BY TOM BOGGIE
Gazette Sports Editor
NISKAYUNA — It’s probably no surprise that one of the best seasons in recent history for the Niskayuna High School girls’ volleyball team coincided with Tom Budka taking over as head coach.
Budka, a Niskayuna resident who runs his own electrical-engineering business — RF Diagnostics LLC — was the captain of the Silver Warriors’ boys’ team in 1984 and 1985, has over 30 years of volleyball playing experience and also coached the 15U Northeast Thunder volleyball club in 2013-14.
Budka is also a setter for the IREVA Men’s B Team “Brown Chicken Brown Cow” that won the gold medal in their regional tournament in May.
Also coaching this season were James Pompeo (junior varsity) and Katherine Cocca (freshman). Pompeo is also the men’s coach at Sage College, while Cocca was a middle hitter for the 2006 Niskayuna girls’ team that won the Section II Class AA championship.
This year’s team had an 18-6 record, and four of the losses were to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Shenendehowa, perennially two of the best programs in Section II.
The Silver Warriors also took part in four Saturday tournaments during the season, defeating a strong Guilderland team in the Hats Off Tournament in Saratoga Springs in early September, losing in the semifinals at the Waterford Tournament, defeating Bethlehem for the championship in the six-team Averill Park Invitational and placing first in the Silver Division in the 24-team Dig Pink tournament at Queensbury.
Niskayuna advanced to the Section II Class A championship game by topping Columbia in three sets.
“It was a great team effort,” said Budka.
The Silver Warriors were led by senior co-captains Lauren Litz (setter) and DeAnna Whitemore (outside hitter). The team also got strong middle hitting and blocking from junior Julia Wagner and senior Katie Allen.
Sophomore Diana Pinchuk and junior Kendall Blake also filled in as middle hitters and right-side hitters, while senior Kayla O’Brien served as a right-side hitter and serving specialist.
The team’s outside hitters included sophomore Leila Nayar, senior Hannah Koehan, senior Katie Mamitko and junior Ren Garcia.
Seniors Emily Stansbury and Litz were the setters, while defensive play was supported by senior Madison Schmitt, junior Rosie Conti and sophomore Jackie Budka.
Senior Jesse Thomas served as the team manager.
“I am honored to give back to the Niskayuna High School volleyball program, which introduced me to this great game,” said Budka. “I hope the Niskayuna players from this team will give back to others in the future and help promote this fine sport.
“Niskayuna has a very deep team of talented players from many different area volleyball clubs [Northeast Thunder, Lakeside and Jaguars]. It has been a challenge to get all players on the same page to work together so that they succeed as a team. The players worked hard, and our record shows that we have come together as a team.”
Editor’s note: The Silver Warriors played Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in the Section II Class A championship after this week’s edition of Your Niskayuna went to press.