Prep wins in straight sets

St. Francis Prep players celebrate a point during the third set of the match with Kennedy Catholic. Photo by Christina Santucci
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St. Francis Prep heard all the hype leading up to its crossover match with Westchester County power Kennedy Catholic, which joined the CHSAA this season.

They just weren’t buying any of it.

The Terriers, the six-time defending CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I volleyballs champions, treated the Gaels just like they do most other opponents both in their mindset and the results on the court. St. Francis Prep swept Kennedy Catholic 25-21, 25-15, 25-23 in an intersectional crossover match in Fresh Meadows last Thursday night. SFP never questioned its ability against what appeared would be a stiff challenge from a newcomer.

“Just play how we usually do and we can beat anyone,” middle hitter Stephanie Sokolich said.

Kennedy Catholic (16-2), which plays in Bronx/Weschester, had lost just once all season, a five-set defeat to Fontbonne Hall and it beat Archbishop Molloy in five. St. Francis Prep (11-0) proved to be a much different animal. Gaels Coach Ellen Casey noted the Terriers players’ size advantage at the net, their plethora of hitters and the quality of their passing that exposed her team’s weakness.

“A lot of times their sets were really quick and we missed out on the block,” Casey said.

St. Francis Prep setter Nicole Tong spread the ball around and compiled 31 assists. Jaclyn LaForgia has 13 kills and Sokolich added 10. Carolyn Gorecki chipped in eight kills. All three had two blocks. Johairy Riveradeneira had nine digs and four kills. It shows just what can happen when everyone is playing well.

“If our passing is there, we have all the options,” St. Francis Prep Coach Kevin Colucci said. “We have six different hitters. The rest of the teams they have two or three.”

It was Sokolich who distinguished herself from the bunch in this match. She helped the Terriers build momentum after a slow start to the first set. Sokolich recorded two kills during a 7-0 run that gave SFP a 16-11 lead. Her block ended the first set.

“Once you’re in a rhythm you just keep going,” Sokolich said.

The Terriers dominated the second set, but found themselves down 14-7 and 20-16 in the third. Still they rallied. St. Francis Prep’s passing improved and it won seven of the next 10 points that included two LaForgia kills to tie the score at 23-23. Sokolich put down a kill right from the center the net and Riveradeneira had a block to end the match.

Colucci told his team before the match to treat it like a quality non-league contest that will help prepare them for the playoffs. The two could meet again in the CHSAA state tournament. Playing Kennedy Catholic was still a new challenge to the players, one they passed with flying colors.

“We showed that when we play like a team, we can dominate,” LaForgia said.

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