By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Normally, an upstart program takes a while to get rolling.
A year or two, maybe even three seasons before a team can establish some chemistry or a winning mentality.
That’s certainly not been the case for coach Felix Alberto’s Blue Pride Panthers boys’ volleyball team at Pearl Street’s Brooklyn Friends School.
With Monday’s straight-set (25-8, 25-15, 25-13) victory over Park Slope rival Berkeley Carroll, the Panthers improved to 14-1 overall this season, including a perfect 10-0 mark in Private School Athletic Association action, entering Wednesday afternoon’s regular-season finale against York.
Though they had two seasons of club-team play leading up to their inaugural foray into the PSAA, the Panthers’ coach admitted that he had no way of knowing just how strong his team would be when the games truly began to count.
“Last year I thought that we were ready to be in a league,” Alberto, who has also coached the more-established BFS girls’ program to many league titles, told the Eagle Wednesday.
“I saw a progression because we had a core of juniors who were developing,” he added. “I wasn’t expecting to be so successful, but I knew were going to be great competitors.”
Two of his top third-year stars, Thomas Chamberlain and Griffin Edwards, continue to play key roles in the development of the squad, which has already received a No. 1 seed and automatic bye to next Monday’s PSAA Semifinals, where they will take on either Downtown rival Packer Collegiate or Evangel.
“Thomas actually pulled the team together since he was an eighth-grader,” Alberto revealed. “He was the only real volleyball player. The other guys started enjoying the game, but they came from all different sports. There are some soccer players, basketball players and Griffin was a hockey player. Thomas competed on the junior circuit in tennis.”
In Monday’s win over the Lions, Chamberlain amassed 11 kills, four blocks and a pair of aces while Edwards added 17 assists and two aces of his own.
Other contributing to the Panthers’ attack included freshman Phillip Camposano and junior Lucas Miller, who teamed up for seven kills, three aces and two blocks.
Tenth-graders Quran Davis and Tyler Vincent added a combined two assists, two blocks and two kills as BFS continued to build on its near-perfect campaign.
Unfortunately, the Panthers’ season will end with next week’s PSAA Championships as they are not eligible to compete in the New York State Tournament, despite being ranked as high as third in the entire city and fourth overall in the state.
“That includes public, private and Catholic school teams in the city,” Alberto noted proudly. “But it’s still a work-in-progress. Hopefully, one day we’ll keep growing as a league and we can get in the state tournament sooner rather than later.”
“Sooner rather than later” appears to be the story of the Blue Pride’s inaugural season.
Coming off the best season in program history, the St. Francis Brooklyn women’s college basketball team is stocking up for what should be an even brighter future on Remsen Street.
The Terriers, perennial bottom-dwellers in the Northeast Conference before their recent renaissance under third-year coach John Thurston, established several school records during the 2013-14 campaign.
St. Francis set new marks for overall victories (19), home wins (12) and went on a school-record eight-game winning streak last year en route to a berth in the NEC Tournament.
The Terriers were also ranked in the Mid-Major Top 25 for the time ever.
Though the campaign ended in disappointment with a first-round loss to Bryant in the NEC Championships, Thurston and his staff went right to work on building back up for the 2014-15 season and beyond.
Last week, Thurston revealed the additions of incoming point guard Becky Pund, forwards Taryn Stanley and Alex Delaney to the Class of 2018, which already featured new arrivals like freshmen Cassidy Derda and Blair Arthur.
"We are extremely pleased with this year's incoming class," said Thurston. "They compare very favorably athletically and academically to next year's senior class, which has re-written the records books at St. Francis Brooklyn."
Pund, a 5-9 point guard from Audubon, New Jersey, attended St. John Vianney High School for her freshman and sophomore year before transferring to Gloucester Catholic High School to play under head coach Lisa Gedaka. In her inaugural season at SJV, the Lancers won the New Jersey State Non-Public A Championship while being ranked #10 in the nation with a record of 27-3.
"Becky is a solid guard who comes from an outstanding high school program," noted Thurston. "She is rated as one of the top ten seniors in New Jersey. Becky is one of a few athletes to play in four straight SJ State Championship games. She possesses excellent long-range abilities while being a strong passer, ball handler, and most of all, floor leader. Becky has an incredible work ethic which sets her apart from many players."
Stanley, a 5-10 forward from Sylvania, Ohio, attended Sylvania Southview High School. She was a member of the varsity teams from 2012-2014.
"Taryn played in one of the toughest conferences in Ohio, which feature ten players in the conference that have all signed or committed to Division I programs," said Thurston. "Taryn's statistics put her in the top echelon of that group. A very physical wing with excellent shooting range and passing ability, she also rebounds the ball very well which is what attracted us to her"
Delaney, a 5-10 forward, is the third Australian signed by the Terriers during Thurston's tenure. She will try to fill the void left by forward Jessica Kaufman, who completed her degree in three years and will enter graduate school back in Australia in Clinical Psychology.
"All of our contacts in Australia are unanimous in their comments about Alex, she can score," Thurston said. "She is a dedicated, coach-able and determined athlete. She is a team player and works tirelessly towards her individual goals and the goals of the team. She is an accurate shooter with excellent three-point range. Passing and on-court leadership are also strengths of hers and her ability to defend both on the perimeter and inside makes her an asset to the team."
Derda, who signed her letter of intent to play here back in November, is a 6-2 forward from South Burlington. She played at Rice Memorial High School.
"Cassidy is a very mobile post player that runs the floor extremely well," Thurston said. "She has solid shooting range and is comfortable facing the basket. Derda is a very good passer and has an excellent basketball IQ. She comes from a basketball family as her mother was an excellent player at James Madison in the ‘80’s and her father has coached her since she started playing."
Arthur, a 5-6 guard from Allegan, Michigan, put forth an impressive resume at Allegan High School. She finished with 1,126 career points, making her one of only two girls in the school’s history to eclipse the 1,000-point plateau. In her final season, Arthur averaged 15.2 points per game while grabbing 7.0 rebounds per contest and dishing out 5.0 assists.
"Blair is a scoring point guard and is one of the premier 3-point shooters in the state of Michigan," stated Thurston. "She has an excellent mid-range game and is fearless in attacking the basket. She has the reputation around Allegan of being one that never wants to leave the gym. We expect Blair to contribute next season as a backup to [senior] Katie (Fox) and to be a prime factor following Fox's graduation."
The LIU-Brooklyn women’s team had a notable signing this week as well.
Head coach Gail Striegler announced that junior-college transfer Jolanna Ford signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Blackbirds in 2014-15.
"Jo Jo is a very athletic post player that will fit our up-tempo style of play," Striegler said. "She has competed at a high level, and should be able to come in and contribute right away. We are excited to have her as a member of our Blackbird family."
Ford joins the LIU-Brooklyn squad after two seasons at New Mexico Junior College, where she helped lead the Lady Thunderbirds to back-to-back Western Junior College Athletic titles last season, including a 13-1 record in the WJCAC.
Ford and her teammates also claimed the Region V Championship title, earning a berth to the 2014 NJCAA National Tournament.
A 6-foot forward, Ford graduated from Lynwood High School, where she helped her team win back-to-back C.I.F Championship titles in 2011 and 2012.
While playing for Lynwood, she was named to the San Gabriel Valley League first-team in 2012. She also earned two all-defense awards, the team's most improved award in 2011, and the team's coach's award in 2012.
Ford joins Shunta Nevitt, Paris Jones, Stylz Sanders, Angel Waithe and Drew Winter as members of a recruiting class that was ranked 59th in the country in December 2013 by Dan Olsen's Girls Basketball Report, ahead of recruiting classes from Division I programs such as Northwestern, Kansas State and Rutgers.
Though they earned their third consecutive Northeast Conference title a week ago, the LIU-Brooklyn women’s golf team was unable to advance through the Central Regional of the NCAA Tournament last weekend in Stillwater, Okla.
The Blackbirds finished in 23rd place overall with a total score of 1000. UCLA finished 17 strokes ahead of Alabama to win the tournament.
Sophomore sensation and reigning NEC individual champion Marisol Doglioli led the Blackbirds the entire tournament, shooting a final day 82 to finish with 248 total over the three days.
Juniors Cristina Felip and Brianna Maynard finished one stroke apart, at 250 and 251, respectively. Maynard carded the low round for LIU with 80, while Felip shot an 84.
Sophomore Victoria Fagan shot an 88 to finish with 257, while junior Alice Boothroyd rounded out the team scoring with a 90 in her final round for a total of 260.
This marked the third straight season the Blackbirds reached the NCAA Regional round, and with all their players eligible to return next year under coach and former Blackbird golf legend Natalie Desjardins, it’s hard to imagine them not being the favorite to make it four in a row.