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Poly Prep girls’ volleyball team aims for state title

Spiked: Poly Prep’s Gillian Chan spikes the ball against Benjamin Cardozo.
Brooklyn Daily

Poly Prep understands how much the players on its team have changed — but knows their goal hasn’t.

The Blue Devils girls’ volleyball team wants another crack at winning a private school state title after losing in the final last season. But it will have to do so without three key players from a year ago: outside hitter Jacquie Kennedy, libero Kerri Saputo and setter Jacquie Chirdo.

The 2013 squad is looking for strength in numbers.

“Everyone has an important role this year,” said Blue Devils coach Vanessa Munz. “We need every single person at all times. Overall, I think we are stronger as a whole.”

A good portion of the responsibility will fall on senior middle hitter Gillian Chan. She formed a lethal 1-2 punch with Kennedy last season, but will be a key force at the net this year, and could be Poly’s best offensive weapon until others emerge and the team jells.

“I feel a lot of pressure, but it is good pressure,” she said. “It’s responsibility I’ve always wanted.”

Libero Shannon Twomey added: “When she is on, we will win.”

Poly has a talented group of hitters around her that includes right side Rachel Licata, outsides Julianna Puleo and Katie Pondiscio and middle Michelle Garratt, a sophomore transfer from California. Garratt, a welcome and surprise addition to the squad, is one of the team’s best all-around players in the early season.

“She’s a great addition to have, especially after losing Jacquie Kennedy,” Munz said.

Flora Gallina-Jones has stepped in at setter in place of Chirdo, who was one of the city’s best. Her teammates and coach raved about Gallina-Jones’s play in the early season. She spent the summer playing club volleyball, and they have seen a big difference in her play.

“She’s working really, really hard,” Chan said. “She’s gotten a lot better. I’m really proud of her.”

Poly hopes the team’s hard work will pay off, too. There have been bumps in the early going, including a league loss to Dalton and a non-league defeat to public school power Benjamin Cardozo. Chan and Twomey think it’s just a matter of the new players getting more confident and everyone adjusting to new roles. That will take some time.

It hasn’t discouraged Munz from keeping her club focused on winning a state championship.

“Different kind of team, but just as strong, everyone is important and they can definitely take us there,” Munz said. “We hope to be there again.”

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.

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