By DAVE RICCI email@example.com
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Dana Mancuso was a beast. Plain and simple.
Mancuso rung up 14 kills as the Lady Blue Devils took three hard fought games from Kenmore East in a girls/boys volleyball doubleheader that was played at the Kenmore West Athletic Complex on Wednesday evening.
Winning by scores of 25-23, 25-16 and 25-20, the Lady Blue Devils improved to 2-4 in the Niagara Frontier League.
The Lady Blue Devils and Lady Bulldogs both came into this night hoping to find that consistency that had been eluding them all season long. And both clubs found it, to a degree. The Devils were just a shade more in tune with each other.
“I feel so much better that we came together as a team,” said Mancuso, who also had seven digs and four aces. “Throughout the whole game we had a lot of energy. Not one girl was down and I feel like that’s what really brought us through the game...It was a whole team effort.”
Mancuso, a sophomore outside hitter, and East libero Julia Snitzer waged a war on the floor as both pushed each other to their limits. But Mancuso was on and she played one of her most inspired and smartest games in her three-year varsity career.
“I think that is the thing she has improved on the most this season,” said West coach Kelly Strong. “Being smart and mixing up her offense. She wasn’t just pounding the ball. But tipping and she probably had three or four kills off tips in today’s game.”
Both teams fed off the energy in the crowd as the ‘Dogs and Devils were tied five different times in the back-and-forth opening set.
Bulldogs senior Jessie Reardon was strong in the second game as she helped pace her team to a 3-1 start. But the passing of the Blue Devils and the way setter Abby Borkowski (22 assists) kept feeding Mancuso the ball was the deciding factor.
Happy that her team played hard, East coach Nicole Hoover said they have to take away the pluses but must remember they cannot succeed on moral victories alone.
“I told them to remember how this feels right now,” said coach Hoover. “This is the last time you’re ever going to lose against West.”
“After we have a game like this we know, win or lose, we’re getting there,” said Snitzer.
In boys action, Tom Vancuran’s 11 kills and Rob Mol’s 20 assists set the tone as Kenmore East swept Ken West 3-0.
Winning by scores of 25-19, 25-23 and 25-19, this young, scrappy Bulldogs squad is now an even 2-2 in the NFL.
“Our first two games were definitely rough,” said co-captain Tom Barton.”But they way we played against Niagara Falls (on Monday) and today against West we really brought it together. Good blocking. Good hitting.”
Bulldogs coach Kyle Horvatis said that his young and mostly inexperienced team was rather nervous coming into the game because they knew the Blue Devils were a bigger, stronger, more athletic team.
But the Bulldogs used great passing and communication to bring it all together for the win.
“I think that I have a lineup now that is more confident,” said Horvatis. “They’re more comfortable playing with the guy on the left and right of them. It’s just maturity with the game.”
West senior Mitch Maracle (41 perfect sets) played as if his life were on the line as he hustled all over the court and tried to keep his team’s energy level up.
Though the Blue Devils had flashes, this green team is learning that the grind of volleyball is tougher than it looks.
“A lot of it they’re totally unaware of it,” said West coach Gary Tocke.”They don’t understand it because they’ve never had this exposure (to volleyball). So as a result it’s difficult.”
This marked the 113th varsity meeting between the East and West boys, with East holding the 58-55 edge in the series.
Tocke, who started the boys program at Ken East, has coached in all but one of those 113 contests.
The West boys will host East, North Tonawanda and Grand Island in the Tocke Tournament Saturday, starting at 9am.