By Christopher Barca
Last year, Bryant defeated Academy of American Studies in the PSAL boys’ volleyball city championship match.
On Saturday, the Eagles, led by star siblings Michal and Piotr Kasza, proved to Bryant that they are a completely different team, one that is well-rounded with the ability to dominate.
“We definitely had payback on our minds today after losing to them last year,” Michal Kasza said. “Now they’re going to be looking to beat us if we play them again.”
Seeking their third straight Grover Cleveland Tournament championship, Academy of American Studies was able to exact their revenge on Bryant, defeating the Owls 25-19, 25-20 in the championship match Saturday in Ridgewood.
Named tournament MVP for his dominance from the outside hitter position, Michal Kasza led the Eagles on the court and Coach Joshua Yang describes him as an incredible leader off the court as well.
“Michal is a stud and he doesn’t even know it yet,” Yang said. “I’ve always thought that if we work as a team, the stars will shine and that is what Michal has become. The kids feed off of his confidence out there.”
Feed off of his confidence they did, as Academy of American Studies handily took both sets with little resistance. Bryant briefly led 6-5 in the first set, but aside from that brief glimmer of hope, the Eagles consistently maintained a four to six point advantage over both sets.
Championship shirt in one hand and trophy in the other, Michal Kasza wouldn’t take credit for being a huge reason behind yet another tournament title, instead spreading it around to his fellow Eagles, who beat Brooklyn Tech in the semifinals. Bryant beat Townsend Harris in the semis.
“It was the whole team working together today, trying to win this tournament,” the star junior said. “We are all coming together at the right time. Our confidence is up, we’re going to keep practicing and if we keep playing together, we can keep winning.”
Sophomore setter and instrumental starter Piotr Kasza, Michal’s younger brother, gets his own fair share of praise from Yang, but just like his brother, he puts the team above all. With the playoffs quickly approaching, the Kasza brothers have the Eagles in a great position to succeed.
“Passing, setting and serving was all very good today, everyone did a great job working as a team,” the younger Kasza said. “We just have to get past the first round and we’ll go from there. One game at a time.”
“Piotr is in full control of things out there, most players can’t say that,” added Yang. “So many other guys are huge keys to our success as well. Ricky Myint has been a four-year player and a captain is a great example of that. When games get tough, they all rise to the occasion.”
Academy of American Studies, which hasn’t dropped a set during league play all season, is primed to make another run deep into the playoffs, with a trip back to the city championship in mind. This year, Yang and the Eagles hope to be the ones hanging a banner in their gym instead of their rival.
“It’s an honor to play against Bryant, they are a tough team for sure,” Yang said. “But hopefully this is our year. The kids will be playing full throttle and I know that we all will be poised and ready for a run.”