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Live from ESG Day Two: Wins for Western women in softball, soccer, field hockey and volleyball

It's Day Two of the Empire State Games, and I'll keep you updated here with my travels and any news.

Later on, Amanda Bremer will have her post going from the media center with more results, and we'll have additional posts through the day from other reporters in the field.

I won't be running around like a lunatic like I did yesterday, but I still have my work cut out for me. I'm going to try and catch up with not only Williamsville North girls hoop coach Clare Crowley, but all four of her players who are involved in the Games. The kicker is that all four are playing different sports, and none of them are playing hoops. Can't make this stuff up. 

The girls are Corrine Genovese (softball), Allie Ahern (field hockey), Jenny Piaggione (soccer) and Nikki Attea (volleyball).

9:40 a.m. There's rain coming down and I'll soon find out if any events are delayed. Based on past experience, if it remains a light rain, most, if not all, events will muddle through. Lightning is the big thing that can delay the Games. Knock on wood. 

I'm headed to field hockey first to talk to Allie Ahern of Williamsville North. They're playing a 9 a.m. game. After that I'm headed to a media fitness challenge at UB. Insert punchline here.

10:44 a.m. Western field hockey wins, 2-0, over Central to bounce back from an opening loss to always-tough Hudson Valley. 

Western got several great saves from Tara Lamberti (Pittsford) in the final minutes as Central kept pushing. Catherine Willard of Pittsford scored on an assist from Shannon Martin of Williamsville 20:31 into the first half while Williamsville's Emily Woods added a goal 24:43 into the second half. 

I talked with Allie Ahern, who is verbally committed to Michigan State, about her experience in the Games with all of here Williamsville North crew -- she said she watched Corrine Genovese play softball yesterday and was headed to volleyball to watch Nikki Attea today (I think I'll be at those games as well).

Now it's off to BlueCross BlueShield's fitness challenge. I just saw videographer extraordinare James Acton heading in so I know the competition is big-time. News Reporter Charlie Specht is also in the competition -- which I think is unfair because I think he is a decade younger than me. Here we go -- I've been typing on my laptop in the parking lot by UB Stadium, but I'm heading over. The course, which fans can participate in for prizes tomorrow) is in a field next to the lot -- you can't miss it on your drive to the track venue.

The important thing is that I'm competing for the $500 prize for charity on behalf of the Tom Borrelli Memorial Award and Scholarship Fund.

12:17 p.m. Time to catch up on a few things.

The weather report: Right now there is a very slight drizzle coming down on my car as I type in the parking lot of the Audubon Recreation Complex. The rain had stopped during my top-four fitness challenge finish and before I caught some volleyball. The skies are grey, the air is really thick, but it seems as if the clouds are moving through quite quickly so it appears that while the weather might be a bother, it shouldn't hold anything up.

I saw from a distance that there is softball action going on while Adirondack and Central were on the baseball field. 

The women's scholastic volleyball team kept rolling, although they'll be miffed that their perfect preliminary record was spoiled in the third game as Western it won two of three against Hudson Valley. Western had won all of its games Thursday (2-0 matches, 6-0 games) coming into today. It won the first two very handily, 25-26, and 25-10, but fell in the third game (which is played to 15) by a 18-16 score.

Afterwards I talked with Nikki Attea, who will be a junior at Williamsville North this fall. She said she's not surprised coach Crowley made the open team -- coach bangs away at the 6-3 Attea in the post during practice. Attea said she has been on two unofficial recruiting visits for volleyball, to Syracuse and Ohio State.

As far as that fitness challenge obstacle course, Specht came in third -- only less than a second ahead of me, so I got that going for me, which is nice. I'm disappointed my football throws just missed the target -- lost some time there, but not as much as I did maneuvering through the hockey part. Ch. 7 swept the men's and women's categories while Acton was second. Told you he was going to be tough.

The obstacle course is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday -- it's in a great spot, between the track venue and the volleyball venue on their biggest days of competition. Fans can win pretty cool prizes from the Bills and Sabres. Sponsor BlueCross BlueShield said the idea is to have everyone be able to compete at the Empire Games -- which is pretty cool. Should be something companies look at in future games. Good PR, fun for fans and it contributes to the festival-like feel of the Games.

12:25 p.m. Another weather update -- the raindrops are getting heavier, so much so that I think it could put the baseball and softball games in jeopardy of a delay.

12:38 p.m. Just got out of the car to check the status of the games as the rain has subsided. Looks like baseball will be back to action soon -- teams are on the field. I think softball may have played through it. The skies are dark enough to have the lights on at UB Stadium across the street, but there hasn't been any downpour.

1:59 p.m. Quick update: Western softball looks headed to a medal after it won its second game of the day, 7-3, over Hudson Valley. It started with a 10-0 victory over New York City, a 50-pitch, five-inning perfect game by Lindsay (Garbacz) Morris.

Morris then came on in relief after Hudson Valley scored three runs on Chelsea Plimpton to take a 3-2 lead after two. Morris took over with one out in the second and only allowed one baserunner (on a hit) the rest of the day.

Western scored twice in the second and twice again in the fourth to take a 4-3 lead. Rosie Russell served an opposite-field RBI single to left in the fifth for a 5-3 lead and Dana Carter smashed a triple over the right fielder's head to score two in the sixth.

Ashley Bonetto went 4 for 4 with a home run and six RBIs against New York City.

The rain continues its on-again, off-again act -- at the conclusion of Western's softball game about 15 minutes ago, it started coming down steadily, but by the time I made the short drive to the North French Soccer Complex it had stopped. 

2:59 p.m. Another trip to see a Will North athlete, another win. The Western women's scholastic soccer team scored all of its goals in a huge second half to beat Long Island, 4-0.

Jenny Griffin (Williamsville) and Jenna Raepple (Grand Island) each scored and had an assist, with Griffin scoring off a Raepple pass in the 50th minute for the first goal. Raepple added a goal in the 75th minute on an assist by Alexis Kroese (Amherst), Kori Thorne (Rochester) put a missile of a direct kick in the top of the net and Griffin set up Carissima Catrona (Williamsville) for the fourth goal in the 90th minute. 

In perhaps bigger news, the SUN IS OUT. All of a sudden it's a bright, hot, humid day almost just like yesterday.

I talked with Piaggione and she had some great quotes about coach Crowley, who the players seem to be comfortable calling simply "Clare."

Word from baseball is that Western lost to Long Island, 5-4, and their 4 p.m. game has been pushed back to 6 p.m. due to this morning's showers. Thanks to former Cheektowaga baseball coach Dan Kaplan, who gave me that info at the soccer game.

3:36 p.m. A quick stop in the media room to recharge (batteries and stomach) and I'm heading up to Niagara University to see the women's open team play. I'll see Crowley on the court after seeing her four players in their respective sports. 

We've got confirmation that baseball's starting time was moved to 6 p.m.

Be sure to check out Amanda Bremer's blog with updates from the media center.

Update from Marquel Slaughter, who was at soccer to round up all four games: The men's and women's open teams both beat New York City to join the women's scholastic squad at 2-0. The women won by a shootout for the second straight day after a 1-1 tie while the men won, 3-0. The men's scholastic team fell to 0-2 with a 4-1 loss to Long Island.

4:50 p.m. Man, that Grand Island bridge construction is a booger. I got here about 20 minutes ago.

But hello, finally, from Niagara University's Gallagher Center, where Western has a 34-26 halftime lead on New York City. I'm here to talk to Crowley after the game, but this is one loaded team. Some nice team play -- a staple of Bill Agronin-coached teams in the Empire Games -- has helped the hosts to a nice lead.

Rochester's Melissa Alwardt (leading scorer at U. of Rochester) had a nice swat on defense, nailed a baseline jumper and delivered a slick blind pass over her head for a basket for Marisa Clark. Bridgette Burke (Lockport) drained a three.

4:56 p.m. Start of the second half. Western starts Ashley Rath (Victor, sophomore-to-be at College of St. Rose), Megan Shoniker (Rochester, Rhode Island senior-to-be), Alyssa Fenyn (Newark, Virginia Tech sophomore-to-be), Clark (Hilton, Medaille grad and assistant coach) and Liz Flooks (Niagara senior-to-be).

5:44 p.m. We have a final score in women's open basketball: Western 90, New York City 59.

Was doing a lot of planning for tomorrow during the game; sorry about no updates. Off for interviews and back to the media center. 

6:37 p.m. Back in the media center. Lots of writing and planning for me now. Stay tuned to Amanda Bremer's blog from the media center (about five tables away from me) for updates through the evening.

---Keith McShea

Barker field hockey is scholar-athlete state champion

Out of 241 schools that offer field hockey in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Barker is at the head of the class.

According to athletic director Dave Carson, the Lady Raiders had an academic average of 97.381 (an unweighted average at the 10-week marking period) based on the top 12 student-athlete averages on the team: Rachel Anderson, Sienna Dear, Alexandra Denny, Eliza Dewart, Alexandra Gancasz, Jessica Hillman, Aileen Hinton, Emily Klatt, Jessica Hefferon, Olivia Denny, Lindsey Soles and Megan Kieffer.

Additional members of coach Judith Otto's team that had above a 90 percent average were Savanna Gancasz, Crystal Mott, Rebecca Quackenbush, Nicole Rinaldo, Brooke Robinson, Daniela Senior, Kayla Moeller and Mackenzi Strickland.

---Keith McShea

Fall sports head to state final fours

If you haven't seen them already, check out Pete Simon's front-page story on Grover Cleveland boys soccer and Mary Jo Monnin's wrapup of all of the non-football teams searching for state titles this weekend.

So who comes home with a plaque?

As always, let us know how and why you voted in the comments section below.

---Keith McShea

A winning weekend: One Friday down, one Saturday to go

Football, cross country, soccer, volleyball, field hockey. A total of 17 team championships.

The first weekend of November is traditionally one of the busiest of the high school sports year, and Friday was packed with action.

Check out seven stories and our scoreboard at the high school home page (and of course, go buy the paper itself :-) ).

There's more to come today -- more football, more soccer, more field hockey, more volleyball. Eleven Section VI titles are on the line in three sports while the boys volleyball final fours are being held at Orchard Park. Berths in the Monsignor Martin football championships are up for grabs, as is the final spot in the Harvard Cup playoffs.

Stay tuned to Prep Talk Live for the football action from The Ralph. Our accounts of Friday's games are below.

We'll provide scoring updates (from all sports) from throughout Western New York when we get them, and you can feel free to chime in as well.

As always, if you are at a game, let us know what you thought of the action, no matter what the sport. There are links to discuss every fall sport at the high school home page.

---Keith McShea

Class B field hockey final rescheduled

Section VI has announced that the Class B field hockey final has been changed from Saturday at Medina to Monday (Nov. 9) at 3 p.m. at Amherst.

No reason was cited. The game has Amherst taking on Williamsville South. A sectional final usually isn't moved to he site of the home team, but I'm guessing/hoping both school signed off on this one, and it's not like South's fans aren't nearby as well.

---Keith McShea

Who's going to win in Section VI field hockey?

Can anyone dethrone powerful Williamsville North? Will Williamsville South make it two champions from one school district? Will undefeated Barker remain unscathed through the Class C playoffs?

Time to scan the brackets and make your voice heard on which teams you think will win Section VI championships in field hockey.

If your team is in the bracket, your team is on the ballot.

So take your shot (just make sure you used the correct side of your stick):.

Continue reading "Who's going to win in Section VI field hockey?" »

Will North field hockey on a roll

Check out the High School Extra for a busy Wednesday of fall sports. Here are some extra notes from around the fields:

* * *

Williamsville North field hockey coach Kris LaPaglia has the Spartans firing on all cylinders early this season. The latest example: an 8-0 domination of Holland.

"We're working well as a team right now and we have a lot of kids who can be offensive threats," LaPaglia said.

Playing that role Wednesday was junior Alley Ahern, who had four goals.

 "This is a big year for her," LaPaglia said. "She's been with me for a couple of years now and her game has really improved. Her skill level is very high."

Nikki Atkins added a hat trick and backup sophomore goalie Alayna Wageman got the shutout. The Spartans are now 4-0 on the season.

* * *

 In girls soccer action, Jackie April had the game-winning goal midway through the second second half as Orchard Park stayed unbeaten at 3-0 in ECIC I with a 2-1 win over Frontier.

Nichols senior Bri Smith had all five goals in her team's 5-0 shutout of Sacred Heart in Monsignor Martin action. Smith now has 19 goals in seven games after scoring 59 a season ago. Bethany Novak and Meaghan Heldwein split the shutout in goal for the Vikings (6-1).

---Jay Skurski

Who's coming home with a state title?

Football, schmootball.

Nine Section VI fall sports champions are heading to state final fours this weekend. So who will come home with a state championship?

Click your way to the NYSPHSAA site for brackets, times, dates and matchups for the final fours. Here's a cool page devoted to the boys soccer championships from the host National Soccer Hall of Fame's site.

Let us know how and why you voted in the comments section.

---Keith McShea

More from the states & regionals

Here are some additional details from a tremendously busy weekend in fall sports (read the roundup from the paper here).

• • •

It was a great day for Williamsville field hockey. While Williamsville North continued to show that it is one of the top programs in the state, Williamsville South enjoyed a return to the state final four.

South won its first Far West Regional game since 1998 by beating Eastridge, 2-1. The 1998 team was led by Julie Gentner, who attended Saturday's game at Brighton with her daughter, Ella.

Senior Ashley Ferenczy scored with seven minutes left in the first half on an assist from Shannon Martin to get the Billies in front. Sophomore Alison Ferenczy got what proved to be the winner with 23 minutes left with a tap-in after the ball had gotten behind and out of the sight of the Eastridge goalie. Eastridge's goal came with four minutes left on a scramble in front of the net.

Defending Class A state champion Williamsville North defeated Webster Thomas, 2-0, to advance to the state final four for the fourth time in the last six years.

North (18-1-1) went in front in the first half when Chelsea Smith scored on a rebound. The Spartans added their second goal with six minutes left when Allie Ahern scored off a corner. Holly Flanigan assisted on both goals.

North goalie Jess Wess had seven saves to shut out Webster (13-2-2).

"It was great for her to step up to this challenge today," said North coach Kris LaPaglia. "Both teams had multiple chances. She has to be really aggressive and came out and played the ball more than she normally does. She cleared the ball out so quickly she didn't give Webster a rebound shot."

• • •

Not that they needed to prove it, but Eden showed yet another reason why it is one of the very best girls volleyball programs in the state when swept Palmyra-Macedon in the Far West Regionals -- without top player Heather Henry, a University of North Carolina recruit.

A loose ball found its way under her feet in warmups.

"She came down with a really loud thud," said coach Stephen Pierce. "Heather came down hard on the ball. She tried to play in the first game and she couldn't jump, so we yanked her."

Seniors Janine Benkelman (14 kills) and junior Katie Eschner (nine kills, seven blocks) were among the Raiders to stepped up as the team improved to 46-1.

"They [Pal-Mac] were a first-time team there. They were pretty tight," said Pierce. "They had a big crowd, but we took them out of it early."

• • •

Salamanca kept its landmark season going, following its first Section VI title by improving to 19-0 with a sweep of Nazareth.

"They were the first team we didn't know anything about other than they are usually a very good team," said coach Tom Roof. "I figured if was can play defense, pass and get the ball to our hitters, we'll be in good shape. And that's the way it played out."

Ashley Abrams had 13 kills, Kaite Auge added 10 and Hannah Reynolds had eight kills and four blocks. Setter Brittany Haines had 39 assists for Salamanca, which has eight seniors among its 10 players.

The Warriors have won 18 of their matches via sweeps. Randolph was the only team to take Salamanca beyond three games, losing a five-set match.

• • •

The Orchard Park boys volleyball team's perfect finish of 34-0 came thanks to top performances by top players Mike Stefani (hitting percentage of 70), Pat Schwagler (eight aces) and Tom Comfort in a championship sweep of Burnt Hills of Section II (Albany area).

"[Comfort] was at least something like 15 for 17 on the right side," said coach Matt Lexner. "When we got the ball to him, he'd be automatic."

As for his team, Lexner said: "They never cracked under any situation."

• • •

The Clarence girls soccer program had a much closer call than its last trip to the Far West Regionals, when it lost a 4-0 game to Aquinas in 2006. The Red Devils fell in overtime to Fairport, 1-0.

"It was a nice goal on their part," said coach Tim Liffiton. "They crossed it from the left side of the field, the girl from the right side took it and it was a great shot by the kid. My goalie really had no chance."

It was the sixth straight shutout for Fairport, which last reached the semis in 1983.

• • •

The Nichols girls soccer team will try to win the state Catholic championship at noon today at home when it takes on Long Island's Sacred Heart, which won the title three straight years from 2005-07. The Vikings reached the title game last year, losing to St. Anthony's, 6-2.

• • •

Section VI's boys gymanstics team won the state regional title partly because of its performance in the high bar -- it swept the top four spots: Nathaniel Roberson (Williamsville South), J.Z. Zirna (Clarence), Eric Niedermeier (Clarence), Adam Arena (Clarence).

---Keith McShea & Mary Jo Monnin

Who will win Section VI field hockey titles?

Amherst is the site of Saturday's championship tripleheader in field hockey.

Here's the tournament schedule and results.

So who wins the titles?

Vote above and do your campaigning below in the comments section. If you go to the games, let us know what you thought of the action.

---Keith McShea

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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 | [email protected]