By Joseph Staszewski
Last year brought plenty of highlights, produced many stars and created memories to last a lifetime. TimesLedger Sports Editor Joseph Staszewski takes a look back at the year in Queens high school sports and picks the best of the best from 2015.
Program of the Year:
Christ the King
The Middle Village school continues to be the standard bearer for athletics in Queens. Its boys’ basketball team won its third straight CHSAA “AA” Intersectional title and CK sent its boys’ and girls’ hoops teams to the state Federation tournament for the first time since 2010. The Royals also continued to excel on the gridiron, with an undefeated “AA” regular season and a trip to the championship game. The CK girls’ soccer team won a fifth straight diocesan title, its first city championship, and went to the Catholic state final for the second consecutive year.
Boys’ Athlete of the Year: Rawle Alkins, Christ the King boys’ basketball
Alkins matured into one of the nation’s top prospects, currently ranked No. 9 by Rivals. The athletic wing, now at Word of God (N.C.), left a mark during his final season with the Royals before leaving because of eligibility issues. Alkins helped CK earn a third straight CHSAA Class “AA” intersectional title and a third consecutive trip to the state Federation final. He averaged 20 points per game, was the CHSAA regular-season and post-season MVP and posted the first triple-double by a boys’ player in Christ the King history
Girls’ Athlete of the Year: Alexandra Yule, Archbishop Molloy softball
The current Columbia freshman put together a fine finish to her career with the Stanners, helping Molloy win the Brooklyn/Queens, city and CHSAA state titles for just the second time in school history. Yule, who played shortstop in addition to pitching, was 10-3 in the circle and hit a team-leading .613. She tossed a gem in a 5-1 win in Game 2 of the diocesan championship to get Molloy back on track. Yule then held St. Joseph by the Sea to just one run on four hits in the state semifinal.
Team of the Year:
Archbishop Molloy boys’ soccer
The Stanners won their first CHSAA International title since 2012 and their 15th overall. The team’s only loss of the season came in the Catholic state semifinals to eventual champion Chaminade. Molloy finished 12-1-5 and proved it could win the high-scoring game and come out on top in the close ones. The Stanners posted 1-0 wins in both the city semifinals and final.
Coach of Year:
Anna Dawidowska, Grover Cleveland boys’ volleyball
A No. 6 seed team with four sophomores in its starting lineup following a semifinal defeat the year before doesn’t sound like a championship formula. But those are exactly the ingredients Dawidowski successfully put together, leading her team to the school’s first PSAL Class A city crown. She never treated the sophomores as such. They flourished under pressure in the title match.
Best Newcomer: Charlie Neuweiler, Monsignor McClancy baseball
The tall righty quickly became the ace of the Crusaders’ staff as a sophomore. He went 10-2 with a sparkling 1.28 ERA to help the program to one of the best seasons in its history. He tossed a no-hitter and averaged 10 strikeouts per game. It was Neuweiler, despite not having his best stuff, who pitched McClancy past Archbishop Molloy and into the winner’s bracket final of the CHSAA Intersectional tournament.
Best Upset: Bayside boys’ soccer stuns top-seeded Martin Luther King Jr. in the PSAL Class A quarterfinals
It wasn’t just that Bayside, which placed second in its division, took down the PSAL city title favorite and national power, but how it ended MLK’s season. The Commodores, who have been known for their shutout defense in recent year, allowed the high-scoring Knights just one first-half goal. Keeper Julian Rodriguez made 12 saves.
Best Clutch Performance: Jesse Rodrigues, Archbishop Molloy boys’ soccer
Molloy scored just a goal in both the CHSAA Intersectional semifinal and final and Rodrigues, a senior, had a hand in each. He assisted on Kyle Hoffman’s winning goal in the 75th minute against St. Francis Prep and scored the championship clincher in double overtime to beat Fordham Prep. Rodrigues tallied 19 goals on the season.
Game of the Year: Maspeth rallies from 18-points down to stun Dwight in start Federation Class B semifinals
The Argonauts’ magical season appeared headed to a crashing end. Instead it added one more amazing chapter. Maspeth rallied from an 18-point second-quarter deficit to stun Dwight 51-50 in Albany and reach its first ever Federation final. A big three by Matthew Nickle gave the Argonauts their first lead of the contest at 51-47 with a minute to play.
Story of the Year: Death of legendary St. Francis Prep football coach Vince O’Connor
Vince O’Connor died on Valentine’s Day, still doing the job that he loved which defined him for six decades. O’Connor, the second-winningest football coach in New York State history with 241 victories, had just finished his 61st season as varsity coach and had no plans to give it up, despite handing off some duties to eventual successor Richie Carroll. He won a record 16 CHSFL titles, including 14 at the highest classification. He coached nine pros and four Walter Camp All-Americans. Most importantly, he touched the lives of thousands of players, many of whom returned to Fresh Meadows to pay their respects.
Quote of the Year: “I’ve realized in the last couple of days that the break that I probably really got was the break I didn’t realize, the fact that I was able to coach at Cardozo,” said the Judges’ Ron Naclerio after becoming the PSAL’s all-time winningest boys’ basketball coach.
Naclerio always had aspirations beyond Cardozo, whether it was to coach in college at his other alma mater St. John’s or in the NBA with the Knicks or Nets. After 35 seasons and two city titles, he is embracing the legacy he’s leaving at Dozo and made sure to tell the large crowd so after hitting the milestone.