It’s hard to believe that there’s only three days left in the regular season.
It feels like just yesterday I was at the preseason coaches meeting. Still, what an incredible season of volleyball we’ve had thus far. (And the best is yet to come.)
I spent some time crunching numbers and analyzing standings to determine which teams had already clinched league titles. So, without further adieu, meet your 2013 league champions…
While we’re still getting our feet wet into the regular season, here are the league alignments for this season, along with my projected winners in each conference.
LEAGUE 1-A — Beacon, John Jay-East Fishkill, Lourdes, Poughkeepsie, Ketcham
Champion — JOHN JAY-EAST FISHKILL: No surprise here; the Patriots (15-1) had little competition in this league and would’ve topped some of the most competitive leagues in the section. As predicted, this was one of the easier leagues to predict.
My champion — John Jay-East Fishkill (Can’t pat myself on the back too much for this one, but I’ll take it. Overall: 1-for-1)
LEAGUE 1-B — Brewster, Carmel, Lakeland, Mahopac, Yorktown
Champion — YORKTOWN: The Huskers (14-1) have been one of the biggest surprise teams this season, although it wasn’t that much of a shock to me. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect them to do this good, but it should make for an exciting section tournament in Class A, that’s for sure. Yorktown’s next-closes competitor as of Saturday was Mahopac, at 8-8 overall. The Huskers were had nearly as many league wins (7-0) as the Indians had total wins.
My champion — Yorktown (I was pretty confident the Huskers would take the league, but with the season winding down, winning sections will be no easy task. Overall: 2-for-2)
LEAGUE 1-D — North Salem, Pawling, Peekskill, Putnam Valley, Somers
Champion — SOMERS: What a year the Tuskers are having — starting 13-2 overall with an undefeated league record under a new coach is impressive for any team, but considering that their record last year was virtually the complete opposite (4-13), the Tuskers are the surprise team in Section 1 this year, in my opinion. Coach Sarah Benischek has a lot to be proud of, as do the girls. The question is: “How long will Cinderella keep dancing at sections?”
My champion — Peekskill (There will be plenty of opportunities for me to beat myself up as this post goes on; this isn’t one of them. Nobody could’ve predicted Somers having the complete turnaround it did, so I’m cutting myself some slack here. Overall: 2-for-3)
LEAGUE 2-B — Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Hastings, Irvington, Mamaroneck, Mount Vernon, Sleepy Hollow, White Plains
Champion — DOBBS FERRY: Definitely a shocker, the Eagles (17-0) are one win away from completing an undefeated regular season. What’s even more impressive is that Dobbs Ferry (pictured right) will only lose one player to graduation this spring. The reason I didn’t say Dobbs Ferry was the biggest surprise team this year is because it won double-digit matches last year, so the potential was there. Somers went from an abysmal squad to undefeated league champion, and under a new coach. If you disagree, you have a fair argument, but I don’t want to split hairs. Both teams have had phenomenal seasons, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
My champion — Sleepy Hollow (Talk about way off. This was arguably — and most likely — my worst prediction from the preseason. My logic was that, with a decent squad of girls returning from an undefeated league-champion team, Sleepy Hollow was a pretty safe pick. You can never predict a team to go undefeated, but, as my only saving grace, Dobbs Ferry was my second choice. Still, Edgemont and Mamaroneck had great league seasons over Sleepy Hollow. Like I said earlier, way off on this one. Overall: 2-for-4)
LEAGUE 2-C — Ardsley, Eastchester, New Rochelle, Pelham, Scarsdale, Ursuline
Champion — ARDSLEY: I’ve had plenty of coaches express their feelings — for lack of a better word — about me picking against them; more than my fair share. However, Dave Ponterio may be the only coach to seem nervous with me picking them to win. Common phrases included, “You have us winning the world,” and “Teams think they’re playing the Yankees when they play us,” among others. Perhaps he wanted to remain under the radar or low-key, but I’ve always told him that by teams getting extra pumped to play Ardsley only meant that beating them would prove you beat them at their best. Plenty of teams gave Ardsley a workout on the court, but the Panthers have prevailed each time, so far. I saw something in Ardsley last year and went with my gut this year. I definitely didn’t see a 14-0 start in the cards, but it only makes my case stronger. The Panthers are loaded with young, raw talent; and with only one senior scheduled to graduate, next year can be even bigger.
My champion — Ardsley (Definitely proud of this pick; the rest of my outlook on the league was a little backwards, but I was really only trying to pick the champion. Pelham was much stronger than I expected it to be, having lost half its squad, and Scarsdale is having the year this year I thought it would have last year. Eastchester and Ursuline had solid seasons, but ultimately came up short in this tough league. Overall: 3-for-5)
LEAGUE 2-D — Early College (Roosevelt), Gorton, Lincoln, Riverside, Saunders, Yonkers
Projected champ — YONKERS: Another league which wasn’t overly difficult to predict, the Bulldogs (12-3) have yet to be challenged in the Yonkers league. Yonkers (pictured right) will likely get a high seed in the Section 1Class A tournament, but where they go from there remains to be seen.
My champion — Yonkers (Overall: 4-for-6)
LEAGUE 3-A — Briarcliff, Croton-Harmon, Keio, Ossining, Port Chester, Rye
Projected champ — OSSINING: Ok, so this league was easier to predict than expected. The Pride have been stronger than I had anticipated, but it will take a lot from them to make another deep run at sections, especially with Class A being so ridiculously competitive this year.
My champion — Ossining (Two titles in two years for coach Lauren Riccardi; not a bad start. Overall: 5-for-7)
LEAGUE 3-B — Hamilton, Byram Hills, Pleasantville, Valhalla, Westlake
Projected champ — BYRAM HILLS: Man, am I glad I got to see Jared Christian’s girls this year. A scrappy squad, the Bobcats (11-4, 7-0 league) could make a lot of noise in the Section 1 Class B tournament. Byram Hills kind of ran away with this league.
My champion — Westlake (Underestimated Byram Hills, overestimated Westlake. Overall: 5-for-8)
TO BE DETERMINED…
Some teams are close, but aren’t quite there yet. So, for now, take a seat, and wait your turn. While you wait, here’s the scenarios for the remaining undetermined leagues around the section:
LEAGUE 1-C — Arlington, Haldane, Hen Hud, John Jay, Panas
Still alive — PANAS, JOHN JAY
The scenario — Panas (10-3, 6-1 league) holds the lead over John Jay (13-3, 5-2 league) with its latest five-game thriller of a win over the Indians. Each team will play their season finales on Tuesday; Panas plays at Arlington, John Jay plays at Haldane; both matches will be at 6 p.m. Panas already clinched a share of the title, so there’s really no “downside” for the Panthers, although I’m sure they don’t want to be co-champs. This one is simple, Panas is the lone champion with either a win or a John Jay loss. John Jay is co-champs with a win and a Panas loss.
My projected champ (preseason prediction) — PANAS: In what is, in my opinion, the most competitive league in the section, I think the reigning Class A section and regional champs take it home. Not for nothing, but any league where John Jay is the “weakest” team in the field won’t be a cake walk. Arlington looked very strong in the preseason, so it should be the top contender next to the Panthers. The Admirals took Panas to five sets early in the season last year. I haven’t seen a single serve from any of the other three teams, but knowing what each of them lost, what Panas returned, and having seen the Panthers for double confirmation; I don’t see anyone else winning this league. Haldane, despite being a Class D school can always hang against the best in Class AA or A, which shouldn’t change all that much, despite the loss of hitter/setter hybrid Lauren Etta. Hen Hud’s reputation speaks for itself — three state titles, 16 section finals in the last 18 years — don’t ever count the Sailors out, no matter how much talent they lose. These are probably the two teams I’m most excited to get a look at. Just as I think Panas would beat John Jay in the section tournament, I think it would win in the league, as well. Only stands to reason, right? Not taking anything away from coach Tom Rizzotti’s squad, Panas is just the better team this year.
LEAGUE 2-A — Palisade Prep, Solomon Schechter, Tuckahoe, Woodlands, Yonkers Montessori
Still alive — WOODLANDS*, YONKERS MONTESSORI
The scenario — I’m fairly certain that Woodlands has already locked this up, but we do not have all of the matches from them. Yonkers Montessori is 5-11, while Woodlands is 5-5 on what we have. We’re missing two matches against Solomon Schechter, which are likely wins, and matches from Tuckahoe, Peekskill and Palisade Prep. If/when I get the missing matches, I’ll call this one for the Falcons.
My projected champ (preseason prediction) — TUCKAHOE: The Tigers have been a threat for the Class C title in recent years, and had a modest 8-7 campaign last year. Woodlands, which was just under the .500 mark last year, returns a bulk of last year’s team and should compete for the league crown.
LEAGUE 3-C — Blind Brook, Fox Lane, Harrison, Horace Greeley, Rye Neck
Still alive — BLIND BROOK, FOX LANE, HORACE GREELEY
The scenario — By far the biggest headache of the bunch, there’s all kinds of possibilities in this one. Blind Brook still has to face Horace Greeley twice next week, which will determine the outcome of the league. Fox Lane plays Harrison, in what will add to the mayhem. Harrison and Rye Neck are mathematically eliminated, so this one is a three-horse race. Here we go:
If Blind Brook sweeps Horace Greeley or if it splits with the Quakers and Fox Lane loses, Blind Brook will be the lone champs. If Blind Brook splits with Horace Greeley and Fox Lane wins, the Trojans and Foxes will be co-champions. If Horace Greeley sweeps Blind Brook and Fox Lane loses, Horace Greeley will be the lone champs. If Horace Greeley sweeps Blind Brook and Fox Lane wins, the Quakers and Foxes will be co-champions. Fox Lane cannot, mathematically, be the lone champions.
My projected champ (preseason prediction) — BLIND BROOK: When you go 13-4, win the league, and then return nearly a dozen players the next season, you kind of earn the right to be projected to win the league again that year. Granted, I haven’t seen some of the other schools, but I do know that Harrison was in a very young rebuilding year last season and likely won’t be a section-title threat for a couple years. Horace Greeley is the only oddball; they have talent, but no communication. Right now, I say Blind Brook takes it. If the Quakers can find a way to work as a cohesive unit, they could definitely swoop in and steal it.
LEAGUE 4-American — Clarkstown North, Clarkstown South, North Rockland, Ramapo, Suffern
Still alive — SUFFERN, CLARKSTOWN SOUTH
The scenario — Another pretty simple one, Suffern has already clinched a share of the title, but it must win one of its two matches next week between Clarkstown North and Clarkstown South to be the lone champs. Clarkstown South must win both of its contests (Haldane, Clarkstown South), while hoping Clarkstown North also beats Suffern to even claim a share of the title.
My projected champ (preseason prediction) — SUFFERN: It’s hard to believe that a team with 6-foot-1 twins in the middle of its lineup isn’t even the tallest team in its own league. The Mounties boast five six-footers on this year’s roster, but will be without 6-foot-2 setter Julia Hrycyk until she is medically cleared by doctors, which will be at least another week. How soon or late Suffern gets her back will play a major factor in the team’s success. Personally, I think the Mounties will be successful regardless — they have height, experience and chemistry, all great assets to a winning program. However, with Hrycyk, Suffern adds an incredible piece to its puzzle. I am a little concerned about Clarkstown South’s consistency out of the gate. The Vikings, who are without of their twin towers (I know, I’m a pun machine today) in Nastasia Kapustin, will be the perfect match for Suffern. I haven’t seen either team with a full starting squad, but I know they are the top two in the league. I can’t wait to see these two battle it out on the court this year. Something tells me they will be playing a game of leapfrog all year in my rankings. Right now I have the Mounties ranked fifth overall, Vikings in seventh and Magnus sandwiched in between them. Definitely subject to change once one or both star players return.
LEAGUE 4-National — Albertus Magnus, Nanuet, Nyack, Pearl River, Tappan Zee
Still alive — ALBERTUS MAGNUS, TAPPAN ZEE
The scenario — Nanuet’s upset of Albertus Magnus (10-5, 6-2 league) on Friday gave Tappan Zee (8-7, 6-1 league) the upper hand in the league standings. The Dutchies have two matches against Nyack next week, although only one will count as a league match (seriously, I’m not making this up). The league match in question is still undetermined (again, you really can’t make this stuff up). Whichever match happens to be the league match will be the one Tappan Zee must win to capture the league title. Pretty simple — a Tappan Zee win (in the match that matters), wins it; a loss will make the Dutchies co-champs with Albertus Magnus. Nyack has just one win this year, so the odds are in Tappan Zee’s favor.
My projected champ (preseason prediction) — ALBERTUS MAGNUS: There’s no way to put it lightly — the Falcons got hosed in last year’s section tournament. Returning almost the entire squad, mixed with Kennedy’s departure in Class C and last year’s premature exit from sections should make the Falcons a very hungry bunch. Tappan Zee’s Meghan Smith said her team is the “sleeping giant” of this season, and after that thrashing of Brewster in the Dutchies’ season opener, maybe she’s right. Looks like I’ll have to pen-down a Tappan Zee match this year.
Dobbs Ferry photo credit: Matthew Brown/The Journal News
Yonkers photo credit: Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News