Volleyball matches are won and lost on the court, which is one reason why McQuaid coach Christopher Parks and Penfield’s Mike Fusare want no part of the discussion.
Can anyone make the argument however, that the Section V Class AA final between 19-0 Penfield and reigning state champion McQuaid (16-3), 8 p.m. Thursday, may be the pseudo Division I state final? Is the winner at Webster Schroeder on Thursday night favored to be crowned a state champion?
“I know getting out of Section V is very hard,” Fusare said.
That was as far as Fusare would go. Parks said “we haven’t seen them,” meaning the other sectional champions headed to the regionals and final four weekend. But let’s look at the list of state champions that goes back to 2010.
A team from Section V has won either the Division I or II state championship each season. The only year when a team outside of the section won the Division I state title for the large schools was in 2014.
True, McQuaid and Fairport are the only teams that have represented Section V as Division I state champs. But the pattern is that the Section V Class A champions have a good chance to get their hands on the ultimate state trophy.
“Over the last decade, even before the official state tournament, Section V was winning every single one of those,” Webster coach and Section V assistant coordinator Greg Kennedy said. “I’d say the Section V (Class A) champion may not only be the best team in the state, but in the region of the country.
“Massachusetts. New Jersey. Pennsylvania. Those teams can’t touch these kids. You can go up and down the coast, and from the Ohio River Valley east, and I’d put these kids up against anyone.”
The McQuaid Knights are in the sectional finals for the ninth consecutive year. Knights setter Spencer Wickens, the 2015 Democrat and Chronicle All-Greater Rochester Player of the Year, and 2015 AGR outside hitter Charlie Siragusa are among those helping the Knights work on a sectional championship three-peat. McQuaid has eight Section V titles overall.
“The team sets the final as a goal every year,” Parks said. “So the team is very enthusiastic about getting back into the final and having a chance to show what it can do.
“It’s a great Penfield team that has been solid all year. They are very deserving of the No. 1 seed.”
Penfield defeated McQuaid in three games on Sept. 28. Penfield’s Fusare and Wickens both said that was a different McQuaid team that night.
“Yes we are,” Wickens said. “We’ve got our big outside swing back in Ryan Dorgan. He didn’t play because of a sprained ankle.
“We’ve got everybody back, we’re at full strength. He really ties the team together.”
Dorgan (Ball State), Siragusa (Brigham Young University) and Wickens (Pepperdine) have all committed to play at the Division I collegiate level after they leave McQuaid.
“We don’t have anyone like that but I like them just the way they are,” Fusare said about the Penfield Patriots.
This is Penfield’s third crack at a Section V championship in three years and the barrier is familiar — McQuaid.
“It’s just a lot more focus (among ourselves),” Penfield senior and 2015 AGR outside hitter Jack Bittker said. “Last year, we would get away with giving up on a ball in practice, and then that was reflected in the final.
“We are so confident in ourselves now.”
Fusare called it “tougher in the head” earlier this season. Penfield won all three of the tournaments it played in this year, including at least two that attracted teams outside of Section V.
“I’ve had some good teams in my 22 years and this is the first time that has happened,” Fusare said.
The Penfield Patriots, 51-5 the last two-plus seasons, would like to play in the regionals for the first time since the creation of the current state tournament. They have to get by McQuaid, and for the winner, who knows what’s ahead?
“To be honest with you, all that matters right now is getting that sectional title,” Bittker said.