Kennedy advances to semifinals

Kennedy seniors Ross Vizcaino (c.) and Joel Gomez combined for 12 blocks to lead the Knights to the semis. Photo by Damion Reid/Five Boro Sports

Arturo Cabrera and Ross Vizcaino decided on a friendly little competition before their John F. Kennedy boys’ volleyball team’s match Saturday.

“Let’s see who gets more blocks,” Cabrera said. “Nobody was getting through today.”

As it turns out, teammate Joel Gomez had the most with eight, but Vizcaino had the most emphatic one. In the first set, the senior outside hitter, who is also a star on the Kennedy boys’ basketball team, crushed an attack by New Utrecht star senior middle Braien Otsla for a point. When he came down, Vizcaino let out a roar and had choice words for the opposition.

Vizcaino said he was just talking to himself and the team, but Cabrera let the cat out of the bag.

“He said, ‘You ain’t going nowhere,’” Cabrera said.

Kennedy is going places, though. An impressive, 25-20, 25-18 win against No. 6 New Utrecht on Saturday in the quarterfinals at Hunter College has the third-seeded Knights in the semifinals. They will meet No. 7 McKee/Staten Island Tech, which defeated No. 15 Brandeis, on Tuesday night back at Hunter.

Vizcaino’s swagger clearly rubbed off on his teammates as Kennedy (12-1) put together a second straight strong showing in the postseason.

“It’s intensity and killer instinct,” Knights coach Iris Bromfield said. “Ross brings that to our team from basketball. I’m not fond of it all the time, but if it makes us play better I don’t mind – as long as it’s not to the detriment of the other team.”

Vizcaino had eight kills and four blocks, Cabrera had seven kills and eight digs, Hansel Collado had 17 assists, Angel Acosta had nine digs and David Minaya had eight digs for Kennedy. Bromfield said the most important thing in the match was serve receive – New Utrecht (14-1) has one of the best service games in the city.

“That was our strength today,” the coach said.

The Utes didn’t perform badly against one of the city’s premier teams. But coach Jennifer Lopez said her team got tight in tough spots due to their inexperience.

“They have a lot more experience as far as playoffs are concerned,” she said. “Sometimes when you want something so much, it backfires.”

Braien Otsla had eight kills and six digs, Wei Hao Wu had six kills and six digs, Qin Yu Zeng had six kills and Yu Ming Zeng had 18 assists for New Utrecht, which proved itself worthy of its No. 6 seed.

Kennedy has just been playing inspired volleyball since losing to Walton in its first league defeat since 2001 late in the season. The Knights are extremely motivated and Bromfield took note of Walton’s loss to Brooklyn Tech on Saturday.

“We’re still the best team in the Bronx,” she said. “We’re the only team left.”

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