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High School Boys Volleyball: Hamburg, Frontier, Lake Shore see how they measure up

Erik Hatten (left) and Frontier came from two games down to beat Hamburg on Friday (Oct. 5) in an ECIC I match. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Every contending team can use that mid-season barometer game or match to see how they measure up.

Last week, defending sectional champions Frontier and Lake Shore, along with Class B finalist Hamburg, got those types of tests playing against one another. It made for some fine play and back-and-forth results.

In a matter of three days, Hamburg went from passing a litmus test in a rematch of the Class B championship against Lake Shore to providing just as significant of a lift for cross-town rival Frontier as a young Falcons squad came from two games down to defeat the Bulldogs.

After sweeping Lake Shore in three games, coming back in both Games Two and Three, on Oct. 2, Hamburg looked well on its way to doing the same against ECIC Division I foe Frontier.

However, the Falcons stormed back Friday (Oct. 5) on their home court for a 25-27, 19-25, 25-19, 25-22, 27-25 win. Hamburg, which sat in second behind Orchard Park in ECIC I, had beaten third-place Frontier in four games earlier this year.

“It’s been a roller coaster compared to last season,” said Frontier head coach Bill Faust, whose team lost four All-Western New York selections to graduation. “We’ve been looking to maintain that mental focus in matches from the start. Against Hamburg, things came together for us after that second game. I hope we can maintain that and that the victory leads to better execution.”

Senior Spencer Avery led the comeback with 17 kills, while Dave Piniewski, making only his second start at libero, contributed several big digs at key moments in the match.

After Hamburg squeaked out the fist game then won soundly in the second, Faust implored to his players to regain their focus and give the team a chance to win by extending the match.

“I wasn’t extremely happy with our game preparation,” he noted. “I told them the longer we played, the better chance we would have. It was a gritty match by both teams.”

Faust also credited the entire Hamburg team as one of the Bulldogs’ players made an “honor call” on a ball that was ruled out but clearly was in, ending a crucial rally toward the end of Game Five. “That took a lot of integrity,” Faust said. “You don’t see that quite often.

Now at 6-3 in division play, Frontier actually experienced a wake up call shortly before the Hamburg match when ECIC front-runner Orchard Park came in to the Falcons’ gym and easily handled them in three games. Since, Faust said it was an opportunity for some of his team’s leaders to step up.

Among them have been sophomore third-year varsity player Jake Gleason, who has moved from libero to setter in taking over Faust’s complex offense, along with middles Erik Hatten and Derek Hoskin and outsides Dylan Durni and Avery.

“Orchard Park came in here and swept us off our feet,” Faust said. “It really made us reevaluate our goals and our preparation.”
Dane Cala (far right) has helped Lake Shore remain unbeaten in ECIC II. However, the Eagles were beaten last week by Hamburg in a rematch of last year’s sectional title match.

Hamburg beat Lake Shore, a team widely considered the favorite to repeat as Class B champions, 25-19, 29-27, 27-25, in a long match for one that ended in a three-game sweep. Last season, the two teams played even longer when they met, battling to three five-game matches, Lake Shore winning them all including in the sectional final.

“That was a tough loss to Hamburg and losses are never great but sometimes they could be a god thing,” Lake Shore head coach John Coyle said. “They measure where you are and what you need to work on. They exploited some of the stress points that we need to work on. That’s why you play these matches and then you build from there.”

After dominating for much of Game One, the Bulldogs were down four points in both games two and three and managed to comeback. Carroll said it was a big-time performance from his team, which has many players adjusting to larger and changing roles.

“It was not really any redemption match; it was more of a defining match for us,” Carroll said. “Our team has so many new players that they are still trying to find an identity and this win goes a long way in helping them define themselves as well as their team identity. I guess this is a team with no quit. Hopefully they can be a team that plays with a lead as well.

Tony Guzzetta led a key performance from Hamburg’s blockers with six, to go along with 28 assists. The passing of Connor Krolikowski, Patrick Stroh and David Suchan was solid for most of the match, according to Carroll. He noted that it’s been the blocking that’s been the difference in many matches for Hamburg.

Carroll also praised Lake Shore senior setter Billy Pinter, who he believes may be the best all-around player in Western New York.

“He gives them an honest swing no matter what the pass is like,” Carroll noted of Pinter. “A team’s defense has to be ready against them at all times and a team’s block has to really focus on him as a setter because he can put the ball where he wants every time he gets his hands on it.”

While trying to make things difficult on Pinter, Hamburg also went after Lake Shore’s best hitter, senior Ryan Joslyn, successfully wearing him down by delivering about 40 serves his way over the course of the match, according to Coyle.

“Ryan’s been a our go-to-guy and Hamburg knew that going in,” Coyle noted. “I’ve been getting on some of our other guys to step up and help us balance things out, especially against the bigger teams.”

Coyle is looking for consistent production from his outsides Dane Cala and Tyler Freeman and is confident they will step up. He said Connor Govenettio has been bothered by some shoulder problems that has limited the outside somewhat.

The senior-laden Lake Shore, which starts only one junior, libero Brad Owens, still sits alone and unbeaten in first place in ECIC II at 7-0. The Eagles have received some competition from Williamsville South and Williamsville East, but tests like the one against Hamburg are essential in keeping the team focused and ready in preparing for the playoffs.

“East is athletic and big, and South has a few guys that give you some problems, so if you don’t come out and play hard against them, they can beat you,” Coyle said. “That’s why a match with Hamburg is so good for us.”

While Hamburg and Frontier are done playing for this season with the Falcons attempting to defend their title in Class A and the Bulldogs remaining in Class B despite moving up a division, it may not be the last time Lake Shore meets its cross-town rival.

Barring seeding that doesn’t allow for it or a run by another contender such as ECIC III leader Eden, chances are Lake Shore meets Hamburg again in a Class B finals rematch.

“It’s games like these that make high school sports so fun,” Carroll said. “The kids on both teams played well and were part of a pretty close and exciting match. I hope that these two teams meet in the finals.”

Lake Shore and Hamburg will continue to be tested during the stretch run of the season as they travel to play in the Orchard Park Tournament on Saturday, Oct. 13. Among the eight-team field will include the host team, St. Joe’s, Lake Shore, Hamburg, Clarence and St. Francis.
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