By Five Boro Sports
Todd Gaugler empathizes with Kevin Ha. The former is one of the Cardozo boys’ volleyball team’s top offensive weapons, an outside hitter and one of the best players in the PSAL. The latter could be all of the above, but he has chosen not to be — for the benefit of the team.
“I totally feel for him,” Gaugler said. “It kind of sucks. He’s very sacrificial.”
Ha is a great athlete, has tremendous leaping ability and a powerful swing — all the ingredients to be one of the best outside hitters in the city. But he is a better libero, volleyball’s most unsung position, and the Judges need his defense if they want to win their second straight city title.
“It’s a great example to all the new guys,” Cardozo Coach Danny Scarola said. “… It’s great for the team. He could be an incredible hitter.”
And he probably will be next year. For now, though, the junior will wait his turn and keep playing the outstanding defense that made him one of the top liberos in the city last season as a sophomore. He has 35 digs and Gaugler admits for as much offensive talent that he, senior Bon Jun Koo, senior middle Kenny Krell and junior setter Stanley Martinez have, Cardozo wouldn’t be much without Ha.
“If this is what Coach wants, he knows best,” Ha said. “I understand. He wants a championship and I want one, too.”
The Judges seem to be headed in that direction. They’re 9-0 in PSAL Queens II and have won all three tournaments they have competed in. Most recently, Cardozo won its host tournament Saturday in Bayside, beating Midwood in the championship match. Ha was named to the all-tournament team.
Scarola has preached all year about going back to the basics. Cardozo lost plenty of firepower from last year’s championship squad and a new focus on defense and passing is going to help the Judges sustain their excellent level of play.
“We’re always more of an offensive-minded team,” Gaugler said.
It’s still a work in progress, though, and Ha is not yet ready to proclaim his team as the one to beat.
“This is where we should be,” he said after a win against Francis Lewis on Friday. “I feel like we’re never satisfied. I’m expecting more from this team.”
While his position has stayed the same, that kind of leadership has been new for Ha this year. He’s no longer one of the younger, less experienced players on a veteran team. He’s one of the best and most vocal. His leadership extends past his willingness to make sacrifices. It comes through in his words and actions, too.
“Now, he’s like the big man on campus,” Scarola said. “You have guys looking up to him.”
No matter what position he plays.