Controversial ruling mars SFP’s crown

St. Francis Prep’s women’s volleyball team earned their first CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens crown since 2003, outlasting bitter rival Molloy 21-25, 25-18, 22-25, 25-21, 15-11, but a controversial ruling regarding an illegal substitution near the end of the match cast doubt on the three-hour result’s legitimacy.
With Molloy leading the fifth and penultimate game, 12-11, head official Russell Rodriguez halted play. After a 45-minute delay, he correctly determined the Stanners had illegally subbed middle Maggie Bolan for libero Emily Harms, when serving specialist Kerry Ulmer was supposed to replace Harms, as libero rules state based on the affair. Rodriguez rightfully awarded possession to St. Francis while adding a point to their total and subtracting one from Molloy.
The snafu turned the tilt’s momentum on its axis - Molloy had won three points in a row before the stoppage - as the Terriers won the next three points to exact revenge on the Stanners, who came from behind in last year’s final to win their second straight crown.
“It definitely killed the momentum for Molloy,” Rodriguez noted.
Although Rodriguez technically followed the rulebook, there were legitimate questions. First, when the illegal substitution was made, no ruling was established. Molloy Coach Steve Leoutsakos saw his mistake and attempted to make the correct adjustment, but he was told to leave it status quo.
St. Francis Prep Coach Kevin Colucci noticed the error and informed one of the referees, even though coaches are not allowed to challenge the opposition’s rotation. Tipped off, Rodriguez stopped play four points later nevertheless.
“If he disallowed the substitution, I would’ve called timeout and put my substitute in,” Leoutsakos said. “He told me, ‘it’s ok, put the girl in.’ Kevin even asked him if it was ok and he said yes.”
The two-point swing took away from a thrilling back-and-forth, edge-of-your-seat championship. After forcing the fifth game, St. Francis came out roaring, jumping out to a 7-2 lead. It did not last and it appeared the Stanners were on their way to a third straight title until play was stopped.
“They can’t beat us on the floor, so they had to beat us with technical stuff,” senior setter Nicki Bagatta said. “That’s cheap and pretty sad to win like that.”
The Terriers, obviously, had a different outlook.
“I’m going to remember this as the game we beat Molloy,” senior hitter Jen Cunningham said. “I’m going to say that it was our time and our year and we deserved it.

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