By Marc Raimondi
Danny Scarola felt his volleyball team had gotten cocky, resulting in a league loss last week to rival Francis Lewis. Then last Thursday, the Cardozo coach told his players to come to practice at 3:30 p.m. sharp — no excuses.
Isaac Hwang, one of the team’s stars, was 10 minutes late. Scarola wasn’t pleased. He threw the sophomore out of practice and sat him for the first set in a scrimmage Friday with Grover Cleveland.
“Otherwise they’re just going to keep with that pattern,” Scarola said. “You know what’s going to happen? A playoff game, someone is going to show up late.”
Hwang admitted his mistake and came into Saturday’s Coaches vs. Cancer tournament at Cardozo with a renewed mindset. The powerful outside hitter had eight kills against Regis in the championship match to lead the Judges to a 25-22, 25-21 win in Oakland Gardens. When the event concluded, Scarola awarded Hwang with the tournament most valuable player honor.
Following the disciplinary action, Hwang said he had a talk with his uncle, Andy Choi, who was a professional soccer player in Korea.
“He told me that if you want to play, you have to play to be the best,” Hwang said. “Nothing else. You have to do everything you can to get to practices and things like that.”
Hwang was even better earlier in the day, leading Cardozo to first place in pool play and then a win over Long Island power Chaminade in the semifinals. The Judges’ Achilles heel this year has been consistency and part of the reason for that is their youth. Scarola felt Hwang came a long way in that respect Saturday.
“I think he’s starting to finally focus a little more and that’s why he’s starting to hit,” the coach said.
Tyler Gaugler had six kills in the championship match and was named to the all-tournament team. Moses Park had two huge blocks late in the second set, one to give Cardozo a 21-18 lead and another to put the Judges up 22-20.
The host team got a bit of a break a few points earlier. When Regis led 13-10 in the second set, the Raiders were whistled for a rotation error. Coach Alex Chan argued and there was a 20-minute delay while the referees and scorekeepers sorted out the matter. It turned out Regis wasn’t at fault, but the damage was done: The Raiders lost all their momentum.
“Now it slows them down and we’re starting at an even pace again,” Scarola said.
A Park kill gave Cardozo a 19-18 lead it would not relinquish. Tom McLaughlin had five kills and five blocks to lead Regis and was named to the all-tournament team. Chan was pleased with his team’s performance regardless of the loss, especially beating Bryant in the semifinals and going toe-to-toe with Cardozo in the final.
“Anytime you compete that well with a great team like Cardozo, it’s a positive thing,” said the coach, who has guided Regis to two of the last three CHSAA city titles.
Scarola did bemoan some more self-destructive play from his young team. In a pool play set against Bryant, Cardozo had 10 service errors in a span of 12 points.
“We have the potential to be really good,” Gaugler said. “We’ve just gotta stay consistent.”
Plenty of that rests with Hwang, who said he learned a lesson from this week’s tardiness.
“I was trying, but I ended up being late,” he said. “[Scarola] is really strict about practices. He just wants to get the best out of us. I realize that now.”