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High School Boys Volleyball: Don’t count out Raiders in Section VI Class B

Ryan Vondell (left) is Eden’s only senior starter with classmate Dakota Sheffield nursing an injury. Still, Eden is hoping to chase a sectional title. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Eden joins Lake Shore, Hamburg as “B” favorites


It’s never a good idea to count out an Eden volleyball team come postseason time.

Although they’ve been playing with only one senior starter and dealt with a few key injuries already on a team with so much youth, the Raiders plan on remaining a major presence in the Section VI Class B playoffs.

Starting four sophomores and one freshman did not stop Eden from yet another fine regular season. The Raiders went into a playoff tune-up against large school Orchard Park on Oct. 24, at 13-4 overall and winning ECIC III with a 12-0 mark.

“We’ve had a very respectful season, considering our youth and some injuries here and there,” Pierce said.

Eden has won a sectional title 27 times since 1977, so players already realize the tradition that is at stake. Plus, head coach Robert Pierce believes this is one of the most even Western New York fields he has ever seen.

Orchard Park may be the favorite in Class A and Hamburg, the front-runner in Class B, but Pierce feels as though it may come down to a certain player or two putting a team on his or their shoulders through a playoff run.

Eden played extremely evenly with Hamburg when the two met during the regular season but the Raiders fell in three tough games. The Bulldogs, who have shown a great deal of savvy throughout this season, have won a pair of key out-of-league matches this season in three-game sweeps, also beating defending Class B champion Lake Shore. Those three should be the top teams competing to win Class B this season.

Pierce said after doing some research regarding where teams will be seeded, as it turns out, all three will probably be on the same side of the bracket. Lake Shore and Eden will be the two and three seeds, determined by a coin flip, and Hamburg will be a little bit of a lower seed having played in ECIC I. NFL champion Grand Island should be the top seed.

“In order to win, no matter what, you’re going to have to play the best teams,” Pierce said. “I’m sure all three coaches would say it would be nice to have an easier road, but you’re going to have to run into a Lake Shore or Hamburg at some point.”

Ryan Vondell, the lone starting senior, and sophomore Hayden Herc have both stepped up on offense, doing much of the damage for Eden, while sophomore Brad Meyer has become the team’s top go-to and all-around player. Pierce said Meyer hits a heavy ball that shatters blocks and his jump serve is difficult to return. Sophomore Cole Overhoff has helped in the backrow with his smarts, along with making some contributions offensively.

Senior Dakota Sheffield and freshman Declan Pierce have been missing from Eden’s starting lineup with hand injuries. Declan Pierce is expected to return for the playoffs after spending the past six weeks recovering from a broken hand. Sophomore Jake Shlegel has stepped up to fill in for Sheffield at setter.

“We should be really ready for the playoffs,” Pierce said. “I think it’s going to be interesting. I honestly believe in the As and Bs, I have no idea who’s going to win. I think it’s too close to call. You want to say Orchard Park in the As and Hamburg in the Bs, but I’ve seen Lake Shore play at a very high level and once we get healthy, we’re definitely in a position that’s going to do some damage. I think a lot of the teams are that close together this year.”

In other action, Hamburg finished as a finalist for a second straight weekend but once again fell short of a title on Saturday (Oct. 20). After finishing as the runner-up at the Orchard Park Tournament the week prior, the Bulldogs took second at their own Hamburg Tournament.

Hamburg beat Canisius in the first game 25-23 but then lost two straight (20-25, 9-15) to the defending Monsignor Martin champion Crusaders in the eighth annual tournament. At Orchard Park, the host team beat the Bulldogs 25-21, 25-14 in the final.

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