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Cardozo wins 2nd straight city crown

Kenny Krell had just one thing on his mind as he stepped on the court at Hunter College last Thursday night. The senior middle hitter is one of Cardozo’s unheralded players. He’s not the Judges’ go−to guy — senior outside hitters Todd Gaugler and Bonjun Koo share that title.

But all Krell wanted to do was make a difference in the city championship match.

“It’s the last game of volleyball I’m probably ever gonna play,” he said. “I’m not going to play in college. I had to go out with a bang.”

He certainly did that.

Krell had a career−high six kills and three blocks — all of them seemingly coming in key junctures — to help lift No. 1 Cardozo over No. 7 McKee⁄Staten Island Tech 17−25, 25−21, 25−18 last Thursday night in the PSAL boys’ volleyball city championship in Manhattan.

With the Judges losing, Krell had perhaps his best two sets ever to aid in leading Cardozo (17−0) to a second straight city title.

“Kenny Krell saved us today,” Judges Coach Danny Scarola said. “He was unbelievable.”

Most importantly for him was taking the pressure off Gaugler and Koo on the outside. With Krell effective in the middle, it kept MSIT (12−3) honest. The Sea Gulls couldn’t cheat over on blocks.

“I think he was the turning point of the whole thing,” Koo said.

With some of the weight lifted, Koo and Gaugler responded with huge performances. Koo had 18 kills and Gaugler added 10. On last year’s championship team, Koo was a bit piece, a role player. But Scarola pulled him aside earlier this season and told him that Cardozo’s success this season, in part, depends on him.

“You gotta be the man for us now,” Scarola said he told him. “This is your role now.”

After a rocky first set in which MSIT played very well and Cardozo beat itself with too many doubles and net violations, Koo and Gaugler brought the firepower. The Judges looked like a completely different team.

“They came back stronger,” MSIT junior middle hitter Albert Chi said. “We weren’t ready for it.”

Part of it could have been experience. Cardozo has been in this spot before, while Tech is a team rife with juniors and sophomores. But the Judges are a very different team than they were last year. Four of the best players in the city — Heisman Wingate award−winning setter Joe Park, Eric Barty, Randy Preval and Sam Park — graduated and guys like Koo, Krell and junior setter Stanley Martinez, who had 34 assists, had to step up.

Koo said this victory was sweeter for that reason.

“It made us work harder,” he said. “Last year, it was almost given to us.”

Chi, junior outside hitter Joshua Ra and senior outside hitter Danny Kim all had six kills for Tech, which upset No. 3 Kennedy in the semifinals to get here. Cardozo knocked off No. 12 Brooklyn Tech. The Judges won a second straight title after not winning one since 1997.

“The second one always feels good,” Scarola said. “I don’t know if people thought we would be back.”

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