Whalen's boys volleyball Lions taking on a similar type team in many ways.
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
CLIFTON SPRINGS, N.Y. —
A pair of high school boys volleyball programs with interesting similarities will meet this afternoon for a chance to advance to the state tournament pool play and finals next Friday.
The Section VI-champion Lockport Lions will take on the Section V-champion Fairport Red Raiders at 4 p.m. today at Midlakes High School in the state’s Far West Regionals. The winner will compete in the state tourney finals at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Nov. 15.
Head coach John O’Dell’s No. 2 Red Raiders made history on Thursday by defeating top-seeded McQuaid 25-21, 26-24, 22-25, 25-22 at Webster Schroeder High School to win the Section V Class A title, their first sectional championship in program history.
Head coach Joe Whalen’s No. 2 Lions also made history this week, claiming their first-ever Section VI Class A title with a straight-set, 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 victory Wednesday over No. 5 Frontier at Hamburg High School.
Fairport, like Lockport, features a senior-laden roster with 12 on the team (The Lions have 11 seniors), led by 6-3 senior setter Mitch Kennedy, who was named Most Valuable Player of the V Tournament, recording 25 assists in the finals.
Topping the Red Raiders in kills against the three-pete-champion Knights were 6-5 junior outside hitter Jamie Wolmering (18 kills) and 6-3 senior middle hitter Josh Holm (14 kills).
Whalen said despite the similarities, there are significant differences in the two programs and two sections for that matter.
“In Section V, they play a much more aggressive serving type of game than we do here in Section VI. Everyone jump serves. We have a lot more float servers in our league and on our team,” said Whalen, who witnessed the V title match in person. “Fairport has a real good serving team. That will be one of our challenges — to meet their serving with good passing. They have some height as well. They don’t have anyone as tall as Jason (Lockport’s 6-8 middle hitter Donorovich), but they have a couple of good players with height.”
Among the keys to victory for the Lions today is getting past Fairport’s strong serving. Lockport is led by First Team All-NFL all-stars Donorovich and Brad Schneider, both juniors, and senior libero Eamon Yates; Second Team All-NFL all-stars Jack Whalen and Bryce Perry, both seniors; and Third Team All-NFL all-stars Shawn Moore and Jonah Ribbeck, also seniors.
“Beyond the serves, if we get onto a hard game and pass their balls fine, we can compete with them and match up with them,” Whalen said. “We’re a better blocking team and they’re a stronger serving team. Wolmering is a cool cookie. He’s good and they’ll go to him a lot. Their setter Kennedy and libero are also good players.
“They’ve got a great program and I enjoyed watching them,” Whalen said. “I told my kids, ‘You don’t get to the state finals by walking by everyone. You have to play the game of your life every match. Don’t assume these guys are going to be a walk in the park.’ “
The Lions will leave by bus at 12:45 p.m. today and arrive at Midlakes about two hours later, Whalen said.
“They’re going to play their hardest,” Whalen said. “These kids appreciate a good squad, but they’re not awed. And they appreciate the experience they’re going through. I’m personally more relaxed for this match than I was for the sectional finals match. Our goal was never to get to states. It was only to get to sectionals and be that team. Everything from here on in is like gravy. From now on, we’re playing for ourselves and we’ll see what happens.”