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Eden looks to reach boys volleyball final

With lower numbers this season and the hope of returning to the sectional big stage, Eden head coach Robert Pierce said that he has been a little harder on his players, in an attempt to get the best out of them.

That worked, during a 14th consecutive division championship season in which Eden finished unbeaten, and during a showing at the Orchard Park Tournament, toward the end of the regular season. But whether it will be a factor in the postseason among a highly-competitive Class B field remains to be seen.

After two seasons of not making it to the sectional final, Pierce said he hopes the 27-time sectional champions can find the motivation and consistently sound play to make yet another run at a title.

“I’m always pretty hard on my kids; coming from a small school, they battle that external and internal motivation,” Pierce said. “We’ve also got low numbers this year, so the kids don’t have much behind them, to help them compete. I’ve been more aggressive with them and the kids have responded. The level of execution has been high, but we still have our work cut out for us.”

Pierce has relied on outside Declan Pierce and middle Hayden Herc, throughout the season, for impactful play. Declan, his son, has become an offensive weapon with an ability to score from anywhere on the court, while Herc has been a difference-maker in the middle, according to the coach.

Pierce said that he has been pleasantly surprised by setter Jake Schlegel’s lifting his game and confidence. He said that he will depend on Schlegel, also a baseball player, to quarterback this group. Outside Cole Overhoff has also turned into a formidable player with his quickness and dangerous serve. He will touch the ball often as the team’s defensive specialist, according to his coach.

On Eden’s road to contending for a title, the second-seeded Raiders will likely met Starpoint on Oct. 29 in a Class B quarterfinal and, with a win, would have moved on to an Oct. 30 meeting with either defending sectional champion Lake Shore, a 10th-seed, or No. 7 North Tonawanda, one of Niagara Frontier League’s top teams.

A potential semifinal match could see Eden and third-seeded Williamsville South team meet on Saturday, Nov. 1. All of the semifinals in Class A and B are to be held that day, 3 p.m., at the higher seeds.

“South plays with a lot of moxie and emotion,” Pierce noted. “We’ve beaten them before, but my guys played real well and were really up for it to do so.”

A trip to the final, which has eluded the Raiders the past two seasons, could bring about a meeting with Hamburg. The Bulldogs are the favorite in the draw, after sharing the Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division I crown at 11 – 1 with West Seneca West. Hamburg mostly played with teams a classification above it.

With size and experience to choose from, the Bulldogs also won three tournaments, including the regular season’s final two at Orchard Park and in their own gym at Hamburg. The Bulldogs were last in the finals in 2011, when they lost a five-game match to Lake Shore.

“Hamburg has proved, this season, they’re at a top level. They’ve got some high level kids and [head coach] Brian [Carroll] has been there before,” Pierce said. “They beat us, but we’ve played them competitively, this year. Whether we could shock the world, would depend on how ready we were to go and how much we want it.”

Pierce said that Hamburg has also been good in tight matches, pulling through in many four- and five-set battles with other good teams. He said that his team has played in a few of those, but probably not enough of them. Eden would have to serve well and get Hamburg out of system to have a chance, he added.

In Class A, fifth-seeded Frontier began a journey to return to the sectional final with a quarterfinal on Oct. 29 at No. 4 Lancaster. The Falcons lost to Orchard Park in last year’s title after winning it in 2010-11.


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