High School Boys Volleyball: Frontier, Lake Shore take underdog route back to the finals
While both teams may have had their doubters at times this season, Frontier and Lake Shore each advanced for the opportunity to defend their sectional titles.
Minus five starters from last season, a revamped Frontier took a more difficult path to the Class A final but nonetheless is back. The third seed in Class A won a big ECIC I regular season finale at Clarence to receive a favorable sectional draw and took care of a pair of Niagara Frontier League teams — Kenmore West in the quarterfinals and Lockport in the semifinals.
Third-seeded Lake Shore survived a huge early test against Class B’s favorite Hamburg by sweeping the sectional quarterfinal in three games before taking care of Williamsville South in similar fashion to advance to the final.
Lake Shore will meet the NFL’s Kenmore East in the Class B final on Wednesday (Nov. 6) in the first of a doubleheader starting at 6 p.m. at the Eagles' home court in Angola. Frontier will take a third try at Orchard Park this season in a rematch of last year’s final won by the Falcons. Top-seeded Orchard Park won both of the matches this year. The winners will move forward to play in the Far West Regionals on Saturday (Nov. 10) at Orchard Park.
“I’m really proud; we graduated five senior starters and still were coming back to the final,” said Frontier head coach Bill Faust, whose teams have won the past two seasons. “I think the guys are excited. I don’t know if they’re surprised. We knew going in there was the potential to get a good draw.”
Frontier finished tied for second place in ECIC I but won the tiebreaker thanks to beating Clarence twice and therefore received the third seed, avoiding division champion and top-seeded Orchard Park until a potential meeting in the final.
Frontier cruised by Kenmore West, then was challenged through the first four games by a tall and athletic second-seeded Lockport before clinching the match with a Game Four come-from-behind win. The Falcons got the better of the play in the first and third games and Lockport did the same in Game’s Two and Four. Frontier led for only the final two points in taking Game Four, 25-23.
Faust said third-year sophomore varsity starter Jake Gleason helped spark the team with a dunk for a kill on a much taller opponent. Junior middle Erik Hatten also notched a crowd-pleasing kill late in Game Four. Junior outside Dylan Durni recorded the game-winning kill, while seniors Spencer Avery and Derek Hosken continued to provide Frontier with steady play from the outside and middle, respectively.
“We’re the underdog for the first time in a long time, so we need to play that way giving a little extra on attack and being tough with our serve,” Faust noted.
The Eagles pulled a reversal on Hamburg, which had beaten them in a three-game sweep during the regular season, with the help of a change in how the offense was run.
Lake Shore switched from a 5-1 to a 6-2, using two setters, which has allowed Billy Pinter to take more swings and the offense to be more balanced, consistent and distributed between all six players on the floor. Ryan Joslyn, the Eagles’ top hitter, moved to the second setter spot to share that responsibility with Pinter.
The change in strategy worked like a charm. Working on it since losing that match around mid-season, Lake Shore’s new strategy opened up the floor, helped nullify Hamburg’s size advantage and did not allow any one player to be keyed on.
“I thought if we ever saw them again, we would be better prepared if we sped up the game, were able to block more and opened up holes for more hitters,” Lake Shore head coach John Coyle said. “Our attack has become a lot more balanced; it’s not just one sided.”
While Joslyn still led Lake Shore in the match with 16 kills and eight blocks, Pinter was able to add 12 kills, Connor Govenettio contributed six kills and six blocks and Clark Brueckl, five kills and seven blocks. A smaller Eagles squad wound up with 21 blocks.
“They were going after Joslyn quite a bit, so we reassessed the way we were doing things,” Coyle said. “Billy is a fantastic athlete and hitter but we didn’t think we had anyone else who could run that role. Ryan has learned really quickly. Billy being able to do some more hitting is really big for us.”
Against South, Pinter led the Eagles with 10 kills and Joslyn added eight. Also with seven kills were Dane Cala, Tyler Freeman, Brueckl and Govenettio. Lake Shore played 14 matches against ECIC II foes without losing any games this season.
Coyle likes how five or six players have had at least five or six kills in each match. He’s even noticed that his players’ hitting percentage has gone up and so has the dig percentages because the Eagles’ block has also been more impactful.
“We’re so spread out on offense now,” Coyle said. “It’s a nightmare for blockers against us. When you open it up like that, it makes it harder on a defense.”