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Marist-bound Rojek makes her time pay off with Frontier

ROJEK LEADS FRONTIER — Syd Rojek (right) looks over the Frontier defense, as the Falcons prepare for a serve. File photo courtesy of Ron Larson.

State champ Eden hosts tourney on Saturday


Sydney Rojek is a seasoned veteran of high school varsity volleyball.

During her four seasons playing with Frontier, Rojek has not only learned to play the game at a high level, she has also learned how to be a supporting teammate. The senior setter has one more chance to contribute both of those facets of her game to the Falcons, before playing for Marist University, next year.

“She runs a great offense and is a great team leader,” Frontier head coach Deb Schruefer said. “Syd is just a teammate. She’s a great team player. She’s not real big, but she plays with a huge heart.”

Rojek said that she learned to be a good teammate from playing at an early age with the older girls, during what was Frontier’s last sectional championship team in 2010, her freshman season.

“Starting as a freshman and having the older girls there for me as my role models really helped me out,” said Rojek, who made her early verbal commitment to Marist, a Division I downstate college. “Having an older brother and older sister [Lauren Rojek, a former volleyball player at Frontier] really helped me mature, too.”

The All-Western New York First Team selection said she is trying to be a similar role model to her teammates, by passing on what she’s learned during the past three seasons and the excitement she feels for the game. And she would not mind getting Frontier back to a championship level, after consecutive seasons of falling just short.

“We’re all just excited for the season and we want to give it our all,” Rojek said. “We want to go to states, of course, but we’re taking it one game; one match at a time. We really have to work on communication. So, once we get that down, I think we’ll be a solid, solid team. After every point, I get really excited, so I’m encouraging everybody else to be, as well.”

Rojek said she is comfortable with having already made her college decision, especially after a visit to the campus of Marist, where she got to meet the volleyball team and its coaches.

“After working hard, it’s really exciting knowing that I don’t have to worry about that stuff anymore,” Rojek said. “But I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and our coaches.”

Sharing the captaincy with Rojek is right side Maddie Karwas, while junior middle McKayla Brooks provides some punch to the offense. Schruefer said the team is trying to utilize Brooks’ skills in different ways.

Junior Taylor Kaznowski provides Frontier with the ability to play with two setters and classmate Olivia Nappo has been dependable as a defensive specialist, according to the coach. Also among the senior class are Abby Booth, Kaitlyn Lipka, Caisey Lipka, Rachel Stephenson and Kaitlyn Long, an All-WNY Second Team honoree.

“Sometimes we’re a little too one-dimensional, so we’re trying to get more comfortable with switching things up a little,” Schruefer noted.

Orchard Park and Lancaster are undefeated so far, in the Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division I. O.P. is the defending champion and Lancaster is one of the biggest and most physical team in the area. Clarence should also compete, this season.

“We’re used to that schedule,” Schruefer said. “Every team we play is a good team. You could never take a night off.”
BLOCK PARTY — From left, Taylor Hite and Lauren Moelbert were selected to play in a national showcase coinciding with the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four in Seattle. File photo courtesy of Ron Larson.

Hamburg juniors Lauren Moelbert and Taylor Hite exemplify the young talent that remains in the Bulldogs’ program, even after a stretch of winning sectional titles in three of the past four seasons.

They are two of 21 players from New York state selected by the American Volleyball Coaches Association to go to Seattle, Wash. in December, to take part in the high school showcase coinciding with the Women’s Volleyball NCAA Final Four. Hite is a four-year varsity player and All-WNY Second Team selection last year, while Moelbert has been with the varsity for three years and, in 2012, was a All-ECIC first team honoree.

“We are extremely proud of these young ladies, their accomplishments and their goals of leading others to succeed in the sport,” said John Crangle, Hamburg fifth-year head coach.

Also back after being leading members of last year’s Class A title-winning team are Emilee Niedajik and sophomores Lara McCormick and Maddie Shafer. Crangle will look to seniors Kendra Quinn-Moultrie and Melissa Kiel to provide leadership. Crangle said that many of these athletes have shown the versatility to play multiple positions and, because of that, Hamburg is able to run a variety of different offensive and defensive schemes.

Hamburg graduated two everyday starters in All-WNY outside hitter Andrea Buchanan, who’s now playing for LeMoyne, and All-ECIC right side Gabrielle Eppolito.

“We pride ourselves on a tradition of hard work and high expectations,” Crangle said. “These girls get along and truly enjoy playing volleyball. They respect the rare accomplishments this program has achieved and plan on taking it to the next level. We’re a young team, but that doesn’t mean we lack maturity and experience.”

State champion Eden is ready to vie for supremacy among Western New York foes, big and small, as well as Class C opponents from around the state.

The Raiders have already made it to the championship match of the St. Mary’s Tournament, where they lost to the host team. Back in 2013, among another highly-ranked group for their senior seasons, are Lainy Pierce and Heather Holscher, who have been fixtures in the program since their days as middle schoolers.

Eden will host its annual tournament at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21 and feature some of the highest-ranked teams from Western New York and Rochester. The championship match will be later in the afternoon.

After some struggles the past few seasons, Lake Shore has grown into a more experienced team with returning players at numerous positions.

Among them, senior middle hitters and blockers Renee Richardson and Darian Winters will be looked for their play at net and on defense. Lake Shore head coach Brian Dziewa said he also hopes for contributions from a pair of juniors in versatile and quick outside hitter Allie Papas and transfer Karen Snow, who he said has displayed instincts for the game and solid hands. Sophomore Machala Andrews will start at setter for Lake Shore, while Kaylie Barnes has worked her way into the rotation.

While ECIC Division II will continue to present its challenges, the Eagles expressed the hope of returning to sectional prominence of five to 10 years ago, in moving down from Class A to B.

“We’re looking to hold our own, during the season, and then make some noise during sectionals,” said Dziewa, who noted that Lake Shore also will look to build off last year’s success in hosting the second annual varsity invitational on Sept. 28, which will feature eight teams.

North Collins expressed hope to be a player in Class D, coming back this season still as a young team, but without only one player who graduated.

The strong youth contingent on this team is led by the Filkov sisters, freshman Angela, who takes over at setter, and sophomore outside Jasmine, a first team all-division selection in 2012. Also a returning all-star, junior Arrika Bley is back as a middle.

Seniors on the squad include middles Destiny Kennedy and Beth Kibler and outside Nicole Torrey. The Eagles began the season with wins in their first two league matches and a third-place finish at the Falconer Tournament.

Immaculata looks to get back to the Monsignor Martin final with most of its team returning from last season. The Bears have already gotten off to winning start with a 3 – 0 record and third-place finish at the Starpoint Tournament. They will have to contend with state-power St. Mary’s again, for a league title.

The team has a cast of senior leadership from Jordan DeMartino, Samantha Grasso, Ally Massimi and Justine Chiavetta, coupled with dynamic young talent, highlighted by junior three-year varsity starter Sarah Bain.

“In a league growing more and more competitive, Immaculata is in a position to remain a perennial power,” assistant coach Cliff Quinn noted.
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