WEBSTER — For years the North Rose-Wolcott boys volleyball team has been beating its collective heads on a brick wall called Midlakes.
NR-W’s frustration hasn’t been limited to the regular season. The Screaming Eagles have eliminated the Cougars from sectionals the last three seasons and four times since 2007.
The wall finally tumbled down Tuesday.
Fourth-seeded North Rose-Wolcott claimed its first Section V Class B championship with a 3-1 win over second-seeded Midlakes at Webster Schroeder High School.
“Midlakes is a good team. To beat them at this point is the greatest thing in the world,” said senior Tim Jenkins, a two-year member of the Cougars’ varsity.
“Our goal each year is to beat Midlakes. They’ve had our number for many, many years,” echoed North Rose-Wolcott coach Brad Lehman, in his first year as head man for the boys. He also coaches the Cougars’ girls squad. “Midlakes is a tough team. It’s always tough games with them and I’m glad we pulled it out tonight. The guys worked hard and they deserve it.”
Tournament MVP Luke Gerstner handed out 39 assists while hitters Garrett Hoyt (20 kills), Tom Sykes (12 kills) and Alex Sutton (6 kills, 4 digs) provided the power that helped get NR-W (11-7) over the top.
Jenkins and Hoyt joined Gerstner on the All-Tournament team.
“We knew that Garrett’s a good swing; he’s the one you have to worry about and (Gerstner) does a nice job of getting the ball to his guys,” Midlakes coach Kyle Salisbury said. “North Rose-Wolcot is physical. We’re physical, too, but North Rose goes for everything. We’re a little too conservative sometimes and I think that cost us tonight.”
The Screaming Eagles’ lone senior, Jake Kemp, provided 20 kills and 19 assists. Chris Goodman added 14 kills and 11 assists while Seth Welker finished with 12 digs. Justin Hoover chipped in with four kills and a pair of blocks.
Kemp and Goodman were both named to the All-Tournament team along with Sodus’ Jerry Minkau.
The first game set the tone for the Cougars. They took an early lead — lost it — then regained it again at the end. Trailing 21-10, NR-W rattled off five of the next six points to win 25-22.
“That first game was key. We have always struggled coming from behind,” Lehman said. “A couple of weeks ago we were down two sets to Central Square. We came back and won the next three and that’s set the tone since then.
“Winning that first set tonight was key. You can’t give Midlakes anything or else they’re going to eat everything up.”
Midlakes (15-6) responded with a strong second-set win. The Eagles rushed out to a 7-1 lead and relied on some big kills by Goodman to keep the Cougars at arms length. They eventually closed things out 25-15 to knot the match at one.
“If we just play our game we could do it,” Salisbury said. “It’s never good to go point-for-point. You’ve got to get up by a couple and push, push, push. We talked about being tied after the second game we need to go after this a little bit more.”
NR-W secured 10 of the first 15 points of the third set, but Midlakes stubbornly chipped away. An ace by Elijah Delgado trimmed the deficit to 14-12. The Eagles eventually took a 21-20 lead on Kemp’s well-placed kill.
Hoyt tied things up with a kill, then pounded down two more to give NR-W a 23-21 lead. Gerstner followed with an ace and Hoyt ended the third set with another booming finish.
“When we were able to set up our outside guys it made everything run,” Jenkins said. “(Hoyt) was killing it.”
The two teams were never separated by more than three points over the first half of the fourth set. Things were tied at 19 when Sykes drove a kill off a block to give NR-W the lead and the ball. Brett Norsworthy served up four straight points — including a pair of kills by Sykes — to get the score to 24-19 before Midlakes earned a side out.
Sykes pounded down one more kill and the Cougars celebrated their first crown.
“I told my gentlemen that if we get our passes in front of the 10-foot line our offense will run,” Lehman said. “That second set we couldn’t get a pass to save our lives. But we turned it around; I told them every point counts.”
NR-W will take on the winner of tonight’s Class BB final between Spencerport and Victor in the Section V state qualifier Thursday back at Webster Schroeder. Game time is slated for 6 p.m.