By Joseph Staszewski
Danny Scarola could sense the nerves in his young team heading into their first meeting with rival Francis Lewis since beating them in last year’s volleyball final.
“They were nervous. They told me,” the Cardozo coach said. “You saw it a little in the beginning.”
The Judges opened the match with a number of errant passes and service errors. Cardozo snapped out of it quickly, kept its composure the rest of the way and beat visiting Francis Lewis 25-17, 25-17 in PSAL Queens A West girls’ volleyball Oct. 10. The win moves the Judges (5-0) into sole possession of first place.
“They were able to calm down and say, ‘You know what? Let’s play them like any other team,’” Scarola said. “They did a good job controlling the emotions.”
There was a tense moment in a close second set. Francis Lewis (3-1) pulled within 18-17. It forced Scarola to call time out in the belief his club had lost its mental edge. The players responded by scoring seven straight points to seal the win. Senior Cassidy Chen recorded a number of aces, Adriana Braciak put down key kills and Simaran Wilson added a big block that changed the momentum.
Freshman Alexis Harrison recorded seven kills in one of the best performances of her young career for Cardozo. Braciak had five kills and nine digs. Libero Rachel Ng had a strong performance in the back and setter Jessica Yin added 17 assists. Melissa Chu led Francis Lewis with eight assists and Regina Anthony chipped in five kills.
The win is a big one for a Cardozo team that was expected to take a step back after losing its core of seniors from back-to-back championship clubs.
“I think it definitely gave them a boost,” Scarola said. “We are good enough to be competitive in every game.”