Some news and notes from high school sports, including honors for former Ellicottville coach Mary Neilon, two Portville volleyball stars and the area’s Scholar-Athlete teams:
— Neilon, the longtime girls soccer coach at Ellicottville, will be honored in the 2020 induction class of the New York State High School Girls Soccer Hall of Fame.
Just the fourth Hall of Fame class since the hall’s inaugural year in 2017, the 2020 honorees will be inducted with a ceremony on Sept. 12 in Niskayuna (Schenectady County).
“To tell you the truth, I was pretty shocked and wasn’t even aware that this Hall of Fame existed,” Neilon admitted, “but now certainly thankful for the recognition and pretty grateful to realize that somebody noticed. For all my years of coaching, my teams’ accomplishments, it’s definitely nice to be acknowledged.”
Neilon said Section 6 girls soccer chairman Chris Durr nominated her for the Hall. Previous inductees for the Hall include Rochester native Abby Wambach. On the list of fellow 2020 inductees, Neilon recognized both New Lebanon coach Carve Enfield and Poland coach Tom Basel, both of whom led Class D teams into the state playoffs during her tenure at Ellicottville.
“The New Lebanon coach, I know he and I had conversations off the sidelines over the years when we met, or his team was there, or he came to watch our team or vice versa,” she said.
Neilon retired after 37 years of teaching following the 2018-19 school year, with a varsity girls soccer coaching record of 458-160-34. Her win total ranks second in all of Western New York, behind only Allegany-Limestone’s Dale MacArthur. She coached from 1984-2018, including 34 years of varsity soccer. Her teams won 25 sectional titles, all in Class D, and four state championships: in 1990, 1998, 1999 and 2003.
Last fall, in the Eagles’ first season without Neilon, the school dedicated a new scoreboard on the soccer field in her name.
Even in retirement, Neilon hasn’t completely left the soccer field. She joined MacArthur’s New York girls roster for the 2020 NY/PA Corporate Cup Soccer Showcase and has enjoyed returning to coaching temporarily.
“Certainly, with Dale and the other coaches, it’s been enjoyable,” Neilon said. “I just jokingly said to Dale, ‘Just don’t make me write a practice plan.’ But it’s been nice to be back.”
— Two members of the state championship finalist Portville volleyball team earned spots on the Class C All-State Volleyball team, as voted by the New York Volleyball Coaches Association.
Sophomore setter Kylie Blessing and junior middle hitter Laura Wilhelm both made the first team in Class C.
According to wnyathletics.com, Wilhelm marked a team-high 155 kills last season, along with 27 blocks. Blessing marked 625 assists, 77 aces, 106 kills and 70 digs. She reached the 2,000-assist mark with two seasons of eligibility remaining in Portville’s final match of 2019.
Also for the Panthers, freshman outside hitter Tori Unverdorben made the second team and junior libero/defensive specialist Reggie Tkacik made the fourth team.
Portville (25-1) dominated its 2019 regular season and didn’t lose a set until its five-set victory over Eden for the Section 6 Class C championship. The Panthers returned to the NYSPHSAA championship match, losing in four sets to Section 1’s Valhalla.
— The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) recently announced its fall 2019 Scholar-Athlete teams and individuals. Of the 3,631 scholar-athlete teams recognized this fall, 59 were from Big 30 schools.
To receive Scholar-Athlete team status, a team’s average GPA for 75% of its roster must be 90.00 or greater.
Pioneer had nine scholar-athlete fall teams, Allegany-Limestone and Wellsville had seven each and Olean had six.
The full list of NYSPHSAA Scholar-Athlete teams from the Big 30:
Allegany-Limestone (7): boys cross country, boys soccer, football, girls cross country, girls soccer, girls swimming and diving, girls volleyball
Belfast (2): boys soccer, girls soccer
Bolivar-Richburg (3): football, girls soccer, girls volleyball
Cuba-Rushford (3): boys cross country, girls volleyball, girls soccer
Ellicottville (3): boys soccer, girls soccer, girls volleyball
Fillmore (4): boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis, girls volleyball
Franklinville (2): girls cross country (merged, Ellicottville), girls soccer
Friendship (1): girls soccer
Genesee Valley (2): girls soccer, girls volleyball (merged, Belfast)
Houghton (1): boys soccer
Olean (6): boys soccer, girls cross country, girls soccer, girls swimming and diving (merged, Franklinville, Portville), girls tennis, girls volleyball
Pioneer (9): boys cross country (merged, Holland), boys golf, boys soccer, field hockey, football, girls cross country, girls soccer, girls swimming and diving, girls volleyball
Portville (4): boys soccer, football, girls soccer, girls volleyball
Scio (2): boys soccer, girls soccer
Wellsville (7): boys soccer, competitive cheerleading, football, girls soccer, girls swimming and diving, girls tennis, girls volleyball
Whitesville (2): boys cross country, girls soccer