MAHOPAC — Indians coach Jay Melville opened his school’s doors to three other teams on Thursday for a four-team scrimmage. Ursuline was the only in-area team from the section in attendance. Arlington and Kennedy, now of the CHSAA, rounded out the field.
Thursday morning displayed some exceptional volleyball, with each team notching at least one very impressive performance. Kennedy, last year’s Section 1 Class C champions, tallied the only sweep of the day, dismantling a groggy Ursuline to start the day. The Gaels finished with the best overall record of the day at 6-3, two wins better than the rest of the field, which tied at 4-5 apiece.
The Gaels also posted an impressive +47 point differential for the day. Arlington (+9) was the only other school to post a positive point differential. Ursuline and Mahopac finished at -17 and -39, respectively.
Here are the full results from the Mahopac scrimmage:
— Arlington def. Mahopac, 22-25, 25-20, 25-16
— Kennedy def. Ursuline, 25-12, 25-14, 25-14
— Ursuline def. Mahopac, 23-25, 25-15, 25-12
— Kennedy def. Arlington, 21-25, 25-21, 25-20
— Ursuline def. Arlington, 25-18, 25-19, 9-25
Here’s my video recap from the scrimmage:
MY TAKE ON KENNEDY: You can see why this is a section-championship team, and why they probably wanted to stay in Section 1 so badly. A team that return everyone from last year’s squad, the Gaels were no doubt poised to repeat as section champions, if not capture its first regional title as well. Since we haven’t had a Class C representative in the state tournament since I’ve been here, I can’t really speculate on how Kennedy would do if it were to make it to Glens Falls, but I will say this: Millbrook, last year’s regional champ, finished third in the state, and Kennedy tied them at Carmel’s tournament last year. With Kennedy returning everyone, I don’t think its outlandish to think the Gaels could have at least made the state final this year.
The Gaels are like a well-oiled machine — combining exceptional chemistry, balance, offense and defense to its repertoire. Kennedy receives contributions from virtually every player on the court; so while it may rely on hitters like Caroline Erb to provide a bulk of the pop, anyone on Kennedy can hit — front or back row. I’m also going so far as to say that Anni Abbruzzese (I’m going to be spell-checking that name all year) might be the best inch-for-inch player in the sec—, area. See, I’m still adjusting. At about 5-foot-6, Abbruzzese (above) sports a sick bandana and offensive game, with a great balance of hitting, setting and serving. On defense, the senior is great at digging up tough balls and is also a blocking threat. The girl also never gives up on a play… like ever.
MY TAKE ON ARLINGTON: Because we don’t cover Arlington, I don’t get to see the Admirals too often. Usually it will be at a tournament, scrimmage, or section tournament match. I saw coach Maria Greenwood’s team a few times last year at a couple of tournaments and, to be honest, wasn’t overly impressed. I knew they had taken Panas to five sets in the season opener, and they eventually took Clarkstown South to five sets in the Class AA section semifinal, but for whatever reason, I didn’t see anything noteworthy about them at the tournaments I went to… Man am I glad I got to see them this early this year.
The Admirals return nine players from last year’s squad, many of whom played significant time on varsity. Arlington was hampered by injuries to its seniors last year, so while it may have hurt them last year, it only benefits them this year. Just looking at them, they have some decent height to them, which, in this game, is always a head start.
Senior middle blocker Janine Patora did not attend due to “family conflicts,” according to Greenwood. Still, plenty of other Admirals turned heads Thursday… or at least mine. The biggest standout, in my opinion, was senior Ann-Marie (Annie) Berdar who was, again, in my opinion, utterly sensational. From incredible blocking, to almost-unreturnable serves, to passing and digging, Berdar shined bright on Thursday.
The only major standout was senior setter Kaitlyn Faugerstrom, who actually impressed me more with her serving than she did with her setting. In the final match of the day against Ursuline, Faugerstrom took to the serve with Arlington leading 8-5. Five aces and several points later, the Admirals were in cruise control at 16-5. Arlington would go on to win the final game handily, 25-9. Faugerstrom, the younger sister of former Admiral Lauren Faugerstrom (right, with Patora from the 2011 Class AA final), is in her third season with the varsity.
I actually had the pleasure of chatting with their father for a little bit during the match. Mr. Faugerstrom told me that Lauren is currently attending, and playing club for, Binghampton. He also informed me that most of the Arlington squad is part of the APEX club team, which explains their great chemistry.
For what it’s worth, Arlington was supposed to have a boys volleyball team this year, but due to budgetary reasons, the team did not assemble for this year. A few people have asked me, so I talked to coach Greenwood, who said that no boys tried out for the girls team.
MY TAKE ON URSULINE: My initial thoughts on Ursuline? They are not a morning team.
The Koalas looked sluggish and tired out of the gate, and the scoreboard reflected it. Kennedy ran roughshod over the Class A runner-ups, who couldn’t muster more than 14 points in their first match of the day. Things started coming together against Mahopac in the first game, but they really seemed to break things open the rest of the match, outscoring the hosts 50-27.
Koalas coach Gigi Kemp expressed her discontent with her team’s performance after the first two matches, saying the team was performing “nothing like they’ve been in practice.” Ursuline opened strong against Arlington, taking the first two games before getting pummeled in the finale.
The Koalas look like a young team with a lot of really good pieces to their puzzle; it’ll just be a matter of putting them together. Junior Shannon McKeon (left) will likely generate a bulk of the team’s kills, but there are plenty of other role players who can lend her a hand.
Between losing big hitters like Lauren Biolsi and Julia Parascandola, and attempting to break in a new setter, this could be a rough year for Ursuline. I still think Panas is going to run away with its second-straight Class A title — with or without Shaina Campbell, who will likely miss most of the regular season with a shoulder injury.
The good news for Ursuline is that they have a very successful coach in Kemp, who has taken them to the section final in each of the last two years, who can jell this team together faster than perhaps a rookie coach could.
MY TAKE ON MAHOPAC: This was actually my second look at the Indians in as many days; both were impressive. Based on their roster from last year, I expected coach Melville to return a decent core this year. Getting my first looks at Mahopac, I could see that they have grown — both figuratively, and literally.
A similiar-looking squad from last year, the Indians were a step above their performance on Wednesday, toppling Kennedy in their final two games of the day. The Gaels are not known for being a team that loses very often anywhere — regular season, tournaments, postseason — so the accomplishment is noteworthy.
The Indians are loaded with experience, boasting eight seniors and nine juniors to make up their 17-player roster. With Class AA slightly more open to competition in recent years, Mahopac could make a run for the section semifinals.
I think Mahopac definitely has the talent to get to a section semi, they just need to hone some of their skills first. Mahopac did lose four starters, plus its libero. They got to see John Jay-East Fishkill, Arlington and Ursuline in the last two days, so they’ll have a very good idea of what will be waiting for them at the section tournament in October.
Coach Melville said Wednesday that he “loaded his schedule” with cross-over matches with schools like North Rockland, Arlington, Hen Hud, Haldane, among others. Melville expects senior captains Ellie Giammo and Cierra Torres to run the floor and lead the team this year.
Giammo will be a returning outside hitter, while Torres steps in as the team’s setter. Seniors Nicole Kinash and Michelle Laga will battle for the starting libero spot, Melville said. Most of the Mahopac girls play club together, so chemistry shouldn’t be an issue once the Indians set their final lineup and the regular season kicks into full gear.
Abbruzzese photo credit: John Meore/The Journal News
Faugerstrom photo credit: Xavier Mascareñas/The Journal News
McKeon photo credit: Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News