St. Francis Prep didn’t just want to win the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens championship. Ahead two sets, the Terriers wanted to close the door on Fontbonne Hall as quickly as possible.
SFP was down by as much as three points late in the third when it stormed back to tie three separate times.
“Losing was not an option,” Terriers senior libero Jillian Linares said. “[A set] is something to lose. We had to win it all.”
Julia Paternoster tied the third set up in extra points with a kill, Leah Nebbett followed with a kill to give Prep the lead and Nicole Rivera crushed a service ace that caromed off two Fontbonne players before eventually bouncing off the Christ the King hardwood. When it did, St. Francis Prep had a 25-12, 25-13, 28-26 victory against Fontbonne Hall to win its third straight CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens title Nov. 5.
After launching her serve, Rivera raced to the net and watched, waiting for the ball to drop. Her teammates were already starting to celebrate around her, but she had to see it touch the ground. Rivera turned around and was engulfed in a bear hug by Linares, who picked her up and spun her around.
“I was waiting,” Rivera said. “There was so much momentum built up. We were just waiting for that last point.”
No team has won three B/Q crowns in a row since Christ the King won eight straight from 1993 to 2000. St. Francis (12-0) didn’t want to leave anything to chance, didn’t want Fontbonne (13-1), which played well in the third set, to find its way back into the match.
“They have that tenacity,” Terriers Coach Kevin Colucci said. “They try to push through.”
The Terriers have won all year with passing and defense, but their swings were on point Thursday. Senior middle Diane Lollo had 11 kills and three blocks and Paternoster and sophomore Talia Colasante each had seven kills. Julia Hannigan, who shares setting duties with Rivera, had 20 assists, Linares had 15 digs and Sara Correa added 12 digs.
“I like winning,” Linares said. “Winning makes me smile. Three undefeated seasons in a row, three division titles in a row, three Brooklyn/Queens championships in a row.”
Winning, again, wasn’t a foregone conclusion in the preseason. Prep lost most of its starting lineup, including all but Lollo at hitter, to graduation. But this team came together quickly, with Linares and Lollo, the senior leaders, helping them jell.
The two would send each player individual, encouraging notes through the mail slot in their homerooms.
“When you’re close like that, it’s easier to get on someone,” Colucci said. “They know it’s coming from the heart. ... They’re a close-knit group.”
There was also the accompaniment of candy with the notes. The Terriers have a serious sweet tooth. Rivera was tearing open a bite-size Butterfinger, part of a bag provided by Christina Alfaro’s mom, as part of her postgame celebration.
“I just hope it doesn’t give them stomach aches,” Linares said.
The players are feeling no pain now. Next stop is the CHSAA Class AA state tournament in two weeks. Their three-peat has come to fruition.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Lollo, who didn’t even consider herself a volleyball player coming into the school. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me.”
Reach Marc Raimondi at mraimondi@
©2009 Community News Group
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