Volleyball champs Newman Cardinals test coach’s nerves

High school volleyball championships are becoming a little too exciting for Cardinal Newman Cardinals coach Henry Stachurski.

For the second consecutive season his senior girls’ volleyball team won the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association title thanks to some late heroics.

St. Mary started strong, but the defending champion Cardinal Newman girls fought back to repeat with the HWCAA senior girls' volleyball title.  (Photo: Gerry Graham/HWCDSB)

St. Mary started strong, but the defending champion Cardinal Newman girls fought back to repeat with the HWCAA senior girls’ volleyball title. (Photo: Gerry Graham/HWCDSB)

“I wish we wouldn’t make it this exciting,” Stachurski said after Newman’s 3-2 victory over the visiting St. Mary Crusaders on Wednesday (Feb. 19). “This is two years in a row we’ve kind of given the fans their money’s worth.”

First-place Newman lost the first two sets (27-25, 25-20) to third-place St. Mary. The Cardinals fought back, however, with 25-16, 25-19 victories to tie the match. Then, in the deciding set, Newman breezed to a 15-3 win.

“It was a very good effort by our team,” Stachurski said. “Veteran leadership allowed us to stay calm. I told the girls all they needed to do was to keep working hard and then let their talent take over.”

Last season, during the fifth and deciding set, the Cardinals trailed 13-8 to the Bishop Ryan Celtics before rallying to score seven unanswered points to end that championship match. Amanda Bruzzese came off the bench to serve on each of those points during the final run by Newman.

Said Stachurski: “At the beginning of the fifth set today I told Amanda to tell all the kids about last year.”

Against the 2012 champions from St. Mary, Elysa Zanon’s six-point serving run enabled the Cardinals to jump out to a commanding lead in the tie-breaker.

“We had a lot riding on this game,” Bruzzese said. “Even though we were down two sets, you still want to fight and win no matter what. For some of us, it’s the fourth straight year winning a city championship (at midget, junior and twice at senior).”

The Cardinals advance to the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference Quad A semi-finals against the Georgetown Rebels on Monday (Feb. 24) at Newman. Game time is 4 p.m. St. Mary also moves on to GHAC competition at the Triple A level. The Crusaders opponent in Oakville on Monday will be Abbey Park (3 p.m.)

The Crusaders had lost 3-1 and 3-2 in their two regular-season matches against Newman.

“In the first two games today we were serving well, attacking well and our passing was really good to run our offence,” Crusaders’ coach Chiara Salvatore said. “Then, they came out with a different lineup … a different look on offence. We couldn’t adjust soon enough.”

Salvatore said the Crusaders just got lazy with their passing in the deciding set.

Other members of the Cardinals are Rachel Todd, Roberta Todd, Trish Southall, Evi Cusimano, Kristen Farkas, Kiana Mammolite, Sophie Mesic, Jess Maltese, Cara Persia, Julia Cuicani and Amanda Adoranti. There are 10 club players on the Newman roster.

Said Stachurski: “We had opportunities to win those first two sets, but we just weren’t doing the little things right. Things like communication and the movement of feet. Then we made some tactical adjustments and started serving a little tougher. We planted a seed of doubt in their heads.”

Celtics bring home trophy to their new home

In the junior championship, also at Newman, Bishop Ryan topped the Cardinals, 3-0. The scores were 27-25, 25-15, 25-12.

“My girls played their best game of the year,” said coach Mara Gazzola, whose Celtics finished second behind Newman during the regular season.

When she picked up the championship trophy, she was surprised to see that Bishop Ryan had never previously won the junior title.

“Wow. I can’t believe that,” she said. “Is that possible? This will be the first championship trophy since we’ve been in the new building.”

The Celtics roster was comprised of Emily Baker, Lisa Bisciglia, Nicole Cimadamore, Allison Kielbasa, Melissa McFadden, Victoria Panicucci, Jessica Simpson, Hannah Vuylsteke and Carly Wong.

Gazzola, a former Newman student, said the Celtics worked hard and improved tremendously over the course of the season.

Cardinal Newman also captured the midget championship. The Cardinals edged the Bishop Tonnos Titans 3-2 (25-13, 16-25, 25-9, 16-25, 15-13). It was the third consecutive midget crown for Newman.

Brebeuf at Halton champion Oakville Trafalgar will be the other GHAC Quad A semi-final on Monday. Game time is 3 p.m.