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Hamburg, Eden looking to challenge for Class B title

TAKE A SWING — Patrick Stroh and Hamburg look to be a challenger among the Section VI Class B field, which was won last year by Lake Shore. File Photo by Ron Larson.
Robert Pierce knows the landscape of Western New York volleyball and he expressed confidence there are at least several teams that could challenge for the Class B title. No surprise, his Eden team and Hamburg, both WNY powers, are among those projected challengers.

The Raiders may not have any seniors on what amounts to a small team number-wise, but they may have some of the best talent in WNY.

Hayden Herc, a 6-foot-4 junior, has learned how to play to his size and improved his footwork, so Pierce said the Raiders will get the ball his way very often. Joining him up front is fellow 6-4 middle Shane Smith, who’s improved his confidence and focus, according to Pierce. Also growing into one of the better players in WNY is sophomore outside Declan Pierce, who can score from almost anywhere on the court and has become a superior passer and improved his court sense, his father and coach noted.

Joining Pierce on the outside is Cole Overhoff, who is quick and excels on defense and at serving, according to his coach. Jake Schlagel has been growing as the team’s setter, despite not playing year-round, like many of the others. Also playing on the right side is sophomore Connor Jasinski. Classmate Mitchell Mason, who comes from the football team, is getting more comfortable in his role, while Mike Seggio has shown good court awareness, Pierce said.

Eden was one of only a few WNY teams to make it to the championship bracket of the Eden Pan Am Invitational, last week. But Hamburg beat Eden in a non-league match, winning in three close games.

Among Hamburg’s returning players are senior leftside Patrick Stroh, an all-division first team selection last year with a big jump; junior 6-foot-4 middle hitter Zach Yerrington; physical senior rightside Trevor Vail and junior leftside Doug Horbachewski, whose well-roundedness has allowed him to contribute at several positions.

Also for Hamburg, sophomore Ryan Dils steps into the starting setter spot; junior Brian Camp has been a surprise at middle blocker and senior Ryan Filas will be a first-year starter at libero. Back row specialists include Chris Fuentes, Matt Touris, Charlie Gordner, Kody Omphalius and John-Francis Orozcom, while Tom Hoff has helped with his blocking.

“We have a high ceiling for improvement and we have a real nice team that is very unselfish,” said Hamburg head coach Brian Carroll, whose team took second at the Clarence Tournament.

Last season’s Class B champion Lake Shore is in a transition year, after graduating one of the volleyball program’s highest-ranked senior classes to ever step foot on the court. The Eagles won two straight sectional titles and, last year, advanced to the state title game after a Far West Regional victory.

Only senior libero Brad Owens remains from the starting six, while freshman Devin Joslyn and sophomore Kyle Wishman will be looked to in sharing setting duties, as well as passing and hitting. Sophomore Nathan Myers and junior Tyler Becker will play in the middle and juniors Gabriel Carruth and Michael Roach will bring athleticism and versatility to the outside, according to head coach John Coyle. Rounding out the roster are Steven Budniewski, Andrew Busch, Joe Nappo, Steven Duruski, Stone Garlow and Christian Gravius.

Frontier returns much of a team that battled Orchard Park to a five-game Class A championship match and looks to bring back the sectional crown the program won in 2010 and `11. Captains Dylan Durni and Jake Gleason, both Second Team All-Western New York selections, will play major roles in Frontier’s chance at a title.

Durni, a senior coming off a season in which he led the team in kills, has already been named all-tournament at Eden. Gleason, a four-year varsity junior, led the team in aces and assists. Also expected to be key players in head coach Bill Faust’s rotation are seniors Erik Hatten, who moves from middle hitter to opposite, after finishing second on the team in kills; Jeffrey Taylor, an outside hitter who played opposite last year, and Peter Lotecki, who led the squad in digs as its libero. Also, senior Tom Stoklosa, a standout in swimming and baseball, has joined the team this season and already become a factor at middle hitter. Newcomers include Tyler Tomasik, Matthew Buss, Andrew Heppner and Josh Zdon.

St. Francis has one of the most experienced teams in Andy Lanigan’s seven seasons, since taking over the program he once played for, but fellow Monsignor Martin teams St. Joe’s and Canisius are two of the top three ranked teams in WNY. Lanigan said he is hoping his team can rise to the challenge in the league, using a difficult schedule, heavily stacked with road games to start the season, to ready for the postseason.

Among six seniors on the team are three-year starting middle hitter Tom Duszkiewicz, a Second Team All-Catholic selection last year, and Jack Moretti, one of the taller setters in WNY who is also another weapon on offense. At outside hitter are two three-year starters in the taller Dave Kennedy and shorter Nick Novak, who Lanigan joked are like Mutt and Jeff, but both can sky into the air. Also returning to a starting spot is sophomore libero Jack Kaempf, who is back after breaking his arm, last season.

Key dates on St. Francis’ schedule include Sept. 26 for the Rock the Red Homecoming Game against St. Joe’s and then Oct. 2 for the annual Blackout Game against 13-time defending league champion Canisius. St. Francis, which took second at the Cheektowaga Tournament, will also play in the Hamburg Invitational on Oct. 19.

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