score with their serve and do what we call bettering the ball. Lainy, she’s quick and can get to the ball, and Heather, even when she’s in the back row, if we’re looking for a side out, we usually go to her.”

Although she won’t set in college, Lainy Pierce said that she is better for the experience of doing so at Eden and hopes it makes her more well-rounded, when she arrives at Penn State, where she’ll be reunited with her sister Kendall, a sophomore playing for the Division I power.

Holscher said she always dreamed of playing at the Division I level, but found comfort in Daemen, after meeting the team and its coach. “I’ll be playing on a good team and be at a school with good coaching and academics – it’s like my perfect school,” she noted.

There’s an excitement and some pressure going into this weekend, but with it comes a sense of accomplishment for both Pierce and Holscher. After all, they’ve done something most would give anything to do just once now four times, with a fifth possible this weekend.

“It’s bittersweet, because obviously it’s our last run but we were so successful – you can’t look at it as a bad thing,” Lainy said. “Hopefully, we end the last one successfully. I just hope, next year, the girls work hard and play hard, just like what is instilled in them each year.”


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