By Marc Raimondi
Cardozo did it all last year, winning the volleyball city title for the first time in almost three decades.
All except one thing: beating archrival Francis Lewis.
Lewis has ended Cardozo’s season five times in recent years — the Patriots are the Yankees to the Judges’ Red Sox.
It was time to reverse that trend and in a big way.
No. 2 Cardozo dominated No. 4 Francis Lewis 25-17, 25-13 in the Public Schools Athletic League Class A city championship match Nov. 21 at Hunter College in front of a packed house of cheering fans. It was the Judges’ second straight title, but most importantly it came against a team it has never beaten in the postseason during Coach Danny Scarola’s tenure. Lewis knocked Dozo out in 2001, 2004 and 2005 in the quarterfinals and 2007 and 2009 in the title match.
“They’ve been the team,” Scarola said. “They’re a premier team. Now we can consider ourselves a premier team, because we’re right up there.”
Cardozo (14-0) ended its rival’s five-year PSAL Queens A6 winning streak this year and then beat Lewis (11-4) again in the second meeting. But neither of those wins can compare to this one. The Patriots might not have the same personnel as the team that won three straight championships from 2007 to 2009, but the same name remains on the front of their jerseys.
“I know last year they were saying that we really didn’t win because we didn’t beat Lewis,” junior outside hitter Adriana Braciak said. “But this just shows we can defeat anyone if we really put our hearts to it.”
Judges outside hitter Ashley Grubler had 13 kills Monday night. She remembers watching Cardozo fall to Lewis in the 2007 final when her sister, Mallory, was Dozo’s star. And she’ll never forget falling to the Patriots in the championship as a sophomore. This victory was even more special for her.
“It kind of just ends my whole high school career the way it should end,” Grubler said.
The key, she said, was getting out early. Confidence has been an issue at times this year for Cardozo and getting ahead was important, Grubler said. The Judges suffered through a shaky middle of the season, losing in their second host tournament final to Stuyvesant. The burden of being the defending champion was becoming so heavy that the Judges almost forgot they were still the best team in the league.
“The girls finally were putting that confidence in themselves throughout the playoffs,” said Scarola, who guided the Cardozo boys’ team to three straight titles from 2008-10. “We have the talent. Just know we have the talent — believe we have the talent.”
Braciak came up big with six kills from the outside, Jessica Lou had 23 assists and libero Amy Sung’s defense and passing — strengths all season — were pristine in the championship match. It was a resounding victory, unlike last year when Cardozo had to come back from down 24-21 in the third set against Wagner.
That title was historic, the first time the Judges won in 29 years. This one? Well, it might have been even sweeter.
“My whole four years, Lewis was always on top,” Grubler said. “Not anymore, because Cardozo is on top.”