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Eden's volleyball captain pays tribute to her coach

Here is the complete letter sent by Eden senior girls volleyball player and captain Heather Feldman to PrepVolleyball.com in support of her coach, Stephen Pierce.

Pierce was named the website's co-National Coach of the Year, which I wrote about in the Prep Talk column in Tuesday's Scholastic Spotlight.

Here's an A-plus of a letter of support:

"Mr. Pierce has been coaching at Eden for a very long time. In that span, he has made Eden the premier girls’ volleyball program in the state. His teams have been ranked first in the state for countless years, and he has won seven state titles as a head coach, the most of any coach in New York State girls’ volleyball history. With his seventh title as a head coach this past season, he passed the legendary coach Sally Kus of Sweet Home as the winningest head coach in the state.

“This past August, when looking towards the fall season, I was worried. As a program, we lost the best senior class in Eden's history, with four fantastic players graduating: Hannah Herc (Kent State), Hailee Herc (Stony Brook), Stacey Smith (Georgia), and Katie Eschner (Roberts Wesleyan). These All-Western New York players were the cream of the crop. They not only brought high-level play to the team, they brought leadership and big game experience that was hard to match. All four had played in extremely high-pressure situations, from a Game 5 in the state finals to a match with an Open bid on the line. You can't teach that; it comes with playing a long time. And in a school like Eden, which graduates approximately 140 students per grade level, we don't have the biggest talent pool to pull from.

“I was the only one returning from last year’s team, which had been talked about by many as being the best team New York has ever seen. I was a little apprehensive going into preseason. We would be young and inexperienced, with two freshmen and a sophomore middle, who had only played on JV up to this point, starting. Let's just say that after the first two-a-day practice, I was still worried. The team was rough around the edges. The chemistry wasn't there, and the skill level necessary to compete at a high level wasn't there either.

“That's where Mr. Pierce comes in. He has coached so many teams: ones that are great, ones that don't have the best worth ethic, ones that are old and experienced, ones that are young. No matter what he has to work with any given year, he makes a state power out of them. Mr. Pierce's teams have been ranked by Prepvolleyball since who knows when. I've been a member of four of them, with one even being ranked as high as 16 in the rankings. We play the toughest schedule in the state, and also consistently host the best tournament in the state at Eden. You can't have the best tournament in the state without having a program people respect, and Mr. Pierce has created that. He is the greatest coach I've ever had, and I've had quite a few throughout my club years. He is the perfect blend of toughness and fun. He really pushes you on the court. Heck, there are some days after a practice that you hate the man, but he makes you a better player, no question. I'd rather have him yelling at me any day of the week, than have someone else be my coach. But the yelling he does is constructive. He actively coaches in every match or practice we have, always pushing us to strive for our best, and he lets us know when we're not giving 100 percent. He instills in his teams that will to win that some teams don't quite have. That heart and determination is what puts Eden teams into the upper echelon in New York.

“This year, with a young inexperienced team that no one thought would do any damage in the state, Mr. Pierce made us state champions. Prepvolleyball didn't even have our team on the "Teams to Watch" state by state list at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year, Mr. Pierce had us once again the highest ranked team in New York State and the only one in the top 100. That's impressive. We won not just a state title; we won one in the hardest class in New York State by far. Class B was a dogfight: between us, Hendrick Hudson, and John Glenn, teams that during the season had each been the top team in the state. In fact, we lost to both Hen Hud and John Glenn during tournaments in the regular season. Yet, Mr. Pierce has always said that what matters is how you finish. And boy, did we go out with a bang! A great coach prepares you to play your absolute best when it really matters, and that's what we did. We took those losses, used them as motivation, and played our best game of the season in the state finals. Most teams would be nervous in a high-pressure situation like states, but Mr. Pierce prepared us so well that you couldn't feel nervous. Adrenaline, sure, but never real nerves. We knew if we played our game we would win, even if no one thought we would. We believed in ourselves, and more importantly, Mr. Pierce believed in us, and no one else mattered.

“Mr. Pierce has meant more to me than just another high school coach; he's my mentor and almost like a second dad to me. He really helped me with my recruiting process in more ways that could be expected. He would make calls and send emails to coaches, trying to get my name out there, and I am forever grateful for that. I am also grateful that he made my senior season the best it could be. I came home from Glens Falls a state champion for the fourth time in five years. I became the NYS Gatorade POY. None of that could have been possible without Mr. Pierce; I owe him so much.

“Honestly, I cannot imagine a better candidate than Mr. Pierce. He is an amazing coach who can take just about anyone and make her an amazing volleyball player. He did that to me, and I am forever grateful. He's the reason that I love the sport as much as I do. He's the reason why our program is so well respected. He's the reason I can call myself a state champion.”

---Keith McShea

buffalonews.com/high-schools     facebook.com/preptalkblog     twitter.com/bufnewspreptalk

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Eden | Volleyball
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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

@KeithMcSheaBN | kmcshea@buffnews.com

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