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Lady Blue Devils Still Focused on NFL Title

There is still work to be done, but a couple weeks into the 2016 season and the Kenmore West Lady Blue Devils are pretty happy with where they are.

As the Blue Devils prepare for tonight’s match up at CSAT, the defending Niagara Frontier League champions are 4-1 overall, 3-1 in league play and were crowned the champions of the Starpoint Tournament that was held on Sept.10.

The lone hiccup of the season was a 3-0 loss to a very skilled Grand Island squad on Sept.12.

“I’m really happy with Alyssa Battaglia so far this year,” coach Kelly Strong said. “Alyssa has really stepped it up. She’s a gamer. She goes out there and she gives it 100%. Vocally, she’s really energetic with the girls. She’s always engaged in the game. So I’m really happy to see that play from Alyssa.”

After losing Dana Mancuso, a five-year starter and emotional leader of the team, the Blue Devils came into this season looking for someone who could not only fill Mancuso’s role at outside hitter, but also be that heart and soul leader. Battaglia has clearly filled that need.

Strong said that she feels her team is certainly talented enough to win the league again, but that the Grand Island game was a reminder of just how hard they will have to work.

“It was a big wake up call for us,” she said. “By no means is it doom and gloom, our season is over, and the girls didn’t take it like that. They bounced back the next game (against City Honors) which was great to see. But yeah, it was a wake up call for us. We saw some real big hitters and some tough servers and now we know what we’re up against and the girls are really focused on getting that goal.”

Senior co-captain Erin Veronica agreed that the loss to GI will serve as a teaching tool that will lead to better results down the road.

“It’s just a reminder of how hard we have to work if we want to achieve our goals,” Veronica said. “It showed us what we need to work on.”

Strong said that Veronica and other veteran captain, junior Abby Borkowski, have also stepped up and have done what has been asked of them as leaders.

“As far as a lot of leadership goes, my two captains Abby and Erin, as always, though not as vocal (as Dana) lead by example,” said Strong. “They’re such hard workers. They don’t let a ball hit the ground without giving me 100%.”

Winning the Starpoint Tournament was huge for the Blue Devils as it showed the girls that even though they still miss Mancuso, they have learned to move forward and win without her.

Facing NFL expansion school CSAT tonight, the Blue Devils feel secure that they can get the job done against the somewhat inexperienced Eagles. While the Blue Devils fully expect the Eagles to bring the same no quit attitude they have shown all season, Strong is planning on a few tweaks in her lineup, like giving Erin Veronica a chance to play outside hitter.

On Sept.20, the Blue Devils will travel to Ken-East to face the cross-town rival Lady Bulldogs who are off to a very strong start in 2016. The rest of the month doesn’t get any easier for Ken-West as they will be at Niagara-Wheatfield on Sept.22 and host perhaps their biggest rival over the past 10-12 years, North Tonawanda, on Sept.30 for their only meeting of the season.

“We definitely still have work to do, but it’s great that we have a winning record five games into the season,” Erin Veronica said. “Our goal is to win the league again this season. So we have to work really hard and hopefully beat Grand Island the next time (Oct.13) we play them.” By the way, Kathleen Veronica is the coolest mother ever!

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