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High School Girls Volleyball: Eden again talented but in transition

Senior Rachel Moll delivers a kill in Immaculata’s win over Sacred Heart earlier this year. The Bears have won all of their Monsignor Martin contests this season except one, losing 3-0 to WNY’s top small school St. Mary’s last week. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Few Eden girls volleyball teams come into a season with a number of question marks. This Raiders squad, as usual, has an assortment of the area’s premier talent, but some of those questions do exist.

Eden is as young as they’ve been in recent history — bringing back three regular starters from last year’s state champion team, in addition to making some positional and strategic adjustments this season.

All-Western New York and First Team All-State Class C standout Lainy Pierce has gone from an outside hitter to the setter position, while three-year starters, regularly as middle blockers, Heather Holscher and Megan McCarthy, are playing new positions in the back row as the team’s primary serve receivers.

Eden head coach Stephen Pierce has also installed a triangle offense for this year’s group which is meant to get the most out of some of his players’ talents.

“We have a very young team and a team where we have to ask a lot of players to do things they’re not used to doing,” said Pierce, whose program has won a state-record nine titles, including the last three seasons, as well as being dominant in Section VI, whether a Class C or B team. This year, Eden will again be in Class C.

The booming hitter and server Lainy Pierce, the niece of the head coach, will have her hands on the ball nearly every time Eden touches it, but now as more of a playmaker on the team.

“Lainy is in her first year setting and really has progressed very quickly,” her uncle, Stephen Pierce, said. “She’s still learning a lot of it, but her overall game is very good and she can take over a game with her serve at any moment.”

McCarthy, is one of the few seniors on the team and paired with Holscher, helps to bring some experience and consistency even as the two themselves learn new positions.

Senior Jackie Bonczar has moved into the starting libero spot, while the Ballou sisters, Kailee, a sophomore, and Megan, a freshman, will be asked to make greater contributions as outside hitters.

Pierce has also brought up three eighth graders in Sam Burgio, who finds herself already in the starting lineup, along with Molly Brier and Alyssa Durski.

Among those lost from last season are All-Western New York First Team selections Kendall Pierce, Lainy’s big sister who played outside hitter and is now at Penn State, and Rebecca Shoemaker, a libero. Tori Eschner, last year’s starting setter, also graduated.

“We’re going to need the contributions from the youngsters,” Pierce noted.

Although the Raiders continue to run through ECIC IV and have been very competitive at tournaments, the youth has shown in some of their play. By now, Eden usually has a tournament title to show for five weeks worth of season, but its farthest run this year was reaching the semifinals at its own tournament on Sept. 29 and St. Mary’s Tournament on the opening weekend of the season (Sept. 1).

At the Eden Tournament, the Raiders ran into state power St. Mary’s, which would eventually defeat Mercy in the championship match. Eden will play in its final tournament this season Oct. 6 at the Garden State Challenge in New Jersey.

Sacred Heart defeated Gowanda in the inaugural Lake Shore Girls Varsity Volleyball Tournament on Saturday (Sept. 29). Also participating among the eight-team field were Lake Shore, Springville Griffith, Jamestown, Amherst, Niagara Catholic and Cardinal O’Hara.


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