December 19, 2009: 2009, Issue 51
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Today’s news:

Girls’ volleyball honors

The biggest story in The Bronx this season was St. Catharine Academy winning its second straight CHSAA Bronx/Westchester and New York Archdiocesan titles. The Crusaders, not usually known for volleyball dominance before last season, also advanced to the CHSAA Class A state championship match to cap the program’s best campaign ever.

In the PSAL, John F. Kennedy was young, but made the Class A quarterfinals after getting pushed by Bronx Science and Columbus in division play. Horace Mann was one of the best teams in the borough, winning the Ivy League title and earning a berth in the NYSAISAA semifinals.

All-Bronx girls volleyball Player of the Year: Alessandra Rosso, St. Catharine Academy

Four years ago, Rosso was a spectator as her sister Melissa helped lead St. Catharine to the CHSAA Class A state semifinals, the program’s best finish ever. Rosso was in eighth grade at that point and was the Crusaders’ defacto manager, following the players around.

This season, she led SCA to new heights. The Crusaders won their second straight CHSAA Bronx/Westchester and New York Archdiocesan titles and followed that up with a trip to the CHSAA Class A state championship match. The senior outside hitter was incredibly consistent as well as the team’s emotional leader.

All-Bronx girls volleyball Coach of the Year: Melissa Rosso, St. Catharine Academy

As a player, Rosso helped St. Catharine make it all the way to the CHSAA Class A state semifinals. But as a coach, her squad went even further, advancing to the state championship match. Rosso did it the right way this season. She stocked her team’s scrimmage schedule with powerhouse teams from Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island and participated in one of the city’s top tournaments, the Lady Patriot Invitational at Francis Lewis.

The result was a battle-tested group that cruised to a second straight CHSAA Bronx/Westchester title and a second consecutive New York Archdiocesan championship. SCA has never seen so much success in volleyball. Rosso, 21, will likely step down as she graduates Manhattan College this spring, but hasn’t ruled out a return to the bench.

All-Bronx First Team

OH Lavinia Anzai, Horace Mann

The senior was Mann’s go-to hitter, leading the Lions to their second Ivy League title in three years after going without one the 30 seasons prior. Anzai was just about automatic when she got a good set. She was the driving force behind Horace Mann’s trip to the NYSAISAA semifinals as well.

S Pashke Gjini, Columbus

Clever and crafty, Gjini was the embodiment of how Columbus played volleyball. The Explorers were never overpowering, but always fundamentally sound and scrappy. Gjini was a solid setter and her tips and bumps over the net to empty space were deadly. Opposing teams always had to be on their toes.

OH Kerri Johnson, Preston

Talent wise, there was no one else who could match her in The Bronx. Johnson has as much size (6 feet), leaping ability and athleticism as any volleyball player in New York City. The Division I prospect has serious power in her swing and could regularly hit the 10-foot line if she got a good set. Johnson led Preston to a second-place finish in CHSAA Bronx/Westchester and the New York Archdiocese.

MH Sharon Ofori, John F. Kennedy

Ofori was a role player last season, playing second fiddle to a strong core that helped Kennedy to the PSAL Class A city title game. This year, though, she was the team’s hitting star. The senior all but took over the Knights’ quarterfinals match against Susan Wagner before they eventually fell in a hard-fought effort. Her long arms, athleticism and power were indispensable for coach Iris Bromfield’s team.

S Lauren Paylor, St. Catharine Academy

Paylor was the unsung hero of St. Catharine’s repeat in CHSAA Bronx/Westchester and the New York Archdiocese. Without her precision sets, outside hitters Alessandra Rosso and Amarilda Shkoza wouldn’t have had nearly as much success. The senior also acted as a calming influence for the Crusaders, never letting her teammates get too up or too down.

OH Amarilda Shkoza, St.Catharine Academy

She might not have gotten as much attention as setter Lauren Paylor or fellow outside Alessandra Rosso, but St. Catharine would have never had as much success without Shkoza. Without the junior, the Crusaders would have not been able to diversify their attack. She improved a ton from last season.

All-Bronx Second Team

L Suada Ibric, John F. Kennedy

Replacing libero Lisbeth Rodriguez, one of the leaders of the 2008 PSAL city runner-up team, was no easy task, but Ibric did a fine job. Her defense – a staple of Kennedy teams – was strong and her serving might have been even better.

S/OH Siobhan Flattery, Cardinal Spellman

Coach Jeri Faulkner asked a lot of her and she always delivered. Whether it was setting, hitting or defense, Flattery made her mark all over the court. The junior will be someone Faulkner can lean on next year as the young Pilots grow up.

S Jessica Gonzalez, John F. Kennedy

With her speed and athleticism, Gonzalez was all over the court for Kennedy. The junior was a steady setter and could pack a punch hitting, too, in the Knights’ 6-2 rotation. Gonzalez could be one of the best seniors in the PSAL next year.

S/OH Juliana Kwan, Bronx Science

The Wolverines resembled a M.A.S.H. unit this season. Injuries were the norm with starting players going down seemingly every week. Kwan was there to right the ship. The senior was a solid setter, hitter and defender, a good all-around player that helped Science make the PSAL Class A second round.

L Margot Penn, Horace Mann

Everything Mann did all started with Penn. The Lions were a well-balanced offensive team, but Penn made them great with her defense and passing.

OH Doruntina Zariqi, John F. Kennedy

The sophomore was perhaps the youngest co-captain in New York City, getting significiant playing time in her first season. Zariqi was a vocal leader and solid all-around player. She’s a major part of Kennedy’s bright future.

All-Bronx Honorable Mention

MB Leslie Crosdale, Horace Mann

OH Eugenie Dubin, Bronx Science

OH Cari English, Cardinal Spellman

OH Lucia Garcia, Columbus

RS Zoe Kestan, Horace Mann

OH Laura Montalto, Preston

OH Octavia Paylor, St. Catharine Academy

S/OH Rebecca Peralta, Aquinas

MH Mel-Lisa Saunders, John F. Kennedy

OH Tina Tinaj, Columbus

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