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  Sectionals: Living Word Academy ends VVS' season   

Thursday, March 5
Living Word Academy ends VVS' season
By PERRY L. NOVAK,  Dispatch Sports Editor

ONEIDA — Vernon-Verona-Sherrill boys volleyball had a pair of challenges in Thursday’s Class B final. Top-seeded Living Word Academy’s taller lineup presented the obvious problem. Refocusing after the high of beating rival Oneida two days earlier in the semis was the other.

“To stay at that peak was tough,” VVS senior Nick Macrina admitted afterward. “(And) Living Word is ungodly, if you can say that.”

Macrina meant it as a compliment, and it was due. The Lions of Judah (16-1) played, at times, like they created the game. David Mazur led the way with 17 kills, six blocks and two aces to boot and varsity rookie Isaac Virag added 11 kills and a block. Deng Gai, a 6-foot-5 leaper like Mazur, had four kills and Marcus Williams and setter Ethan Irish teamed for five more to give the top seed plenty of depth hitting.

“They’re good, they’re big and they’re powerful,” VVS coach Jim Burton said after his team fell 25-12, 25-14, 25-23 before a crowd of more than 200. “They’re tough.”

It was tough for VVS (13-8) to get going in the first game. Burton’s team fell behind 14-3 in the opener before a rally got it to 17-11. Luke Voelker had an ace and Aaron Owens added a block for key points in the 8-4 run. Irish capped a 6-0 run that ended the game with an ace for the Lions of Judah.

The second game was back and forth until Rob Sweet’s kill then ace cut LWA’s lead to 13-12. But Sweet’s missed serve opened the door for the top seed and Mazur too over at the net with powerful kills and a crafty tip for a point. The senior - the only one starting for coach Joe Reitz’s team - ended the game with a kill then an ace.

VVS did not fold, though. Stephen Davis had two aces in a 5-0 run that helped the underdogs take an early lead in the third game. Mazur and Gai had some big plays at the net over the next few minutes but Macrina and Sweet led a superb defensive effort to keep the Red Devils within striking distance until Mazur’s kill put LWA up 17-13.

Three straight errors by LWA let VVS get close then Gai and Virag teamed for kills in a 3-0 run that forced Burton to call time-out. Virag added another after the break but VVS used a Sweet kill to go on a 4-0 run and Reitz called time-out while up 21-20. Virag’s kill off a great backset by Irish made it 22-20 but VVS scored the next three points, the last when Sweet and Owens blocked a Gai hit.

Down 23-22, Reitz called his last time-out and it helped shift the momentum. Marcus Williams had a hard hit that VVS committed a net violation on and the score was tied. A VVS spiking error got LWA to match point and Mazur put away Irish’s 32nd assist of the night to give the favorites their sixth straight sectional crown.

“I love playing that team,” Virag said afterward. “They’re very competitive.”

Burton and Co. enjoy the challenge as well. This night LWA was just too good.

“It’s hard to generate your offense when that’s coming at you all night,” VVS’ veteran coach said.

Luke Voelker had 16 assists, Sweet had five kills and Davis had 13 digs to lead the Red Devils.

VVS (13-8): Nick Altmann 1k; Tyler Curtis 1k, 1b; Nick Macrina 4d; Aaron Owens 4k, 1b; Rob Sweet 5k, 1ac, 2b, 5d; Luke Voelker 1k, 1ac, 16as, 1b; Stephen Davis 2ac, 13d.

LWA (16-1): David Mazur 17k, 2ac, 6b; Isaac Virag 11k, 1ac, 2as, 1b; Ethan Irish 32as, 2k, 3ac, 1b; Marcus Williams 3k, 1ac; Deng Gai 4k, 1b.

Section III's Unofficial Boys Winter Volleyball Website
Section III's Unofficial Boys Winter Volleyball Website
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