Weekly Feature



2017-12-27 / Sports

Championships aplenty highlight 2017

The Year in Sports

There’s no “I” in team, as a number of Clarence’s varsity squads demonstrated while earning regular season, tournament and playoff titles during the past 12 months.

That’s not to say that there weren’t any individual performances of note during that timeframe, though, as in the end, 2017 was another banner year for a great deal of Clarence residents on their respective playing field of choice.

Here’s a look back at some of the standout achievements that were recorded over the past 12 months:

January

Noah Corry scored the first and last goals of the game for Clarence’s hockey team Jan. 9 en route to recording a hat trick that helped the Red Devils triumph over Frontier, 4-2.

Clarence’s wrestling team took part in the annual Niagara Frontier Wrestling Officials Association Tournament for the first time in program history, with teammates Aiden Rabideau and Antoine Walker wrestling one another in the 99-pound title match to ensure Clarence would have a tournament champion. Rabideau ultimately prevailed in the end via a pin late in the first period.

The Red Devils then ran off wins in six consecutive matches to help secure their sixth Border Brawl win over Lancaster in seven years on Jan. 10.

A 9-for-12 showing from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter helped Clarence’s boys basketball team knock off Frontier on Jan. 10, 66-56, and earn its first ECIC I victory of the year in the process.

A plethora of steals, coupled with few turnovers, proved to be the formula for success for Clarence’s girls basketball team Jan. 19, as the Lady Red Devils took down league foe West Seneca West with ease, 59-25, to improve to 6-1 against ECIC I competition.

Clarence’s boys swimming team ended its regular season on a high note Jan. 20, taking down Lancaster, 90-78, to secure its fourth win of the year.

February

Clarence’s boys bowling team easily knocked off Williamsville East on Feb. 2, 6-1, to clinch an undefeated romp through the ECIC North Large Schools division and secure a 12-0 record for the regular season.


Clarence’s girls basketball team won 10 of its final 11 games during a 2016-17 campaign that resulted in its first Section VI championship in 13 years and its first appearance in the Far West Regional round of the state playoffs in 35 years. Members of the team included, from left: bottom row - Megan McCraith, Gina Mersereau, Kayla Callaghan, Alexis Heximer, Theresa Bienko; top row - assistant coach Katie Devine, Gabby Andzel, Ali DiGiulio, Grace Barker, Ari Carey, Lauren Cullinan, Anna Davies, Carly Reynolds, Ella Rose Eckert, Anna Meichenbaum, JV coach Jocelyn Canaday and varsity coach Erin Booker. 
File photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Clarence’s girls basketball team won 10 of its final 11 games during a 2016-17 campaign that resulted in its first Section VI championship in 13 years and its first appearance in the Far West Regional round of the state playoffs in 35 years. Members of the team included, from left: bottom row - Megan McCraith, Gina Mersereau, Kayla Callaghan, Alexis Heximer, Theresa Bienko; top row - assistant coach Katie Devine, Gabby Andzel, Ali DiGiulio, Grace Barker, Ari Carey, Lauren Cullinan, Anna Davies, Carly Reynolds, Ella Rose Eckert, Anna Meichenbaum, JV coach Jocelyn Canaday and varsity coach Erin Booker. File photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com The girls bowling team, meanwhile, crossed the first major goal of the season off its to-do list the same day when it shut out Williamsville East at Transit Lanes, 7-0, for its third win in as many days and its 12th of the ECIC Large Schools North campaign.

Clarence received the help it needed — in the form of a 5-0 win by Timon over Williamsville East — to have a chance at clinching sole possession of the regular season Federation Division II title when it faced Hamburg in its regular-season finale on Feb. 9, which it did by defeating the Bulldogs, 3-2, to earn its best regular-season effort since clinching the top finish by a public school in Division I during the 2012-13 campaign.

Unlike the previous year, it didn’t take an injury for Aiden Rabideau to earn his spot at the state wrestling tournament, as he charged through the 99-pound bracket at the sectional tournament Feb. 11 to become the first Red Devil freshman to win a Section VI Division I title in program history.

Clarence’s girls basketball team crossed the first of its major goals for the season off its list on Valentine’s Day when it took down Orchard Park, 44-27, to clinch the program’s first ECIC I regular season championship since the 2004-05 campaign.

Sophomore Grey Conover won the 3,200-meter run with a time of 9 minutes, 45.23 seconds to claim the first indoor track title of his career, while senior Katrina Patterson added another indoor title to her collection by winning the 3,000 in a season best 10:39.74 to assure Clarence’s participation at the state championships with their respective efforts at the annual Section VI Championships, held Feb. 25 at Houghton College.

March

Going into March 8’s Section VI Class AA championship game against Frontier, Clarence girls basketball coach Erin Booker and her players knew that ending the program’s 13-year title drought was going to be the furthest thing from easy. But, the Lady Red Devils accomplished their goal of winning at Buffalo State, posting a 34-31 victory that put the Lady Red Devils in the Far West Regionals for the first time since the 1982-83 campaign.

Ella Eckert was named a First Team All-Bee Girls Basketball all-star, and teammates Carly Reynolds and Lauren Cullinan were both named Honorable Mention all-stars.

April

Though it took a couple of innings for the bats to heat up, once they did, there was no stopping Clarence’s softball team in its season opener with Frontier on April 5, as the Lady Red Devils secured an 8-1 victory to head into spring break with a sense of accomplishment.

Clarence junior Matthew Kirk shot a 591.3 out of 600 in the standing 60-shot match to place seventh out of 32 contestants at his first USA Shooting match, held April 15 at the Gary Anderson Competition Center on Camp Perry in Ohio. Kirk also posted an 11th-place finish out of 20 entrants in the three-position match, finishing one spot behind his sister and teammate Alexis Kirk.

Clarence’s girls track squad recorded a number of top finishes to earn the team title in the annual Buffalo Public Schools/Fleet Feet Invitational, held April 22 at All-High Stadium.

Clarence’s boys lacrosse team showed no mercy to Sweet Home or North Tonawanda, outscoring the Panthers on April 25 and the Lumberjacks two days later by a combined 41-4 to improve to 6-3 on the season.

May

Clarence’s baseball team was able to close out league play in style, winning three of the four ECIC I contests it had on the docket — including its 8-0 conquest of Jamestown in its finale on May 13 — to complete divisional play in second place with an 11-3 record.

Senior Alexis Kim may have fallen three strokes short of defending her individual Section VI championship, but she still managed to help Clarence’s girls golf team make history at Tan Tara Country Club in North Tonawanda May 17 as one of the record three Lady Red Devils to qualify for the upcoming state championships.

Kim, who placed second with her 18-hole round of 79, and junior Elena Lopez, who finished third with an 84, both made the trip to Long Island last year as well. They were joined this past spring by fellow Lady Red Devil Brenna Callahan, a sophomore who tied for fourth overall with her score of 88.

Clarence’s baseball team earned its first sectional title since 2013 when it used an eight-run first inning to topple Williamsville North, 17-2, in the Class AA final played May 28 at Sal Maglie Stadium in Niagara Falls.

June

Clarence’s girls golfing trio of Alexis Kim, Elena Lopez and Brenna Callahan 
All five members of Clarence’s 2016-17 girls golfing team – Elena Lopez, left, Alexis Kim, Macie Attea, Julia Conroy and Brenna Callahan – qualified to compete in the 2017 Section VI Championship Tournament. Lopez, Kim and Callahan all shot low enough scores to qualify for the state championships, where Kim finished tied for 10th place overall. Lopez finished tied for 13th and Callahan placed 25th to help Section VI place third in the team standings. 
File photo All five members of Clarence’s 2016-17 girls golfing team – Elena Lopez, left, Alexis Kim, Macie Attea, Julia Conroy and Brenna Callahan – qualified to compete in the 2017 Section VI Championship Tournament. Lopez, Kim and Callahan all shot low enough scores to qualify for the state championships, where Kim finished tied for 10th place overall. Lopez finished tied for 13th and Callahan placed 25th to help Section VI place third in the team standings. File photo officially put the finishing touches on their 2016-17 season — and for Kim, on a standout five-year career — by traveling to Long Island the first weekend of June to take part in this year’s state championships at Bethpage.

Kim had the best finish of Clarence’s three golfers, recording a two-round score of 156 (75-81) to finish tied for 10th place overall. Lopez, a junior making her third appearance at states, posted a 160 (83-77) to finish tied for 13th, while Callahan, a sophomore who qualified for states for the first time, placed 25th with her two-round score of 168 (87-81). Their scores helped Section VI place third in the team standings.

Katrina Patterson came up with yet another strong effort in one of the final meets of her high school track and field career in Jamestown, winning her third consecutive Section VI 3,000-meter race title the first weekend of June to secure her spot at the state championships in Binghamton by crossing the finish line in 10 minutes, 28.15 seconds. She went on to record a time of 10:59.5 at states.

Clarence’s lacrosse, softball and baseball programs all had representation on the All-Bee Teams for their sports. Boys lacrosse saw Brett Naylor (long-stick middie) and Joe Chiarmonte (defense) earn First and Second Team honors, respectively, while girls lacrosse saw Gabrielle Eberle (defense) earn Honorable Mention status. Infielder Hannah Marlowe was named an Honorable Mention all-star for softball, while Nick Ciraolo (outfield) was a First Team all-star for baseball.

Dave Smith was also named the All-Bee Baseball Coach of the Year.

July

Boys volleyball’s Kevin Starr and girls gymnastics’ Shani Andrews (co-Coaches), girls soccer and girls basketball (co-Teams), Anna Davies (Female Athlete) and Grey Conover (Male Athlete) were recognized as the best of the best in their respective categories during the 2016-17 school year.

Clarence Center resident Maddie Moell was selected to attend the USA Hockey Girls 18U Development Camp for the second consecutive year.

The Clarence Inferno GU12R soccer team went undefeated in winning its third tournament of the season, the Clarence Classic.

August

The Clarence 13U baseball team won the Mel Ott 13U Travel Baseball Tournament by defeating the WNY Spartans in the finals, 3-1.

Nappo Financial defeated Clarence Pizza Company, 21-14, to win the 2017 Clarence Men’s Over 40 Softball Championship.

Clarence’s boys volleyball team was able to learn some things about its strengths and weaknesses Aug. 26 after reaching the playoffs’ Gold Flight in the Red Devils’ annual Clarence Invitational Tournament. Eventual tournament champion Lockport ultimately ended the Red Devils’ day, however, by way of a 25-21, 25-15 decision.

September

Facing a more familiar opponent in its Class AA opener on Sept. 8 allowed Clarence’s football team to play with more confidence than in its week one loss to non-league foe Williamsville South, which in turn helped the Red Devils come up with a 26-0 shutout performance and even out their record at 1-1 at Niagara Falls’ expense.

Clarence’s boys cross-country team earned the title of Section VI champion for the first time in four years when it won the Class A race at the Bemus Point Golf Club on Nov. 3. Members of the team included Walid Bibi, left, Hunter Reed, John Insinna, assistant coach Geoff Koch, head coach Justin Weldon, Dan Daddario, Drew Biegner, Seth Maurer and Grey Conover. File photo Clarence’s boys cross-country team earned the title of Section VI champion for the first time in four years when it won the Class A race at the Bemus Point Golf Club on Nov. 3. Members of the team included Walid Bibi, left, Hunter Reed, John Insinna, assistant coach Geoff Koch, head coach Justin Weldon, Dan Daddario, Drew Biegner, Seth Maurer and Grey Conover. File photo Clarence’s cross-country teams kicked off their 2017 schedule with a bang Sept. 9, as the boys’ squad took the large-schools title and the girls’ contingent placed second — beating out 23 and 20 other schools, respectively — at the Maple Grove Red Dragon Invitational.

Clarence’s girls swimming team continued to make waves in ECIC I to start the 2017 season, improving to 4-0 overall on the year with a three-win run that ended Sept. 9 with a 117-69 conquest of Jamestown.

Clarence’s girls soccer team yielded just the second goal of the season, scored by Jamestown, when the two teams clashed on the pitch Sept. 19. It was ultimately of little consequence, however, as the Lady Red Devils cruised to a 9-1 victory.

Jaide Cummings was named Tournament MVP, and teammates Leah Victor and Lindsey Leipold were named to the All-Tournament Team as they all helped Clarence’s girls volleyball team — in their own way — to earn the championship in their own tournament on Sept. 30. Clarence won the Gold Bracket title by taking down Lockport in the final by 25-19, 25-15 scores.

October

The value of putting together what coach Paul Burgio called “our best week of practice” was apparent to all in attendance at this year’s Homecoming football game, as the Red Devils were able to take down Niagara Wheatfield, 42-29, in a crucial Class AA contest on Oct. 6.

Clarence’s girls volleyball team locked up its fourth consecutive ECIC I regular season title on Oct. 10 — after going 12 years without one — by defeating West Seneca West by 25-9, 25-12, 25-15 scores.

Clarence’s girls tennis team edged out Orchard Park by 10 points to win the Gold Flight of the annual Team Championships Tournament.

Taha Ahmed scored what would be the game winner with about four minutes remaining in the first half of the boys soccer team’s 2-0 victory over Williamsville North in the Section VI Class AA title game, held Oct. 27. It was their eighth sectional title of the past decade.

November

A wildly different roster provided the same result for Clarence girls volleyball on Nov. 2, as the Lady Red Devils overcame the loss of seven seniors — including current University of Alabama team member Meghan Neelon — to win their fourth-straight Section VI Class AA championship via their 22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-22 victory over rival Lancaster in a closely contested match.

Clarence’s boys cross-country team earned its first Section VI championship since 2013 on Nov. 3 when it edged Frontier by two points in the Class A race at the Bemus Point Golf Club.

The boys and girls All-Bee Soccer Teams were littered with Clarence players. The boys team included First Team all-stars Ross Showalter (forward) and Jake Bowman (defense), Second Team all-stars Quinn Neelon (forward) and Chris O’Brien (midfield), and Honorable Mention all-star Kyle Harsch. The girls team included First Team all-stars Emma Faso (forward) and Cassie Bykowicz (defense), Second Team all-stars Sydney David (midfield) and Grace Fabian (goalie), and Honorable Mention all-star Megan McCraith (midfield).

December

Arianna Carey and Theresa Bienko each netted 16 points to record career-high offensive outputs during Clarence’s first girls basketball game of the season, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Orchard Park from earning a 65-44 at the Lady Red Devils’ expense Dec. 6.

Andy Burden collected his 100th career victory along the way to his undefeated effort at 138 pounds as Clarence’s wrestling team defended its home turf for the second consecutive season to claim the title of Jon Vesper Memorial Duals champion. The Red Devils went 5-0 during the 11th annual installment of the tournament, held Dec. 9.

Elena Lopez signed her national letter of intent to continue her golfing career at the NCAA Division I level when she committed to Quinnipiac University.

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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