There are times I really wish we had access to Elias Sports Bureau-esque databases that could crunch the most obscure stats and give everyone a better idea if a team is for real, or not so much. Since we don’t rankings should be expecting to be drastically revamped in the first couple of weeks for any number of reasons: early wins or losses, tournament performances where other teams didn’t attend, and the big one (for me) — not seeing some of the teams in their current form.
Much like any statistical average, by midseason or later in the year, rankings will likely be more consistent week-to-week. All in all, the rankings are somewhat similar from last week, with just one major change. While the rank may be up for debate, it would be hard to find anyone who didn’t think this team deserved a very big bump from the bubble.
I’ll try to provide some depth into my rankings each week for you, as to try and give you an idea of why I have certain teams where. As much as I’d like for every fan to agree 100 percent, I know that’s not realistic; the best hope is that the greater majority is on the same wavelength.
Here are my LoHud rankings for the week of September 15:
1. Panas (2-0) — The only two teams I was nearly-solid on were my No. 1 and No. 2 teams in Panas and Kennedy, so at least that helps me sleep at night. The Panthers swept to victory in two very big opening matches this season — Class A rival Ursuline and reigning Class B champ Pelham. After Panas was knocked off in the Class A section semifinals two years ago to Ursuline, the Panthers returned the favor the following year — in the section final. Panas added another ‘dig’ to the Koalas with a sweep on Tuesday. The Panthers then went on to sweep Pelham, snapping the Pelicans’ streak of 28 consecutive wins against Section 1 opponents. Incredibly impressive — on both teams’ parts. Maybe one could make the argument for Kennedy to own the top spot, but until Panas loses, this is where it shall stay for now.
2. Kennedy (3-0) — The good news: I saw Kennedy plenty last year, saw them a decent amount this year for it being so early in the season and they literally have the entire team back, so nothing new roster-wise. The bad news: Kennedy is now in the CHSAA. I figured the Gaels would run roughshod over the league there, but their first two contests have been a joke. The Gaels have outscored all of their opponents 225-78, but have outscored their two league opponents 150-34. Kennedy has yet to allow more than seven points in a game to a league opponent, including an embarrassing 25-2 display earlier this week. Kennedy will be at both the Panther Invitational at Panas and the John Jay tournament, so I’ll get a really good idea of how they size up against the competition in Section 1… mainly, Panas. It kind of goes without saying, but assuming neither of these teams lose before then, the head-to-head match between Panas-Kennedy at the Panther Invitational will determine the No. 1 spot. I don’t know if Panas will be at the John Jay tournament at the moment, although I assume they will be. I’ll get the schedule and teams from coach Rizzotti as soon as possible.
3. John Jay (2-0) — Speaking of coach Rizzotti… Too overdramatic of a bump? Maybe; depends on who you ask. The clear consensus is that John Jay should be have been ranked last week, which they are absolutely right. The only reason I didn’t include them (and please read this whole thing through) is because they had not played a match yet and I didn’t find out about the Minisink win until my rankings were essentially written up, so either way, I really didn’t know where to put them. You’re probably thinking: “Then how come you have Ardsley ranked when it hasn’t played a match, either?” For that answer, see Ardsley (below); for now, back to John Jay. Winning the Minisink tournament is a significant accomplishment, considering the field. The Indians went 7-1 in pool play, then beat reigning Class C regional champs Millbrook in the quarterfinals, Class AA regional finalist Pine Bush in the semifinals then Shenendehowa, who was undefeated in the tournament, in the championship. During the regular season, the Indians opened their season with a huge 3-1 win over their namesake from Hopewell Junction, then followed it up with a sweep over Class A squad Eastchester. (Editor’s note: Coach Rizzotti informed me that the most recent e-mail I received — with Burnt Hills instead of Pine Bush — was incorrect, and that the previous e-mail was the correct one. Apologies for any confusion.)
4. John Jay-East Fishkill (2-1) — Many coaches are singing the high praises of John Jay-Cross River, so a loss to the Indians isn’t the worst thing in the world. Still, the Patriots are very talented and should still be a Class AA section title contender. Megan Theiller was in her usual beast-mode this week, tallying a total of 48 kills and 38 digs in a sweep of Haldane (19 kills, 16 digs) and the loss to Cross River (29 kills, 22 digs). I’m pretty confident in my top four; the rest of the way is where it gets interesting…
5. Suffern (2-0) — If you want to talk about “impressive victories,” then Monday’s thriller between Suffern-Albertus Magnus was a perfect example. Since I’m likely going to be chastised for my picks each week, I wanted to throw myself some quick kudos for not only calling a Suffern win, not only a five-set Suffern win, but a five-set Suffern win that went back and forth the whole match. Monday’s win was probably the second-most impressive win I’ve ever seen, with Harrison’s five-set win over Ursuline in the Class A final two years ago being the only more impressive win (and I highly doubt I’ll ever see a better match — ever.) The Mounties trailed significantly in four of the five games (see tweet below), was outscored 109-102 and still managed to pull away a win — a true testament to grit and heart. Albertus Magnus is a terrific team, so winning a season-opener on the road against a team like the Falcons definitely earns some recognition.
STATS: Suffern trailed 19-14 in G1, lost G2 25-11, lost G4 25-16, trailed 17-13 in G5, was outscored 109-102 and still won. #LoHudVolleyball
— Mike Zacchio (@Zacchio_LoHud) <ahref=”https://twitter.com/Zacchio_LoHud/statuses/377301439560699904″>September 10, 2013
6. Yorktown (2-0) — I wasn’t there, but I can only imagine how rewarding Yorktown’s win — sweep, rather — of Hen Hud must have been for Huskers coach Katy Sherwood. Between seven years as the junior varsity coach and three prior seasons as the varsity coach, Yorktown has never beaten the three-time state champs, until now. The Huskers followed that up with an interesting sweep of Somers, 25-8, 25-23, 25-7. Not sure what happened that second game, but an otherwise-dominating sweep is the big thing to take away. Between Panas, John Jay and Yorktown, the Class A race will be a fun one to watch this year.
7. Haldane (0-2) — I’m giving the Blue Devils some leeway because neither loss was one you could completely knock them for. Haldane looked very impressive at the Hen Hud tournament, and I expected John Jay-East Fishkill to win the regular season match up on Monday, as they did in the tournament championship on Saturday. I picked Haldane to beat Pelham, but I figured it’d be close — either a tight four-game contest or even a five-gamer. Based on the stats provided from the 25-15, 17-25, 25-22, 25-16 win, Pelham’s 98 team digs tells me a couple of things: A. Haldane had no problem getting clean hits off, it’s just that Pelham’s defense — which, ironically was its achilles heel last year — has vastly improved; or B. There was an error somewhere along the line of stat-recording. Everything else was about even in the box scores. Maybe it was a great defensive game for Pelham, a poor defensive game for Haldane, or just an off-day for Haldane; I don’t know, but I know what I saw at Hen Hud, and there is a talented team in Cold Spring; right now the Blue Devils are in limbo in my head — they could be a top-five team or drop out and onto the bubble. The Blue Devils play Spackenkill (4-0) and Mahopac (0-2) this week in what will be must-wins to stay in the top 10 next week.
8. Ardsley (NR) — I wasn’t a part of the ‘Inception’ team, so I have no idea what coach Dave Ponterio dreams about at night; but if I could venture a guess, Pelham probably brought a few uneasy nights for the head Panther. Pelham handed Ardsley three losses last year — all sweeps — including the final blow which ended the Panthers’ season in the Section 1 Class B semifinals. With Pelham losing half of its roster (and most of its offensive firepower), and Ardsley returning most of its team, the Panthers should be strong contenders to dethrone the two-time reigning section and region champs. The Panthers lost two very crucial positions (setter and libero) from two very talented players (Toni Pilla and Arielle Misrok, respectively), so their success will be heavily based on how well they fill those slots. I’m expecting big things, but until I see them in action, there’s no real way to gauge them. I have almost no doubts that they will be a top-10 team, so for now, I’m weighing who I know they are returning with who I think they can beat. Ardsley plays three matches this week — Byram Hills (Tuesday), Sleepy Hollow (Thursday) and Nanuet (Friday) — all of which should be wins. It will be a perfect way to judge Ardsley; three wins, and we can base off of performance, point differential, etc. One loss, and they are likely a bubble team.
9. Albertus Magnus (1-1) — I knew Suffern was a potential make-or-break match — big win = big bump, big loss = big drop, close win = small bump, small loss = small drop; makes sense, no? The Falcons did many things well against the Mounties; I mean, after all, look at the score — they outscored them 109-102. Much of what I said about Suffern can also be used here. Albertus Magnus led significantly in four of the five games, but they lost two of them. The Falcons looked like three different teams in one on Monday. There was the gritty, neck-and-neck team that was right-on the same level as Suffern, the dominating force that outplayed Suffern, then the unorganized Falcons that let up two crucial leads which ultimately cost them the match. Like Ardsley, I have a lot of faith in Albertus Magnus this season. This team has played together for years and have literally grown from a struggling, blip on the radar to a perennial powerhouse in Rockland County. Beating Maria Regina was a given and Suffern could’ve gone either way (some coaches told me they thought Magnus was the favorite). The real test is this week — four matches in five days. Monday vs. Ketcham, Tuesday vs. East Ramapo, Thursday at Clarkstown South and Friday at North Rockland; some good matches in there on top of a heavy workload for the week. This will be a great chance for the Falcons to start flying up the rankings.
10. Pelham (1-1) — I’m really interested to see what Pelham does this season. Although the Panthers lost a massive chunk of their roster, the benefit of coach Mark Finegan carrying a 20-player roster is that it makes rebuilding easier and shorter. Finegan had all seniors and juniors on the team, so where it hurts, it also helps. Offensive weapons Helen Gandler, Tori Bowser and Taylor Maloney are gone, defensive specialists Rachel Courtien and Devi Kinkhabwala are gone, setter Kate Collins is gone — virtually the entire starting roster. Those are a lot of holes to fill, hence why I was skeptical in the preseason. A win over Haldane in the regular season-opener was very big; a loss to Panas was to be expected, even with a 28-match winning streak against Section 1 opponents, but few expected a sweep. Panas coach Joe Felipe even said he didn’t the team to sweep. Pelham has been the best volleyball program in the section over the last three years; few, if any, could argue that; hard to completely write-off a team that has been to the state final four in each of the last two seasons. Not saying that I have, but I think that this will be an adjustment year for Pelham; I doubt it will mow down opponents like it has in years past.