The top-ranked team in Western New York boys volleyball became McQuaid’s latest victim, and Lake Shore is headed to its first-ever state championship game.
Orchard Park, the No. 1 large school, put up an admirable fight but fell to imposing Section V squad McQuaid, which has won 51 straight matches and two consecutive state titles. Meanwhile, led by a group of passionate seniors, the Lake Shore Eagles asserted their will against the Rochester-area Brighton Barons. The Class A and B Far West Regionals were played at Orchard Park High School on Saturday afternoon.
The Class A matchup was a battle of heavyweights. McQuaid won 3-1 – 25-22, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23 – after holding on in a pressure-packed, back-and-forth final set. The match seemed like it could have gone either way, and the Knights and Quakers had evident respect for each other afterward.
“It sounds corny, but we tell them: ‘Play for each other, have fun, do what you’re prepared to do,’ ” said McQuaid head coach Christopher Parks. “It sounds over-simplified, but it is that simple. Absolutely. OP is an unbelievable team.”
Orchard Park won the Section VI title with a five-set comeback win over Fredonia at Lake Shore on Wednesday night.
“We’ve come a long way since we played [McQuaid] in an Eden tournament, and we knew we had to pass and serve very hard to beat them,” said Quakers co-coach Matt Lexner. “It threw them off a little bit. I think if we could have blocked a little better things would have been different, but they’re tremendous.”
OP struggled at the net as McQuaid’s twin towers – 6-foot-7 senior Christy Blough and 6-foot-5 junior Colby Harriman – swatted and spiked like mad men.
In the afternoon’s first showdown, Lake Shore came out of the gates fired up. Its usually stoic leaders – seniors Ryan Joslyn and Billy Pinter – were screaming from the game’s first point. Brighton owned a dramatic size advantage, but the Eagles used their speed and athleticism to win in straight sets, 25-22, 26-24, 25-22.
“Our intensity is the best it’s been all year,” said Lake Shore head coach John Coyle. “Key plays, we’re going at it, and we’re playing loose.”
Lake Shore last won the Far West Regionals in 1995. All six of the Eagles’ starters are seniors.
“They were huge,” Coyle said. “They’ve been the core of this team for the last three years and I’m so happy for them. They play a lot of club ball and take it pretty seriously. They work well as a unit and they’re good friends. This is just fantastic for them.”
Lake Shore will play in the Class B state championship game, which is in its third year of existence, next Sunday at 4 p.m. in Glens Falls.
McQuaid will enter pool play at the same location Saturday and Sunday, and the two teams that emerge from the pack of champions will play for the Class A state title.