It was the year of the Eagle in boys’ volleyball.
Academy of American Studies rolled through the city almost untouched to win its first city championship — and the first — ever boys’ title of any kind for the small Long Island City school. The scary part is almost the entire core returns next year.
In the CHSAA, Regis continued its run of success, winning a fourth city crown in the last five years. The Raiders were competitive against the top PSAL teams, which hasn’t happened often for teams in the fledgling Catholic league.
All-City boys volleyball Player of the Year: Michal Kasza, Academy of American Studies
Unstoppable swings at the net. Ferocious serves. Pinpoint passing. Relentless defense.
There wasn’t a phase of the game that Kasza didn’t excel in as he led Academy of American Studies to its first PSAL boys’ volleyball championship. The 5-foot-11 junior had 14 kills in the final against Bronx Science after not being happy with his performance in the semifinals. Kasza left little doubt who the best player in the city was.
“He is just a phenomenal talent,” Academy Coach Josh Yang said.
All-City boys volleyball Coach of the Year: Josh Yang, Academy of American Studies
Yang had all the talent for a city title run in the preseason, but had to meld it together to make all of American Studies’ pieces work. He moved Conrad Zajkowsk to middle hitter from the right side and had former libero take over at outside hitter. The fiddling proved to be the right recipe for success — and at the end of the day Academy of American Studies was hoisting the PSAL championship banner.
OH Tyler Gaugler, Cardozo
At one point, there was a fear that Gaugler would miss the entire playoffs with an ankle injury. But fighting through the pain and wearing a brace, the hard-hitting junior ended up leading Cardozo all the way to PSAL semifinals to cap a big year.
S Jerry Henriquez, Bronx Science
Possessing all the tools to be a college setter, Henriquez led Bronx Science to its second PSAL championship match in three years. The junior’s size at 6-foot-1 put him a step above other players at his position and his pinpoint setting was exceptional.
S Piotr Kasza, Academy of American Studies
Just a sophomore, Kasza was praised time and again by Coach Josh Yang for being a leader and the general out on the court. His brother, Michal, gets most of the attention, but Piotr was just as vital to American Studies’ championship run.
OH Dukhyun Ko, Brooklyn Tech
The senior waited his turn and watched as other stars took Brooklyn Tech deep into the playoffs. This year, it was Ko’s time, the hard-hitting, athletic outside hitter pounding the upstart Engineers past the opposition and into the PSAL semifinals.
S/L Godwin Sequeira, Bryant
The city’s best libero last year when Bryant won the PSAL city title, Sequeira made the transition this year to setter look seamless. With unheralded pieces around him, the senior lifted the Owls to the quarterfinals in his new role.
MH Conrad Zajkowski, Academy of American Studies
Fittingly, it was Zajkowski who put down the final kill to give Academy of American Studies its first PSAL city title. The 6-foot-7 junior was a monster in the semifinals against Cardozo, putting the Eagles on his back all season.
OH Isaac Hwang, Cardozo
You haven’t heard the last of this budding sophomore star. When star outside hitter Tyler Gaugler was hurting with an ankle injury, Hwang stepped into a bigger role and emerged as a leader, one of the top young players in the city.
MH Tom McLaughlin, Regis
With a solid nucleus from last year graduating, McLaughlin stepped into the limelight and excelled immediately. His athleticism, leaping ability and overall skill set in the middle was a handful for almost everyone en route to the CHSAA city title.
MH Kadeem Nibbs, Hunter College HS
Size can kill in volleyball and Nibbs, at 6-foot-8, had it in spades. What separated him this year, though, was his improved skill and feel for the game, leading young Hunter into the second round of the PSAL playoffs.
MH Preet Singh, Bronx Science
More heralded middle hitter Alex Barbulescu missed a large chunk of the season with an ankle injury, but Singh was there to pick up the slack. The 6-foot-4 senior didn’t fall off when Barbulescu got back either, forming a devastating one-two punch.
MH Kwok Tang Wong, New Utrecht
New Utrecht was one of the best teams in the city all year and he was a major reason for the Utes’ big year, emerging as a serious force at the net. Tang Wong wasn’t the tallest player, but his athleticism, jumping ability and powerful swing were devastating.
L Ming Ho Zhen, New Utrecht
Liberos sometimes don’t get the credit they deserve — they don’t pile up kills like their taller counterparts — but just ask Coach Jennifer Lopez how important Ho Zhen was, leading the defense and passing the ball on target to the setter every time.
RS Joey Andre, Richmond Hill
MH Alex Barbulescu, Bronx Science
OH Cole Lee, Susan Wagner
OH Kemal Loppies, Bryant
OH Ricky Myint, Academy of American Studies
OH Giovanni Pissioni, Newcomers
MH Tyler Sellers, Regis
OH Yo Sep Bak, McKee/Staten Island Tech
S Ariel Velasquez Evers, Brooklyn Tech
OH Qing Ze Jiang, New Utrecht
©2012 Community News Group
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