I’m extremely late to the party on this one, so my sincerest apologies to the Gaels community.
It didn’t take long for Kennedy to leave its mark on the Catholic High School Athletic Association. The Gaels, who are in their second season with the CHSAA, won the Class A city championship this year, the league’s highest accomplishment in that division.
Led by first-year coach Tony Santora, the Gaels (18-4) swept St. Joseph Hill, 25-17, 25-22, 25-13, on Nov. 8 in the championship match. Kennedy, which did not lose a set in the pool play semifinals, topped St. Edmund’s and St. John’s Prep en route to the title.
This is the second championship in three years for Kennedy, which won the Section 1 Class C championship in 2013, its final season with the section. Santora (right), who took over for Ellen Casey in the offseason, also serves as the team’s junior varsity coach, a post he has held for the past seven seasons.
“It’s great,” he said on Oct. 2 of pulling double duty. “The girls are fantastic, the parents understand, the program is really nice, so they’re in a good spot — all of them — and they seem to be getting along well, so my job is pretty easy, I think.”
Gaels senior Kelly Gallagher (left) was named the Bronx/Westchester division’s player of the year, with seniors Mary Burns, Joanna Weidenhamer and Katelynn Ryan joining her with all-league honors.
Santora, who said he accepted the head coaching post “with open arms” and that it was a “no-brainer,” is assisted on the junior varsity sidelines with his daughter, who coaches the freshman squad. Even midway through the season, he saw an immediate difference between the two levels of play.
“Varsity is a totally different animal,” Santora said. “I am gifted with four great returning varsity players and I have a junior that came up from JV last year; I’m leaning on them as much they’re leaning on me and we’re not letting it go.
“The process is a little different; the speed is a little different; the hitting, of course, is much different; but I’m learning as I go along, too, and I can only learn from the best and these girls are the best.”
Santora admitted that he thought this year would be a “transitional” season, but that he was quickly corrected by his team. “They didn’t think so, so how am I going to fight them on that?” he said.
Kennedy lost the match on Oct. 2 to Maria Regina, the Archidocesan champions, but said even before the match that the girls had “a little chip on their shoulder,” after not winning it all last year. “They’re never satisfied with how they play,” he said. “They always want more.”
The girls are probably satisfied now.
Photo credit: Seth Harrison/The Journal News