Lockport boys volleyball team advances to VI semifinals
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
It’s difficult to tell which took a bigger beating in Thursday night’s Section VI Class A boys volleyball quarterfinal at LHS — the visiting Kenmore West Blue Devils or the ball itself.
Led by junior skyscraper Jason Donorovich, the No. 2-seeded Lockport Lions unleashed a plethora of chilling monster smashes, demonic high-flying kills, supernatural diving digs and soaring, spine-chilling serves to defeat the No. 7 Blue Devils in straight sets on Halloween, 25-9, 25-5, 25-21.
With the victory, head coach Joe Whalen’s Lions advance to host Saturday’s 3 p.m. VI large school semifinal contest against No. 3 Clarence,
“On Saturday, we’ll need to bring the same amount of intensity as we brought to the first two games tonight,” said the highly-recruited 6-feet, 8-inch Lions stalwart Donorovich (12 kills, 7 blocks), whose grown three-to-four inches in the past two years. “We bring a lot of intensity to all of our practices and especially as of late. We don’t take practices lightly and I think that’s helped us.”
Lockport senior John Traversone (4 kills, 2 blocks) said the Lions have more than height and skill on their side.
“We work together real well because we have great chemistry,” Traversone said. “Having so many seniors on the team plays a big role. There’s no other team is like us. We can put in our second string and they work well with the first stringers because we practice that way every day. We play every game as if it’s our last — hard and respectfully.”
Coach Whalen said his thought process before the match was sticking with his starting lineup throughout.
“Then in the second game I thought, ‘I’ve had a couple of kids who’ve been working hard in practice. I’d like to see them get a shot out there’ and they went out and did their job — some of the other ones lost their focus, but not them,” coach Whalen said.
“I’m not complaining about it, but I’d like to see that loss of focus not happen. We ran a faster offense tonight — that’s something we’ve been working on. I thought Jay played well at the net and in general, except for the third game where there was some lapse in concentration, I thought we played pretty well.”
The match was never in doubt as the Lions pounced on the Blue Devils from the start and except for a brief moment in the third game, thoroughly dominated the action in every way.
Closing out the first game with his trademark rocket serve was Lions’ junior all-star Brad Schneider, who finished with 10 kills and a half dozen service aces.
“Brad Schneider: “Our passing was good, our setting was great and our serving was good,” Schneider said. “We kept the pressure on their side of the court. At the same time, our blocking could get a little better and we could run more combinations to keep blockers on the other side of the net more confused.”
The Lions went on to dominate the second set in even bigger fashion, getting steady play from the entire line-up, especially seniors Jack Whalen, Jonah Ribbeck, Bryce Perry, Shawn Moore, Brad Wroblewski and Ryan Guyton, who said Lockport’s large (11) senior contingent isn’t quite ready yet to call it a career.
“The win feels great because we came out with a lot of energy tonight and knew we had to play our best game,” Guyton said. “Knowing if we lose it would be the final match of our high school careers made us want to win even more and put it all on the floor.”
Added Jack Whalen, “It’s an awesome win, of course, but we’ve been to the semifinals before, so were expecting nothing less. This year, we’d like to go further.”
Blue Devils (2-14 overall) head coach Gary Tocke said the better team prevailed, but the scores did not indicate how hard his team worked throughout the match.
“We played Lockport two times before this, so I was proud of the effort we gave knowing how good they are,” Tocke said. “Our kids covered a lot of balls, but the bottom line is Lockport is a far superior team and they played very well and that’s why they were victorious.”
The future looks bright for Kenmore West, who will benefit next season from the return of three key players, junior libero Nick Atala, junior middle hitter Joe Gardon and freshman setter Adam Pray.
Clarence spotted No. 6 Orchard Park an opening set lead before rebounding to win their home quarterfinal on Thursday, 3-1. Brandon Hill led Clarence with 13 kills and 14 digs, while Dale Payne added 11 kills.
In the other Class A boys volleyball quarterfinals on Thursday, top-seeded West Seneca West beat No. 8 Niagara Falls in straight sets. On Saturday, they’ll host No. 5 Frontier, a 3-1 winner Thursday at No. 4 Lancaster.