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Knights surge past Columbus

There was no need to manufacture motivation for this match. The John F. Kennedy girls volleyball team had it in bushels.

It wasn’t just that Columbus was in second place and threatening the Knights’ PSAL Bronx A1 dominance. JFK was also coming off its worst performance of the season Saturday in the Lady Patriot Invitational at Francis Lewis HS in Queens.

In the absence of coach Iris Bromfield, who was taken to a concert by her husband, Joe, for her birthday, Kennedy lost all six sets in pool play.

“We wanted to prove that we weren’t a team that’s easy to beat,” junior setter Jessica Gonzalez said.

The motivation was clear throughout a 25-14, 25-16 win Thursday against Columbus at Lehman HS. Kennedy (9-0) never took the foot off the accelerator in the victory. Bromfield said it was the cleanest – and best – her team has played all season.

“They didn’t want to just win by a little bit,” the coach said. “But I just wanted to win.”

It was excruciating for Bromfield to miss the tournament. It was the first one in 24 years coaching Kennedy that she hasn’t been there. Bromfield even went to a tournament the day her mother died in 1999.

“I was very, very upset,” she said of Saturday.

Beating Columbus (9-2) helped ease the pain somewhat. The Knights actually went down, 10-5, before libero Suada Ibric went on a 10-0 service run to put her team ahead, 14-10. She had a crucial 4-0 service run in the second set to turn a 9-8 deficit into a 13-9 lead.

“Serve receive killed us today,” Columbus coach Juan Torres said. “If you can’t receive, you can’t set, you can’t hit, you can’t do anything.”

Ibric finished with six aces and seven digs. Sharon Ofori led the attack with nine kills and three blocks, Mel-Lisa Saunders had eight kills, Doruntina Zariqi had seven kills and Ashley Herrera added six kills. Gonzalez was all over the stat sheet with 12 assists, five digs and six aces and Paola Piroli had 13 assists.

“We were mad about the Francis Lewis tournament,” Saunders said. “That was our motivation.”

Bromfield watched the video of her team’s uncharacteristically poor performance and broke down all the things the Knights did wrong, individually. She wrote out weaknesses for everyone and had the players do the same for themselves, too.

“And my notes are not nice,” Bromfield said with a laugh.

Just having her back on the sidelines helped, too, though. It wasn’t that JV coach Lo Oanh, who filled in, did a poor job, the girls just weren’t used to being without Bromfield.

“We always have her in our ears telling us what to do,” Ibric said. “We were lost.”

They don’t have to worry about that any longer. Bromfield won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. She’ll be around when Kennedy plays third-place Bronx Science in two of final three matches of the regular season and, of course, for the postseason.

The last few days could prove to be a turning point.

“I hope we keep this motivation all the way to the playoffs,” Bromfield said.

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