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Bayside rolls into quarterfinals after beating Midwood

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Riding the No. 6 train on the way to Hunter College on Sunday, the players on the Bayside girls’ volleyball team huddled around Karolina Krauze. The senior took video on her digital camera of Midwood, the Commodores’ second-round opponent, during the Hornets’ first-round game against Long Island City on Saturday.

Call it a little pre-match film session.

What the players saw were holes in Midwood’s back row. And when they had a free ball Sunday, that’s exactly where the Commodores sent it in a 25-9, 25-19 win against the Hornets in the second round in Manhattan.

No. 4 Bayside (8-3) will meet No. 5 Susan Wagner, which beat No. 21 Bryant, in the PSAL Class A quarterfinals Tuesday back at Hunter.

This is the furthest the Commodores have gone in the postseason and as Bayside players – and coach Tricia Palotti – sat at Hunter on Saturday watching the first round, they got somewhat worried when they saw three upsets: No. 24 Columbus defeating No. 9 Hunter College HS, No. 26 Franklin K. Lane beating No. 7 Lehman and No. 21 Bryant knocking off No. 12 Bronx Science.

“Absolutely,” Palotti said when asked if she was nervous. “There’s always pressure.”

More so for Bayside because of where it was seeded. The Commodores, who have never been a top-10 seed, are favorites to reach the semifinals. But Palotti made sure their spot on the wall didn’t enter her players’ heads.

“The seedings don’t matter,” Krauze said. “We don’t really think about the seeding much.”

But Krauze did admit thinking about those upsets from the previous day. She leaned over to teammates while they were going on and said: “We can’t underestimate the lower teams.”

They didn’t Sunday in an impressive all-around performance against a solid Midwood (11-2) club. Senior setter Mia Alexis De Claro had 13 assists and senior outside hitter Adriana Goglas had five kills for Bayside. Traci Mari Kent led Midwood with nine digs and Shannon Appel had two blocks.

“I knew that they were a passing team and they didn’t let anything drop,” Hornets coach Thomasina Lenzi said. “They didn’t overpower us. They were smart and scrappy.”

The Commodores’ biggest problem during the season was playing to the level of the opponent. That shouldn’t be an issue in the playoffs, where every team is accomplished. Their next opponent, Wagner, was the Staten Island 9-A champion.

“We had all the confidence in the world,” Krauze said. “We’re all seniors. We wanted to come out with a bang.”

The Bayside players also want something else: another chance against top seed Francis Lewis. It’ll only happen if the Commodores beat Wagner and if the Patriots beat Columbus. But Bayside has had as much success against Lewis as any team in the PSAL. The Commodores almost took a set off the Patriots on Oct. 28 before losing, 26-24.

“We definitely want to play them again,” De Claro said. “I believe we have a chance. … Not a lot of teams have seen them. We know how they play.”

Lewis junior middle hitter Alicja Pawelec watched Bayside’s match against Midwood from the stands and came away impressed with the result.

“They’ve improved a lot since the beginning of the season,” Pawelec said of the Commodores. “They’re a legitimate contender. They have everything. They have great defense and their setter (De Claro) is one of the best in the PSAL.”

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