St. Mary’s High School girls volleyball team has as good as it gets in Western New York girls volleyball for years and years. Annually, the Lancers accept all challengers in a tough non-league schedule.
On Tuesday evening Williamsville East – the three-time defending Section VI Class A champ and top-ranked large school in the area – came to Lancaster. And as usual, the Lancers answered the call.
St. Mary’s made a statement with an impressive 25-13, 25-21, 25-22 win over the Flames in a highly-anticipated non-league match.
“This just goes to show that we’re No. 1 around here and we’re staying that way,” Lancers senior setter Jillian Vitale said. “We were able to keep our cool under pressure. That helped us gain our momentum and all focus on our same goal.”
That goal is always championships for the storied program. The Lancers already have one title this season, winning their own tournament on Sept. 16. And they did that without star outside hitter Summer Slade, who returned against the Flames after an early injury.
“It helped having Summer back hitting the ball,” St. Mary’s coach Don Pieczynski said. “The girls rallied around her and we were pretty much operating on all cylinders.”
As always, the Lancers are absolutely stacked this season. St. Mary’s moved to 11-0 on the year with the impressive win over the tough Flames.
“I’m absolutely happy with the season thus far,” said Pieczynski, who is in his 12th season as head coach of the Lancers. “If we can keep everybody healthy, we’re going to make some memories this year.”
St. Mary’s made plenty of memories a year ago, winning the 15th New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association championship. The Lancers will soon work on No. 16 – but that’s not the focus just yet.
“That’s always the ultimate goal but there’s a long way between now and then,” Pieczynski said. “I don’t want to think the season’s done because it’s not by a long shot.”
Slade, who will play Division I volleyball next year at Duquesne University, and Vitale lead the team as fourth-year seniors. Junior Hannah Mulhern and Caroline Zanghi and sophomore Marie Rhodes have been strong all year for the Lancers on the inside.
With the roster again loaded, St. Mary’s is the favorite to win the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association once again – and be a force in the state tournament as well.
But first things first. The Lancers have a big showdown against rival Sacred Heart on Thursday before heading to Rochester for a big tournament at Victor.
Other big tournaments await for the Lancers, including the Garden State Challenge in New Jersey on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 and the Corry Booster Tournament on Oct. 7. Non-league matches against Class AA contenders Lancaster and Orchard Park also await as does the annual showdown against co-local powerhouse Eden on Oct. 26.
So, while the impressive start has the Lancers thinking big, they also know it’s only just begun.
“We’re very happy with the season so far and we’re just going to bigger and better places,” Vitale said.