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Terriers fulfill expectations with B/Q championship

St. Francis Prep was supposed to win the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens girls’ volleyball championship. That’s the way it has been for most of the season. The Terriers were undefeated – with only one set loss – and had not really even been challenged by their peers.

But there’s a certain pressure that comes with that. If everyone expects you to win, what happens if you lose? Some of those thoughts were weighing on the Prep players Monday before the title match with Mary Louis.

“I’ll be honest,” senior Amanda Rojas said. “I was actually nervous. I was really, really nervous, because I know that if we let go and we ease up they’re gonna take the game from us. They want the game just as bad as we do.”

She really didn’t let it show. Nor did her teammates. St. Francis Prep beat Mary Louis, 27-25, 25-11, 22-25, 25-19, to win its second straight Brooklyn/Queens championship Monday night at Christ the King HS in Queens.

It could be argued that Mary Louis, which fell to Prep in sweeps twice during the regular season, lost the match in the first set. The Hilltoppers had a lead, lost it, fought back to tie it at 25 on a Alyssa Martori kill, but eventually fell.

Rojas had the set-winning kill and probably the best all-around match for the Terriers. She had nine kills, six digs and two blocks in perhaps her greatest performance of the season. Maybe those nerves helped.

SFP coach Kevin Colucci harkened back to two years ago. Prep played Molloy in the finals and it was a similar situation. The Terriers were supposed to win. But that time they didn’t. He wanted to make sure something like that never happened again and he drilled it into his girls’ heads not to take any team for granted all season.

“That still lingers in my mind,” the 11th-year coach said. “We should have won three in a row.”

Junior libero Jillian Linares, who Colucci called the team’s most consistent player down the stretch, had 24 digs, senior outside hitter Veronique Cadet had 12 kills, sophomore setter Julia Hannigan had 37 assists and senior middle Courtney Hanson had nine kills and three blocks for Prep (12-0).

Linares, who was the star of Tuesday’s semifinal win against Fontbonne, came up big again against Mary Louis. She doesn’t play club volleyball like many other SFP players, but she owes her massive improvement simply to experience. This is her first full year starting at libero.

“Last year I had two jerseys in my hands before games,” she said.

St. Francis leaves Friday for the CHSAA Class AA state championship in Buffalo. The Terriers have had that in the backs of their minds all season. The past three years they’ve finished either 3-3 or 2-4 in pool play and they’re planning on making it to at least the semifinals this time around.

“That was our main goal,” Cadet said. “We want to do damage at states.”

Prep has already blazed through two straight undefeated seasons in Brooklyn/Queens. That is the logical next step.

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