Never having won a Section VI title in its history, Lockport took on some cliches as well as a ton of competition.
Coach Joe Whalen said his Lions were not a surprise team, they didn’t back into winning, and they didn’t sneak up on anyone. Lockport enjoyed success because it was a complete team with 16 players who were talented enough that they could spread the ball around.
Junior Jason Donorovich, a 6-foot-8 middle, may have been identified as the team’s lone All-Western New York pick, but Whalen said that has been graciously accepted as “a team honor.” The All-WNY team is in its 31st year.
“We didn’t have a mystic, we accomplished what no other team in Lockport has done because we had a very solid volleyball squad in all aspects of the game,” Whalen said. “You can win with one or two stars, but you can also win with six-seven players who are good teammates. That must have been what we were.”
Lockport finished with a school-record 24 wins against four losses, eventually beating Frontier in the Section VI Class A final. They lost early to Clarence, West Seneca West and St. Joe’s and then put a 16-match winning streak together before their season came to an end in the Far West Regionals.
Donorovich was the type of player who made coaches rethink their approach. Focus on him too much in the middle and Lockport could move the ball to its strong outside hitters.
Lockport finished 12-0 in the Niagara Frontier League, winning 11 of the matches in three games. The postseason wins also came in three games.
“We’re very proud of that,” Whalen said. “We were not a one-man team, we had a very solid squad with 11 seniors and we used them all as well as we could.”
Hamburg won the Class B title and finished as the No. 1-ranked team in Western New York in the final coaches poll. The Bulldogs and Canisius had two picks each. Dylan Durni of Frontier and Tony Podgorsak of Williamsville South are up from last year’s second team.
Canisius won its 14th playoff and regular-season title in the Monsignor Martin Association. They won the Midlakes Tournament in Rochester and placed second at Penfield and Hamburg. At Penfield they beat the eventual state Division I champion, Fairport, in the semifinals.
Coach Tom Weislo said his team had another terrific season while playing a tough schedule. He cited wins over Fairport, and a close loss in three games to eventual Division II state champion Victor.
Senior setter Brian Costello was the only repeat pick on the eight-man All-WNY team chosen by area coaches. He was named to three all-tournament teams. “He was able to isolate our hitters against opposing blockers,” Weislo said. “He’s a deceptive setter, hard for opponents to read, we were able to get a lot of one-on-ones.”
Junior outside hitter Trevor Gooch led Canisius in kills and hit .350 for the year. In the MMA championship match against rival St. Joe’s, he had 32 kills.
“He had a tendency to play really well in big games,” Weislo said.
Canisius’ 22-5 record included nonleague wins over Clarence, Frontier, Eden and West Seneca West. Around the nets
Winning league or playoff titles were: Section VI Class A: Lockport (24-4); Section VI Class B: Hamburg (26-3); ECIC I: West Seneca West/Hamburg (11-1); ECIC II: Williamsville South (12-0); ECIC III: Eden (12-0); Niagara Frontier League: Lockport (12-0); Monsignor Martin: Canisius (7-1).
Brett Widman of West Seneca West, who has been building the program for the past eight seasons, was named the WNY Coach of the Year by his peers. The Indians finished co-champs of ECIC I and were 14-3 overall.
Senior outside hitter Evan Koehler represents West on All-WNY. He led the team’s attack from the back row and was that go-to player when they needed points at the end of games. The 6.0 kills he averaged per set included a 21-kill night against Lancaster in a five-game thriller.
Of the 11 local weekend tournaments, Lockport and Hamburg won three each, and Will South won two.