High School Girls Volleyball: Immaculata Academy all in on winning ways
Frontier finishes as runner-up at N.T. Tourney
It was a night to celebrate the leadership of two senior volleyball players that have helped the resurgence of volleyball at Immaculata, yet Bailey Gawley deferred to her team as a whole when pinpointing the key to another successful season as the Monsignor Martin playoffs approach with a potential state playoff berth once again on the line.
“Even though we’re supposed to be the leaders as seniors, I feel like the whole team has emerged as a leader,” said the senor middle hitter as she stood next to fellow upperclassmen Rachel Moll. “If someone’s down, everyone will pick them up; it’s not just one person or the senior.”
Even though eight of the 10 varsity players are underclassmen, Gawley knows the group of youngsters has been just as key to a 12-1 season, in addition to a tournament title in Starpoint, since most of them have experienced what it was like to compete and win at the varsity level last season, as well.
The Bears lost only two seniors from last season, so the foundation was merely being built when they surprised many with a trip to the Monsignor Martin final and by earning a state tournament berth.
“Most of us are returning players, so we’ve really got to improve on our skills, as a team,” Gawley said. “I think we have really great chemistry as a team and play really well together. We talk, which is good, and are all friends outside of volleyball, which helps on the court.”
Immaculata finished off its home schedule on Tuesday’s (Oct. 16) Senior Night with a three-game sweep of Nardin, 25-21, 25-21, 25-15. The evening was also an opportunity for the program to hold its annual “Dig Pink” event which raises funds for cancer research.
“I think we’re doing great and have really come along,” Moll said afterward. “We’re the seniors and they look up to us, so we can’t let them down.”
This season, the Bears have also played and many times matched the best of the large and small schools at tournaments and non-league matches, not to mention playing against St. Mary’s in both Monsignor Martin and tournament play. The Lancers won the first league match between the two.
Defending state champion St. Mary’s has held the WNY small school top spot for virtually the entire season. The two teams meet again Oct. 24 and look earmarked for a league finals rematch next month.
“We’ve played some of the top teams really tough — we split against St. Mary’s at the Frontier Tournament; and went neck and neck with (defending Class AA champion) Orchard Park, (State Class C champion) Eden and some of the other top teams in the area,” Immaculata fourth-year head coach Kyle Shanley said.
Shanley pointed out that the two seniors’ importance in that can’t and shouldn’t be downplayed. Both are four-year varsity contributors, who are the most opposing of the team’s players at the net. Moll leads the team with about 160 kills and Gawley is not far behind. Against Nardin, Gawley notched seven kills and Moll, four blocks.
“Both of them are big, big leaders on the court and we utilize them early and often, as much as we can,” Shanley said. “They’re both proven players and leaders.”
Also in the win over Nardin, sophomore setter Sarah Bain dished out 32 assists and junior libero Allyson Massimi earned 16 digs. Junior outside hitter Samantha Grasso laid the boom on a number of kills from her outside hitter spot and went on a service run that helped end a close Game Two.
For an Immaculata squad which prides itself on the ability to serve, junior Jordan DeMartino is closing in on the single-season record for aces. She now has 42, just nine away from the record. Rachel’s sister, Riley Moll, who is the other sophomore on the team, has been able to add some height and punch to the front row.
Despite what seems a daunting task for Immaculata in trying to beat St. Mary’s, Shanley and his seniors seem confident.
“Well, I’m hoping to win. We definitely can win,” Gawley said. “We have to be on with our serving and keep up the intensity. That’s one problem we have sometimes, but if we can do that, we can beat them.”
Shanley harkens back to the infamous words of hockey coach Herb Brooks, who led the United States to an upset of Russia in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. Brooks once said, “One game. If we played ‘em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight.”
“A lot of it is just in the name (of your opponent),” Shanley said. “If you can get over that hump and play your game — the way you designed it, you can beat teams like that.”
Many of the elite programs from Western New York participated in last week’s North Tonawanda Tournament. Frontier exhibited that its right there at the top with the best of them, coming out of the competition on Saturday (Oct. 13) as a tournament finalist.
The Falcons played a solid tournament, according to their head coach Deb Schreufer. They finished pool play 5-1 and then defeated Grand Island in the quarterfinal and Hamburg in the semifinal before succumbing to Orchard Park in the final. Junior standout Syd Rojek was named to the all-tournament team.
That was part of a week that had already including two wins in as many tries as Frontier defeated both West Seneca West and Scared Heart. The Falcons look good as they prepare for postseason play, Schruefer noted. They’ll finish off ECIC Division I play with three touch matches against Lancaster, Hamburg and Orchard Park.
On Friday, Oct. 19 the team will celebrate its five seniors — captain Rachel Bartosz, Hannah Booth, Lindsey Kaznowski, Nicole Pietrus and Amanda Michels, before its match with Sweet Home. The next day, Frontier will travel to the Rochester-area to compete in the Pitt-Sutherland Tournament.