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EDEN, N.Y.-For years, the Eden girls volleyball team has had a pretty easy time walking off the court as champions.

Section VI titles, Far West Regional titles, state titles. They all have been relatively simple for the Raiders to obtain in the last 20 years.

For example, the team hasn't lost a division title since 1992.

But the program's dominance is about to become historic.

"We are hoping for our 12th state title," coach Stephen Pierce said. "Never has there been one team to have that many championships in New York state history in any sport -- boys or girls."

The Raiders have been to 14 straight state volleyball tournaments and have won nine in the new millenium.

Eden has also now won five state championships in a row, which is behind only Sweet Home's run of six state titles in a row from 1990-95. Those Panthers teams were coached by Hall of Famer Sally Kus.

In addition, Pierce is just a few victories shy of the all-time record for wins in New York girls volleyball. He currently sits behind Kus at just under 800 wins.

Volleyball runs in Pierce's family. His brother, Rob, coaches the Eden boys volleyball team. Two of his nieces, Kendall and Lainy, have played for him and currently play for Penn State.

Lainy Pierce last year led the team on its latest championship run after beating Millbrook (Section IX) for the Class C state title.

She was twice named All-Western New York and was also a two-time most valuable player of the New York state championship game.

Joining her at graduation in June was Heather Holscher, who Stephen Pierce called "one of the best area hitters." She now plays for Daemen on scholarship.

Lainy Pierce and Holscher are two of just a few players in New York state history to ever win five state titles in their varsity career.

For many programs, those two players might be too much of a talent loss to overcome (not even considering the other players that graduated). But Eden has had a ridiculously deep pool talent coming up.

"The spots on this team are as competitive as they've ever been," Stephen Pierce said.

Keep an eye on outside hitter Kailey Ballou and middle blocker Brianna Tutuska.

"They are solid veterans," Pierce said of his senior captains. "Both have Division II offers on the table. They are two of the better players in Western New York."

Sophomore Sam Burgio has started on the varsity since her eighth grade year, and she played on New York's first club volleyball national champion team this summer. She has a standing offer from Maryland, but she won't commit to anywhere yet.

Ballou's sister, Meghan, who is a junior, is a reliable middle blocker, Pierce said.

"We will play at the highest level possible and compete with the top teams," the coach added. "We will show that Eden has been one of the best programs in the last 20 years."

Just how good has Eden been?

One more state title would set the all-time record for a boys or girls team of any sport in New York state.

That good. ‚Äč

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