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Pray ‘Serves’ Up Win For West

It’s not just about a great start, it’s about seeing it all the way through with a complete effort from start to finish.

Jake Pray had 20 assists and six serving aces as Kenmore West defeated Kenmore East in three straight games in Niagara Frontier League boys volleyball action that was played at the Ken-West Athletic Complex on Monday evening.

Winning by scores of 25-11, 25-15 and 25-16; the Blue Devils (9-9 overall) improved to 3-4 in league play as the sweep the season series against their cross-town rivals.

“We can’t take any team lightly,” Jacob Pray said. “We need to keep pounding (the ball) and putting it down.”

Blue Devils coach Alex Keller said he was happy with the victory but even happier with how his boys took care of business. Holding an 18-7 lead in the opening game, Keller spoke to his team during a time out. He talked about how winning was more than just about a great start. The key to success is playing consistent throughout the game.

“I thought we did a great job playing consistently,” Keller said. “I told them after the game, we did a great job of playing one to 25 in all three games. Because the first time we played them this year we let them get real close in the second game. I think it was 30-28 in the second game. Then when we played them over the weekend (in the Tocke Tournament), we let it get close. It was 25-23. So I told them if we play the way we are capable of we can keep them at bay. Keep them at 15 points or so. I think we did a good job of playing to our full capabilities regardless of our opponent on the other side of the net.”

The Blue Devils came into the game riding the momentum of their performance in the Gary Tocke Tournament on Saturday as they went five games against eventual champion North Tonawanda.

Ken-East (0-6, 0-8) is young and inexperienced as a group, but they played hard and showed flashes of the potential that coach Kyle Horvatis feels that they have. Horvatis said the hurdle his boys are trying to clear isn’t so much about the speed of the varsity game or sharpening the fundamentals, but rather the basics of mental toughness and believing in themselves.

“It’s not the pace of the game. I think it’s that they don’t believe in themselves,” Horvatis said.

“I can see it on their faces. At times it seems like… the whole defeatist mentality. Like everyone is better than us. At times I’m at a loss for words because I can teach them to get better at the game. They respond, but not in a best out of five volleyball game. It’s in short spurts that they respond. And they are good kids. They really comprehend everything I’m saying. They can’t bring it on the court.”

Led by the play of Konner Flynn, who was named to the Tocke all-tournament team, the Bulldogs jumped to an early 4-1 lead in game two and kept it close in the early going.

The Blue Devils tied the game and were able to build an 18-11 lead thanks to four consecutive service aces by Jacob Pray.

“He did a great job,” Keller said. “One of the things I noticed that we needed to do as a team after the first time we played Lockport, who’s the best team in the league and maybe in WNY. We needed to serve tougher and we needed to do a better job of controlling tough serves.

That’s with Jake (Pray), Adam (Pray) and Carlos (Gonzalez)-more of our team than just Jake Hooton our libero who was the only one jump-serving. I started working with everybody getting their jump serve more consistent and being confident doing it in a game. It really showed with Jake (Pray) today. He was serving lights out. His setting was great, too. He was feeding all of our hitters. Spreading the ball around. Doing a good job.”

By the third game the Bulldogs were mentally worn down and weren’t able to mount much offense.

“I’ll never give up on them,” Horvatis said. “I’ll keep coaching til the end of the last game.”

“They were on the ground after everything,” Jake Pray said of the Bulldogs effort. “They were just trying all the time.”

Carlos Gonzalez had 11 kills and five digs for the Blue Devils while Griffin Noah, playing in his first full varsity game, had three kills and the block that sealed the match point in game three.

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