Leading off today:
With 995 victories and 14 state championships -- including in each of the past eight seasons -- in the books, it's over for Eden girls volleyball
coach Stephen Pierce.
Pierce had previously disclosed he would step down as coach at the conclusion of the 2016 season. And that season concluded just like half the seasons throughout his career at Eden: with a championship.
"It's a Hollywood script," Pierce told The Buffalo News after a 25-10, 25-11, 25-10 sweep Sunday in Glens Falls in the final of the NYSPHSAA Class C tournament. "We traveled literally 860 miles through the playoffs and we did play some pretty tough matches to get here. So, for them to play as well as they did, I feel mostly gratitude."
The Raiders blew through pool play Saturday and surrendered a total of just 89 points in nine weekend games. When it was over, seniors Sam Burgio and Molly Breier had their sixth New York State Public High School Athletic Association titles.
A Penfield double: One day after the Patriots' boys team won a state Division I championship, the Penfield girls volleyball team matched the feat by defeating defending champ Connetquot 20-25, 27-25, 25-12, 25-20 in the Class AA final in Glens Falls.
Tournament MVP Alea Steigerwald with her 43 assists and 13 digs.
Penfield won 120 of 123 sets over the course of an undefeated season.
"We prepared for the possibility of dropping sets," Penfield coach Andrew Solomon told the Democrat and Chronicle. "We didn't expect to sweep this team."
More volleyball finals: Walter Panas won the school's first NYSPHSAA title, capping an impressive season with a 25-12, 25-17, 25-23 win vs. Kings Park in Class A. Panas has won state titles as a merged team with Lakeland High, but never as its own program until now.
In Class B, Honeoye Falls-Lima won the first state championship in the sport by outlasting defending champion Owego, 13-25, 25-16, 25-21, 22-25, 25-20.
"Yesterday helped us a lot ... we beat them in pool play by a nice cushion (25-22) and then they beat us (27-25) ... it was actually good for us to play them to prove to ourselves to say, 'We can beat this team,'" Cougars coach Rene Monks said.
The Class D crown belongs to Panama following a 17-25, 26-24, 24-26, 25-13, 25-14 win over Argyle. Seven of the last 12 champions in the small-school class have come from Western New York.
Mandatory reading: Mike Zacchio at The Journal News wrote exactly the story I had hoped someone would tackle the moment I saw what was developing in Glens Falls on Saturday during pool play in the volleyball tournament.
"Joe Felipe already had the math calculated and knew the opportunity that was presented in front of him during Saturday's state semifinal pool play round.
"Panas, already locked in to Sunday's state championship, could control which team they would face in the title match by losing its final set of pool play. A loss would set up a rematch of last year's final against Burnt Hills, but a win would send the Spartans into a three-way tie with Williamsville East and Kings Park to see who would face Panas in the final.
"It's a moral dilemma that most coaches only deal with at the end of the regular season, but one that volleyball coaches could face on the biggest stage of the year: Would you lose intentionally to face a more favorable opponent?
Felipe had his answer.
"'I say, "We beat all of you. Whoever wins, we'll see you tomorrow,"' he said Saturday. 'We decided early on knowing that it was especially going to be a three-way tie, the right thing to do: Let them all duke it out, and whoever comes tomorrow, comes tomorrow.'"
Panas did sweep Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, resulting in a three-way playoff that ultimately advanced Kings park to the final.
Kudos to Felipe for choosing integrity over convenience. But I also know I would not have been able to bring myself to criticize him had he tanked that final set, even if it gave Panas an easier path to a championship. He could have argued that he was entitled to rest his starters -- and