By Joseph Staszewski
The players who made St. Francis Prep one of the city’s best and deepest volleyball teams last season are now keeping it arguably its most talented.
The Terriers lost seven seniors, including last year’s TimesLedger Newspapers All-Queens Player of the Year Kelly Flynn, from a squad that won the school’s sixth straight CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I girls’ volleyball title. With old faces moving to more prominent places, St. Francis Prep did not miss a beat in a 25-18, 25-21, 25-18 win over rival Archbishop Molloy in Briarwood Monday in the teams’ first meeting.
“They know it’s their opportunity,” SFP Coach Kevin Colucci said. “They were patient with it. Now they know it’s their time. I hope they take full advantage of everything.”
Senior setter Nicole Tong recorded 35 assists and four digs. Returning star middle hitter Caroline Gorecki had 10 kills and Jaclyn Laforgia added eight. Tong and the Terriers did a great job spreading the ball around to their bevy of hitters. The big front line that includes Johairy Rivadeneira, Stephanie Sokolich and Lauren Drauch dominated the net.
“It’s good to always have an available hitter if one isn’t performing to their full ability,” Gorecki said. “It’s always good to have another option.”
The Terriers (2-0) needed all of them to hold off Molloy in the second set. Colucci was forced to call time with the Stanners up 16-13. He told his team to refocus and calm down. Their passing became crisper as the match went along. An ace from Rivadeneira eventually tied the score at 18-18. SFP never trailed again and recorded the last three points of the set to win 25-21.
“When we are positive, that’s when we play the best,” Tong said.
Despite losing the set, it was the best Molloy (1-1) played all match, but they were undone by a slow start. Needing to get going faster is becoming a bothersome trend to first-year Stanners Coach and alumna Nicole Bagatta.
“Their first game they have to like warmup,” she said. “It’s a struggle we have that we are trying to overcome.”
Molloy got a strong performance from Katherine Kilkenny (seven kills), captain Emily Rabot (six kills, nine assists) and new libero Emily Noblesala. Bagatta, who took over for Steve Leoutsakos, thought the Terriers won the battle at the net and her team made one too many errors to upset the Terriers.
“Every overpass we make they are just killing it down,” the coach said. “They didn’t kill us anywhere else.”