By Marc Raimondi
Cardozo got its feet wet last year. The Judges made their first appearance in the semifinals in Coach Larry Alberts’ 24 years at the Bayside school. And, more importantly, they got the experience of going head to head with six-time PSAL city champion Tottenville.
“They’re not as nervous as they were to play Staten Island teams,” Alberts said. “[The Pirates] were so good. But the girls realized that people are human, too, and the same size as them. Sometimes you’re going to Staten Island and you think you’re going to face amazons.”
Cardozo actually didn’t fare badly in that final four encounter. The Judges held a 1-0 lead and, aside from two innings in which Tottenville scored a combined seven runs, they held their own. It’s that performance that will be driving them in part this season.
“I think our team is overall more confident,” senior first baseman Anna Laboccetta said. “[Staten Island teams] are actually possible to beat.”
It doesn’t hurt that Cardozo has most of its core returning. That all starts with senior windmiller Amanda Annicaro, who has played on the varsity since her freshman year. She was one of the best pitchers in Queens last year and a steady, calming influence in the circle.
“Amanda is always going to be Amanda,” Alberts said. “She’s always going to be consistent.”
With her poise, everything else can fall into place. Starters Sandy Tomasik (shortstop) and Jennifer Beiner (center field) return to their 2009 positions, while a few flip-flop. Sam Mersten will move from third base to catcher to replace the graduated Angela Saint and Gina Mingione will come in from the outfield to play third. Alberts said he couldn’t put together a strong lineup unless Mersten was behind the plate and it’s a credit to her versatility.
“I think Sam stepped up,” Laboccetta said. “Alberts just threw her in there and she’s doing a really good job.”
Cardozo will have some new faces in the outfield. Junior Jamie Lam, who played sparingly her first two years, will start in left field and sophomore Erisa Shehi and freshman Gabriella Valdes will both see time in right. Jennifer McCormick, who saw time last year, will take over the second-base job from the graduated Jaclyn Liebowitz.
“Jen McCormick has put a lot of work in and has been very good,” Alberts said.
What Cardozo has that can’t be taught is a world of experience. Seven of its starters are seniors and most of them have played since they were freshman.
“We get along really well,” Tomasik said. “We have good chemistry, on and off the field. We’ve all grown up together.”
Now the Judges will try to take the next step. They’ve competed with the city’s best already. It’s time to try and beat them.
“We need to keep the success of last year in our mind,” Tomasik said, “but remember this is a fresh season.”