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Newcomers surge for title

Newcomers celebrates victory over New Utrecht. Photo by Denis Gostev
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Newcomers could be one of the best boys’ volleyball teams in the city. But the Lions don’t even have bragging rights in their own building.

Academy of American Studies shares the Long Island City enclave and is the undisputed top team in New York City, having beaten Newcomers twice and just about everyone else, too.

“We need to see them every day,” Lions Coach Kert Fernandez said. “That’s motivational for these kids. It throws a little fuel on the fire.”

Newcomers got its own moment in the sun Sunday, upsetting New Utrecht 12-25, 25-22, 25-19 in the Seward Park tournament championship game in Lower Manhattan. The Utes came in as the tourney favorite and thought of as one of the top teams in the city, ranked No. 3 by the New York Post.

“Nobody was thinking about my 6-3 team winning this tournament,” Fernandez said.

That record in PSAL Queens I doesn’t look incredibly impressive at face value. But consider that two of those losses came to Academy of American Studies and the other was against Long Island City when star outside hitters Jose Fernandez and Giovanni Pissioni were with the boys’ basketball team en route to a PSAL Class B championship game appearance.

“They’re a big part of the team,” senior Yousef Saidi said. “We need them.”

Fernandez and Pissioni are back now — they were both named to the Seward all-tournament team, in fact — and Newcomers is playing its best volleyball of the season. New Utrecht routed the Lions in the first set and actually led 20-14 in the second. A Pissioni kill and a block by Joseph Intriago got Newcomers within 22-21 as it capitalized on Utes errors from there.

“Now we’re getting our rhythm,” Pissioni said. “It takes a little while to get your timing back.”

Fernandez had 12 kills in the final and Pissioni had 10. Senior setter Carlos Sigua, really the only member of the core who didn’t play all of last year, had 25 assists for Newcomers, which was playing in its first tournament of the season. Intriago did a commendable job containing New Utrecht star Tang Kwok Wong.

Newcomers is, of course, battle-tested. Queens I is arguably the top division in the city. Long Island City is 7-3 and Info Tech, though 2-6, has been competitive in tournaments. There’s nothing quite like playing Academy of American Studies though. The tiny gym is packed and intensity is at a fever pitch.

“There’s such a big rivalry,” Fernandez said. “It makes it entertaining, it’s fun. I wish I played them today, the way my guys were playing.”

Fernandez’s team certainly can stake a claim to a top 10 seed now and a deep run in the playoffs could mean another date with Academy of American Studies — this time at a neutral site.

“They’re our goal,” Saidi said. “We’re trying to beat them.”

Posted 8:10 pm, May 2, 2012
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