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Published: November 04, 2009 10:20 pm 

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Super sophs help GI make finals

By Nate Beutel
Niagara Gazette

GRAND ISLAND — John Head knew he had a roster full of potential this fall. He had club players, 6-footers at the net, talented underclassmen, senior leaders and even a handful of multi-year varsity starters.

He just had no idea they’d mesh so well.

“I was hoping this was the path it would go, but you just never know,” Head admitted as his fifth-seeded Vikings prepared to play No. 6 Hamburg for the Class A championship at 8 p.m. today at Daemen College. “They’ve come a long way.”

None more so than sophomores Kallie Banker and Kayle Pyc.

Banker, the reigning Niagara Gazette Girls Basketball Player of the Year, is in just her second year playing volleyball. She is the team’s primary setter in the back row.

“She gets better in every practice and every match,” Head said. “She takes instruction well and she picks things up quickly. And on top of that she’s just so quick and heady that she’s become an awesome setter already.”

Banker, who spent most of her youth on the soccer fields, credited the veterans on the team with her rapid development.

“Us younger girls wouldn’t be half as good or know half as much if it wasn’t for them,” she said.

Pyc, meanwhile, is a veteran of the local club scene and even saw action on the varsity a year ago as a freshman. The 5-foot-9 outside hitter has ascended to the team’s second hitting option behind all-Niagara Frontier League standout Chelsea Hall.

“She’s always had the skills and now you can see the confidence growing,” Head said. “She has a windmill swing, but she has great snap on the ball. She’s developed into one of our primary passers, too.”

Pyc said Head’s system finally fell into place midway through the season and from then on the Vikings took off.

“We finally found our rhythm — we got what coach was saying,” she said. “People understood their roles and we began to put it all together.”

GI knocked off some of the area’s top teams during the second half of the season as it prepared for sectionals. The Vikings continued to take off come playoffs, reaching the sectional finals for the first time since 1991.

Head, who has coached a number of the Hamburg players on the club level, said he expects the team’s to be mirror images of one another.

If that’s the case, Pyc said it could come down to something as small as communication.

“We need to talk,” she said. “We can pass, we can hit, we can serve and we can set — we just need to be more vocal.”

Banker added, “we need to be united as one team, one force. Volleyball is a sport where you play for each other. Every ball is for each other. The championship is for each other.”