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Top of the Hill: TMLA bests Kearney to reach finals

Better late than never. That’s the philosophy the Mary Louis girls’ volleyball team was living by Tuesday night. The Hilltoppers dropped the first set to Bishop Kearney in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens semifinals at St. Francis Prep HS in Fresh Meadows and won the next two, but didn’t play their best volleyball.

Until the fourth set in a 22-25, 25-18, 25-18, 25-9 win, that is.

That’s when TMLA showed its potential. The Hilltoppers had the killer instinct coach Sylwia Schober had been looking for all season and never let the Tigers get back into the set – or the match.

“That’s the set that I want them to play all the time,” Schober said.

And it’s the level of play she hopes to see when Mary Louis plays St. Francis Prep, which beat Fontbonne Hall in the first match of the day, in the final Monday.

“I wish they do (play that way),” Schober said. “That’s as much as I can say. They already know what I expect.”

Mary Louis (10-2 CHSAA) played clean and crisply in that fourth set. Its hitters got powerful swings. Senior setter Caity Brandt, who is always steady, was even better than usual. The passing was on the money. Normally, Schober harps on the negative, but not in that last set.

The rest of the match was a different story. Kearney (12-1 CHSAA), the 13-time defending Brooklyn champion, outplayed TMLA in the first set, but Tigers coach Kristin Wulff admitted her team didn’t play well, either.

“I wasn’t completely happy with the first set and that’s what I told them,” Wulff said. “I thought we were gonna improve.”

That didn’t happen. Mary Louis executed in the second and third sets, but Kearney didn’t play nearly as well as it’s capable of, surprising Wulff.

“Usually when we play poorly, it’s because of technique and volleyball skill and not mental,” she said. “We fell apart.”

The Hilltoppers have had similar psychological issues this fall. They’re prone to letting leads – in sets and matches – slip away. They let their first match with Archbishop Molloy go to five sets after taking a 2-0 lead and let St. Francis Prep come back twice on them in the first and second sets the last time the two teams met.

There was a feeling among the players, though, that this was a different Mary Louis. Coming back after losing the first set was certainly a positive, senior Alyssa Martori said.

“This was good for us,” she said, “because when we play bad we usually let it affect our level of play the rest of the match. … This means a lot for Monday.”

Martori had 11 kills and three blocks, senior Tricia Jawor had 14 kills, senior Jennifer Roganti had five kills and five blocks and senior Faith Scazzero added six digs for Mary Louis. Senior setter Caity Brandt had 36 assists.

Bridget Dalton had 10 kills and 20 digs for Kearney, Jen Jamin and Christina Shalhoub and Ariel Fayh had 19 digs.

“Mary Louis is a great team, but I had no doubt that we could have beaten them,” Wulff said.

It looked that way for three sets. But Mary Louis took it to a different level in the fourth set.

“The last set,” Brandt said, “is usually the one you remember.”

 

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Photo by Damion Reid/Five Boro Sports

 

The Mary Louis girls' volleyball team celebrates after a point en route to a four-set, semifinal win against Bishop Kearney.

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