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High School Boys Volleyball: Lake Shore takes step forward in reaching state final

Billy Pinter and a senior-led group had been building toward a big 2012 season for the Lake Shore boys volleyball program. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Eagles head to states after lessons from last year
By Steve Dlugosz

Having the experience of last year’s run to the Far West Regional match, a senior-led Lake Shore squad was ready to take its next step.

The Eagles captured their first regional title since 1995 with a 3-0 sweep of Brighton of Section V on Saturday (Nov. 10) at Orchard Park High School, winning tense, well-played sets by scores of 25-22, 26-24 and 25-22.

Lake Shore had also advanced to the Far West Regional round last year after winning a Section VI title before losing. Eagles head coach John Coyle said this year’s Lake Shore squad, comprised of several third-year athletes, learned a lesson from last season.

“We were here last year, and I think we may have just been happy to be there,” Coyle said, following an on-court celebration between Lake Shore players and fans. “This year, we were (ready to win)…Our intensity is at the best it’s been all year. We’re playing loose… Section V volleyball is just as strong as Section VI, and we knew (Brighton) would hit some swings against us… It’s a really nice win for our program.”

Now, the ultimate team accomplishment is within reach this weekend. A Division II New York State championship will be on the line this Sunday, Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. at the Glens Falls Civic Center, with Lake Shore representing Section VI in the Class B title match against a team yet to be determined prior to the edition’s deadline. Eastport-South Manor of Section 11 was slated to play Tuesday night against Nassau County Division II champion Bellmore JFK in a semifinal match to determine who advances to face Lake Shore.

The Eagles received key plays at big moments and never allowed the Barons to score more than five consecutive points in any game. The locals tried their best to follow Coyle’s “Rule of Three,” minimizing the times an opponent scores more than two points in a row on serve.

Senior three-year varsity starters Ryan Joslyn, Billy Pinter and Connor Govenettio again led the way for Lake Shore, while senior impact players Dane Cala, Clark Brueckl and Tyler Freeman also made contributions. Joslyn recorded 18 kills, while Pinter notched 12 kills, Govenettio, seven, Cala, six, and Brueckl, five.

Playing with controlled emotion and using effective spaced setting, Lake Shore canceled out Brighton’s considerable height advantage up front, particularly from 6-6 attacker Michael Hansen, to take an early lead. Brighton came off a win over Midlakes in the Section V final.

In Game One, Lake Shore led by as many as five before Brighton closed to within 21-20 late. However, following a Lake Shore timeout, Pinter responded with an emphatic spike. An impressive dig by Govenettio later led to a point and a 24-20 lead, before Lake Shore closed it out.

In the second game, Lake Shore regrouped during a timeout trailing 13-10 and responded with a 11-6 run to grab the lead. After Coyle called another timeout with the score knotted at 22, Cala and Govenettio responded each with huge kills. Pinter gave the locals a 25-24 lead with an emphatic spike and Brueckl finished the set with a crowd-pleasing block of a Baron swing.

A back-and-forth Game Three featured several powerful kills by Joslyn to help keep Lake Shore within striking distance. Freeman stepped up with a huge point on a tip at the net to tie the game at 21. Then, a serve by Pinter hung on the net for a brief moment before falling over for an ace.

Now leading by one point, Freeman extended the advantage to 23-21 with a block at the net. With Eagles fans standing and cheering in anticipation, Govenettio completed the sweep for Lake Shore with a finishing kill.

“It’s such a great feeling. I can’t believe it,” said Govenettio after Lake Shore advanced in the Far West round. “Momentum is so huge in this game, and we grabbed it pretty early.”

Joslyn stressed the importance of Lake Shore’s team togetherness and knowing each other’s tendencies on the court.

“It’s like a family,” he said. “We’ve played club together for years and have good chemistry…We sort of let (Brighton) back in it, but held them off. As (the match) went on, we wanted to keep it under control.”

Coyle was proud to see his team’s core players develop over the years to help lift the program and put it on the cusp of making school history.

Pinter, Joslyn lead senior group to sectional title repeat
By Michael J. Petro

John Coyle remembers Billy Pinter’s first varsity action during the playoffs as a freshman and then when classmates Ryan Joslyn and Connor Govenettio joined the future standout setter as sophomore starters on the varsity the next season.

Lake Shore’s head coach knew the potential for the program’s future looked very good. Throw in three more players from that class on varsity last season and the Eagles were ready to become a winner on the big stage.

With those six, now seniors on the varsity, the third-seeded Eagles again did not disappoint, earning a second straight Section VI title, sweeping No. 4 Kenmore East (25-16, 25-19, 25-20) on their home floor as hosts of the boys volleyball championship doubleheader on Nov. 7.

Last year, Lake Shore won the title as an up-and-coming group that became a favorite to pull through, but this year, the Eagles played a little bit more of an underdog role despite a second straight unbeaten league season.

“I’m proud that this group of seniors suck it out,” Coyle said. “I remember bringing Billy up for sectional play and then bringing up some of the other guys as sophomores. It started from there and kept building and building and now this is a nice little crescendo for them. They really topped out. It’s a fitting ending (to sectional play) for this group of kids.”

Even after the thrill of winning a second straight sectional title, a playoff-turning quarterfinal match still loomed large on the team’s mind.

If it weren’t for what some perceived as an upset over Hamburg two rounds earlier, the Eagles would have never been in the position to repeat. Because of seeding by power points, Hamburg, which played in a higher division, dropped to No. 6 and what would have probably been a rematch of last year’s championship match happened way earlier in the Round of Eight. The Bulldogs had beaten Lake Shore in a sweep when the two non-league foes met during the regular season.

“It obviously feels great to get this one,” Pinter said after the final. “This year, beating Hamburg to get here was obviously a big one, but we were going to have to beat them anyway, so we were just lucky to get it out of the way early. We played our game against Hamburg and ran a quick offense and set the pace mostly.”

However, Lake Shore was no underdog after that win and wound up facing a Kenmore East team that had upset its way to the final. Though East matched Lake Shore’s defensive intensity, it was no match for the Eagles’ firepower.

With Pinter and Joslyn both being slowed by illnesses, the depth from the senior class shined through as Govenettio recorded a team-high 11 kills hitting from the outside, while two-year starter Dane Cala added seven kills. Fellow seniors Clark Brueckl and Tyler Freeman also made some key contributions.

Pinter added nine kills and Joslyn, eight, as both also shared the setter responsibility in the team’s 6-2 set which was designed around mid-season to take the pressure off one or two particular players and spread the wealth on offense.

“We worked through the year on balancing things out and moving the ball around,” Coyle said. “A lot of teams were keying on Ryan and then we got Billy in the mix and they started keying on him, but we got other guys open on the outside and spread out our offense a little bit to find the holes.”

The new offensive alignment also gave an athletic Pinter the chance to take more swings and added yet another weapon to the Eagles’ arsenal.

“Halfway through the season we started a 6-2 and I got to swing on the outside,” said Pinter, whose team went to the new set after that loss to Hamburg. “It’s felt good to swing again.”

After a slow start to the East match, Lake Shore scored the final 12 of 15 points to end Game One. It led comfortably throughout Game Two until East made a late run to cut the advantage to 20-17. The Eagles finished strong with Brueckl recording the final two kills in the second game.

East jumped out to a 7-5 advantage and was tied at 12 apiece in Game Three, before Pinter rattled off five points on his dominant jump serve to put Lake Shore up by six. The Eagles finished the game with consecutive kills from Joslyn, Pinter and Govenettio and got a Pinter block on match point.

“(East) played well defensively. They were tough on us,” Pinter said. “On a lot of our good swings, they were getting up on us and sending us free balls back over the net. But when we got those seconds opportunities we were putting most of those away.”

Coyle was impressed with the block of East, especially since, like his team, the Bulldogs lacked much height. He also noted that East did a good job in motion.

“They got this far for a reason,” Coyle said. “I told my guys they’re going to play hard. They want to knock you off. We’re the higher seeded team and we’re at home. There’s that added pressure. We were kind of tight in the beginning and throughout much of the match, but we got some big performances in the end.”

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