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High School Girls Volleyball: Frontier falls short to O.P. for second year

Amanda Michels is one of five seniors to help lead a young Frontier team to the Section VI Class AA championship match. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

An unusually long stoppage in play halted not only the match but also what was Frontier’s best run and most significant momentum of the Class AA title match with Orchard Park.

After a slow start which cost them Game One, the Falcons were playing their best volleyball of the night in the second game when the scorer’s table stopped play for an inquiry about an Orchard Park substitution. It lasted more than 10 minutes and there was no discrepancy found.

Second-seeded Frontier, which led 13-9 at the time, could not find its game out of the stoppage and pressed to get into a rhythm for the rest of the evening. The Falcons lost Game Two, 25-21, and then fell in three games to top-seeded Orchard Park.

Orchard Park beat Frontier for the Class AA title for a second straight season. As much as the stoppage may have derailed Frontier’s momentum, the Quakers quality play, depth and experience had much to do with it, as well.

“Yeah, it did (kill the momentum), but Orchard Park is a solid team,” Frontier head coach Deb Schruefer said. “They returned their entire starting lineup from last year and we knew it would be back and forth. They were a little more composed than we were. My kids played their hearts out though. I can’t say enough about this good group of kids.”

Orchard Park head coach Greg Lardo noticed Frontier’s effort, as well. He lauded his team’s opponent for never giving up, even during a 25-16 first game in which the Quakers jumped out to a 7-0 lead, and also in Game Three, which was won 25-17.

He took a lesson from Frontier’s come-from behind win over his team during a regular season ECIC Division I match. Orchard Park shared the division title with Williamsville North.

“(Our quick start) was a blessing because it’s usually my team that falls behind. I mean, I knew they were going to come back,” Lardo said. “The sectional finals are always going to be close and that’s a good team. They beat us early in the year and ruined our season a little bit. They play great defense and were serving us tough. They didn’t give up, even on that last point and when it was 22-13, they’re still playing like it’s 0-0.”

Junior Hannah Johnson led a dominant Orchard Park serving effort with five aces. Senior captain and outside Maryellen Devic got off to a quick start in the match and then finished strong in Game Three to record a match-high 13 kills. Junior standout Rebecca Higgins added nine kills.

Frontier took a rare lead in the match early in Game Two and stretched it to 13-9 before the Quakers reeled off the next 12 of 14 points after the stoppage. Junior McKyla Brooks notched three kills in the game for the Falcons.

Do-it-all junior setter Syd Rojek, along with three kills from classmate Rachel Stephenson, kept Frontier within striking distance in Game Three, but it could never put together a significant enough run. Orchard Park opened up a 10-4 and 22-13 advantage in that game.

“That’s a competitive team,” Lardo said. “Usually, we’ll lead a team 2-0 and they’ll kind of roll over and you can see it on their face, but they didn’t look like that. If you were just watching the game and didn’t look at the score, you would think it was a one or two point game.”

Seniors playing their last match for Frontier included Amanda Michels, Hannah Booth, Lyndsey Kaznowski, Rachel Bartosz and Nicole Pietrus.

“They’re outstanding role models,” Schruefer said. “And just good people.”

Frontier depended a great deal on its underclassmen. Schruefer acknowledged that her team is still quite young and could be back right here next year with some work on offense.
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