By Marc Raimondi
Francis Lewis was the favorite to continue its stranglehold on the PSAL and win a fourth straight Class A city title. But coach Arnie Rosenbaum has said all season that his volleyball team was merely in the mix for a championship. He set the modest goals of going .500 and winning a division title after losing the entire core that won those three crowns.
So when top-seeded Francis Lewis was eliminated in the semifinals by No. 5 Susan Wagner in a dramatic, 25-23, 25-27, 25-15 thriller, Rosenbaum wasn’t shocked or even upset.
“I’m happy in a sense,” he said. “It’s a good run. We have nobody back from last year.”
The lone starter returner had been senior middle hitter Alexandra Persaud and she tore her ACL Oct. 11 at the Lewis Columbus Day tournament. Since then, the Patriots haven’t been the same.
Still, Lewis (12-1) did have ample opportunities to go to a fifth-straight final. The Patriots held a 19-11 lead in the first set and a 19-12 lead in the second. Though they won the second, they coughed up both leads, which has been an issue for most of the season.
“One thing we had trouble with during the year, when we have big leads we have trouble finishing sometimes,” Rosenbaum said. “We did it against Kennedy the other day. Two of the three games we had five- and seven-point leads with [Wagner star outside] Emily [Burke] in the backcourt and that’s the time for us to play sideout with them. If we do that, we’re in good shape, but we didn’t do that.”
Burke was a big reason for that. Rosenbaum was impressed with the Hofstra-bound senior’s passing from the back row, as well as her hitting. She had 20 kills.
“Emily wasn’t just on the hitting,” the coach said. “She picked up all the balls that went her way. She played both sides of the game.”
Senior outside hitter Paulina Jobczyk, the lone player who won’t be back from the starting rotation, had 13 kills and 11 digs. Freshman outside Ragina Anthony added 11 kills and 10 digs, junior middle Lisa Camargo had six kills and two blocks and junior setter Jessica Chung had 26 assists.
All year, the Lewis players had been saying they wanted to prove the Patriots could win without the departed seniors from last year. Jobczyk considered that a success.
“I think we already did prove it, because we went so far,” she said. “Semifinals, we were right there.”
Lewis is the third PSAL dynasty to fall in recent months. Tottenville failed to win its seventh-straight softball title in June and the Martin Luther King Jr. boys’ soccer team missed the finals for the first time in 15 years earlier this month.
Rosenbaum, who has five city titles, was asked whether it’ll feel weird not being on the bench in the championship match.
“It hasn’t been long enough,” he said with a laugh.