Cardinals start their motor and race to title

The Cardinal Newman Cardinals slammed on the brakes just in time.

First-place Newman stopped the momentum of the visiting Bishop Ryan Celtics and then made a late charge of their own to win the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior girls’ volleyball championship on Friday (Feb. 22).

It was Newman’s first title in the sport since 2008.

Bishop Ryan staged a comeback, before Cardinal Newman turn it around to take the final match and championship.
(Photo: Gerry Graham)

In a thrilling league final, the Cardinals took the first two sets (25-23, 25-21) before dropping the next two by scores of 25-23, 25-22. Then, in the fifth and deciding contest, Bishop Ryan continued on its roll, racing to a 13-8 lead. The Celtics, at that point, were just two points away from victory before the Cardinals turned it around by scoring seven unanswered points to end the match.

“Volleyball is a funny game,” Newman coach Henry Stachurski said. “It has a lot of momentum changes. And it always amazes me how fast the momentum can change just with one point.”

Stachurski said a “great one-handed save” by left side Rachel Todd of the Cardinals may have been the turning point.

“Rachel is definitely our motor. She played an awesome match.”

Both teams advance to the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference playoffs on Monday (Feb. 25). At the Quad A level, Newman plays host to Oakville’s Holy Trinity Titans at 6 p.m., while in Triple A, the Celtics are home to take on the Burlington Notre Dame Fightin’ Irish at 3 p.m. At stake are two Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations tournament berths.

“I’m really proud of our girls,” the Newman coach said. “There was plenty of opportunities for them to just shut down, but they hung in there.”

First-year senior player Amanda Bruzzese was the server for Newman’s final string of points to reach 15.

Some of the Cardinals who didn’t see much action through most of the match came on to perform well at crunch time. One such player, according to Stachurski, was Elysa Zanon who blocked a shot at the net from one of Bishop Ryan’s big hitters.

Said Celtics coach, Mario Crnic: “We tried to fight back. In the third game, we started to get a little confidence and play better. In the final game, we thought we were in control. But a couple of unfortunate plays that happened on the court made us stumble a little bit. We lost the momentum and they were able to overcome.”

The third-place Celtics again were led by left-side hitter Vicky Golebiowski and middle Kirsten Bialachowski, players who have won medals at the provincial age-group level with the Mountain Volleyball Club.

“Perhaps if we went solo to them, things may have turned out differently,” Crnic said. “But we are trying to endorse the team concept and use everybody. It was working for a while.”

Newman setter Kristen Farkas said both teams are very strong and work hard. During the regular season, their records were 12-2 and 11-3, respectively.

“It could have gone either way,” said Farkas, who is also an accomplished provincial-level soccer player.

Other members of the Cardinals are Kiana Mammolite, Mackenzie Bailey, Daniella Balaz, Jessica Maltese and Julia Cuciani.

“They are a very strong serving team,” Crnic said.”We didn’t cave under their pressure.”

Senior girls’ volleyball was the second city championship in as many days for Cardinal Newman. The Cardinals’ senior boys’ basketball team also took top honours at McMaster University, defeating the ACMT Jaguars.

“We rode a little momentum from the boys’ basketball team,” Stachurski said. “Our girls are close friends with the boys on the basketball team. They have competitive natures and feed off each other.”

The undefeated Cardinals hoops squad will also be playing a GHAC semifinal on Monday, at Newman, against Oakville’s Loyola Hawks. Tip off is 4 p.m.