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Owls fly to PSAL volleyball championship

The fact of the matter was, Bryant's 7-foot junior, Jacek Ratajczak, left the game after he finished serving - not because he'd made any mistakes, it's just his usual rotation. He watched from the sideline, pacing as the Owls' opponent, Cardozo, played them point for point in game two of the PSAL championships last Thursday at Hunter College.Thus, it was senior outside hitter Sam Montalvo - who stands eye level with his teammate Ratajczack's biceps - who stepped up as top-seeded Bryant pulled off a 25-20, 26-24 win over No. 6 Cardozo for its first-ever PSAL boys volleyball title.Montalvo landed eight kills, including five in the second set and the game-winning tip, and played coolly during a series of tense rallies to help Bryant (27-1) emerge unscathed from its toughest rotations - the ones where Ratajczak would have to play in the back row, but which he sits out instead.Opponents "think we're a cheesy team with one player," said Montalvo, who averaged 7.1 kills per league match this season but who said he sometimes feels overlooked in the shadow of, well, his 7-foot teammate. Some on the team described him as the ultimate team player."If I don't get the ball, I don't get disappointed," said Montalvo, who played with taped-up fingers.He'd just helped his coach, Steve Hagenlocher, win his first city championship in his 15 years at the helm. The last time his team played for the title was 1997. They lost to Cardozo."This was a good, tough match," Hagenlocher said. "On the third weekend of the season, I told them, 'We're going to win the city championship if we work hard.' I'm not happy, I'm relieved."Cardozo coach Danny Scarola, who last took a team to the finals in 2000, was satisfied to have entered the championship game on such a roll. The Judges took down third-seeded Lehman in the quarterfinals before knocking out No. 2 Cleveland in two sets in the semifinals."There was so much talent from one to 13," Scarola said. "Anybody could have won it."Ratajczak led Bryant with 12 kills, but Cardozo's senior outside hitter, Jeong In Lee, totaled a game-high 17 kills as one of the league's few players who are able to face Ratajczak at the net and not get blocked every time."They gave us a problem closing the blocks," said Bryant setter Jonathan Tuwaidan, who had 25 assists. "They scored a lot of points off our hands."Peter Jung added four kills and eight service points for the Judges (21-4), which had dropped two regular-season encounters to Bryant."We lost twice to them, so we really just wanted to beat them," Jung said.Reach contributing writer Christine Sampson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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