Patrick Stroh and Hamburg defeated Williamsville South in four sets to win a sectional title in Class B. (Photo by David Marino)
After a long and grueling, yet successful regular season, the Hamburg boys volleyball team can officially call themselves champions.
The top-seeded Bulldogs used a third set rally to seize back momentum, and beat the No. 3 seed Williamsville South in four, to capture their first Section VI Class B championship, since 2009.
"It's been a long time," said Hamburg head coach Brian Carroll. "It feels really good. I'm just really happy for the boys. To win a sectional title with a sophomore setter [Ryan Dils], that means the seniors had to step up, the juniors had to step up, and when you win with a sophomore leading your team, it doesn't happen very often."
The teams split the first two sets, and the third proved to be match-changing. With Hamburg leading, 12-7, the Billies rallied for four consecutive points, which led to a Bulldog timeout. Out of the timeout, Hamburg went on a 9-0 run, and finished the game scoring 13 out of the final 17 points, to win 25-15.
"The flood gates opened up," said Carroll about the beginning of the third set run. "We got a few blocks and made them uncomfortable. When we blocked them, they didn't react real well, and the points just came a little easier."
Hamburg won the first game, 25-18, with the Billies firing back with a 25-22 win in the second. After Hamburg flexed its muscles in the third game, the Bulldogs finished off the visiting Billies in the fourth, with a 25-19 victory, which also included a 6-0 run to finish.
Williamsville South head coach Thom Knab thought his team was going to climb out of another hole, like they had all season long, but Hamburg wouldn't allow that to happen. Knab praised the Bulldogs and their ability not to allow the Billies to gain an edge.
"Hamburg is a really, really well-coached, solid team," Knab said. "They're so good at passing, and they're so good defensively, and they have some big hitters that you really have to be focused on. You can't let up, even a little bit."
The Billies, who went undefeated in ECIC play throughout the regular season, were very resilient, said Carroll, and presented a number of different challenges. They finished the season with an overall mark of 24-3, and showed why they were such a tough out this the season.
"They brought a lot of serving," senior captain Trevor Vail said. "They had great serving. Their passing was there and their hitting, they had incredible hitting. We found a way to get through it and battle through."
Junior middle hitter Zach Yerrington and captains Vail and Doug Horbachewski came up with a number of crucial blocks at the net which led to many points throughout the third and fourth games. Carroll noted a block by Yerrington late in the fourth put Hamburg ahead for good.
Dils, the setter and leader on the floor for the Bulldogs, matured throughout the season according to his coaches and teammates. Playing arguably the most difficult and important position on the floor, Dils proved that he was up for any and all challenges, including having a big match in the finals.
"He's gotten so much better from when we started," Yerrington said. "He's improved so much and he's a big part of our team."
The Hamburg faithful stormed the court after the final point was awarded. Although exhausted, players rode their adrenaline while celebrating the victory.
"It feels unbelievable," Horbachewski said. "We worked so hard in the offseason and we came here and did what we were supposed to do — win the championship."
The Bulldogs will travel to Midlakes High School in Clifton Springs for the regional finals on Saturday, Nov. 9, to take on the winner of Victor and Brighton.