By Marc Raimondi
The Academy of American Studies players were fired up. The Eagles have cruised in league play, but last week they got a chance to play Bronx Science in a non-league match featuring two of the city’s top teams. American Studies came in ranked No. 1 in New York City by the New York Post and Science was No. 2.
“It was a little bit of excitement in the air,” Eagles Coach Josh Yang said. “You get a little bit of jitters. We haven’t had that in awhile.”
Academy of American Studies was able to hold its top spot with a 25-22, 25-19, 25-17 win over Science in non-league boys’ volleyball April 18 in Long Island City. Yang did admit it was somewhat anti-climactic, because Science star middle hitter Alex Barbulescu was out with an ankle injury, but it was another win in a big week.
“I think it was still one of the more competitive matches we’ve played,” Yang said of an undermanned Bronx Science squad.
Junior outside hitter Michal Kasza had 25 kills and 10 aces, Conrad Zajkowski had 12 kills and five blocks, Piotr Kasza had 53 assists and Ricky Myint added nine kills.
Academy of American Studies advanced to the PSAL city championship match last year and Yang sees vast improvement in this group. The entire nucleus is playing club ball with the AllStarr program.
“These kids are just coming into their own, really,” Yang said. “I’ve seen Piotr do things and I’m just like, ‘Wow.’ It blows me away.”
The coach said the one thing his team has to improve on is confidence when it gets on the court. He said Michal Kasza asked him during the Science match if he should be hitting line or cross court and just a general strategy on how to attack the Wolverines. Yang told him not to adjust his play — they should adjust to him.
“We know we’re good, but when we get into the game they don’t play as confidently as they should,” Yang said. “Everyone has to adjust to us. They don’t realize how skilled and how good and how dominant we are.”
And Michal Kasza has become arguably the top outside hitter in the city. Even when American Studies struggled in the first set, Piotr, his brother, just kept feeding him.
“Everyone in the gym knows it’s going to him and he just puts it away,” Yang said.
The Eagles have done the same to the opposition so far this season.