SFDS Novice Girls Celebrate Winning Season
In any sport, expectations are low for brand new teams. But when a new team is comprised of young kids, coaches just like to see their players' skill levels progress enough to have the team finish with a respectable record. This was the feeling of coaches Debbie Sluyk and Sean Shevlin; this past January, when the St. Francis de Sales Novice girls began practicing for their inaugural volleyball season.
The season progressed as expected. A 2-1 victory over St. Nicks had the girls feeling good, but that feeling was quickly dashed the following week with a 1-2 loss to Mt. Carmel. An overpowering St. Thomas More team contributed to the cause with sweeps in successive matches.
A bright spot later in the season included a 3-3 split with the eventual second place team, St. Gregs. Meanwhile, the coaches could see steady improvement from the girls, who had never played organized volleyball, but who probably spent time during the summer knocking their parents' volleyballs around on the top of the beach.
The regular season ended on a strong note with a 1-2 loss to the first place team, Holy Child, on April 5 and a 2-1 win over St. Nick's on April 12. Plainly visible in these two matches was the improved serving and passing of the SFDS girls. In fact, in the match against Holy Child all three games were decided by no more than three points. Further, the SFDS girls were in a position to win a second game, but faltered in the end. Despite the improved play, nothing could have prepared the coaches, and parents for what was to come.
On Saturday, April 19, the girls made the short trip to Breezy Point to play neighboring parish St. Thomas More in the first round of the playoffs. As the first game unfolded, Debbie and Sean could see that their girls had short memories. Playing as anything but a last-place, first-time team they went volley-for-volley and point-forpoint with the more experienced Breezy girls. In the end Julia Carey served-out as SFDS won, 21- 18 win.
The second game began just as the first one had, with both teams playing tough, and the score close. The SFDS girls eventually opened up a late lead and had three opportunities to close it out, but could not capitalize, and eventually lost in OT.
The third game proved not as close as the first two and, unbelievably, the SFDS girls pulled out the game, 21-13, and the match, 2-1. Serena Yannello, Cassie Moriarty and Stephanie Zwirn showed great poise in their bumping and Meaghan Shevlin, Kimberly Sluyk and Emma Michaels were the star servers. Particular recognition must go to Emma who served well despite the savory smell of freshlybaked chocolate-chip cookies waftingin from the kitchen.
On Sunday, April 20, the girls traveled to Bellerose in Northern Queens to play St. Gregory's, the second place team, in the second round of the playoffs and came away with an unbelievably easy 2-0 win. The gym at OLMC, in Astoria, is not very large so the tension and excitement are amplified, proportionally. It was here, on Monday, April 20 that the 'Cardiac Kids' of St. Francis de Sales faced-off in the divisional championships against the first-place team, Holy Child. The coaches knew the key to winning the match was to break the serve of a very strong player on Holy Child, who tended to score the majority of the team's points. As it turnedout, the girl did not score any points this night.
The 'Cardiac Kids' took care of the rest, demonstrating strong team play, consistent serves and loud voices. They took the first game - a tense and exciting affair - by a score of 21- 19, with Samantha Prevot serving-out for the win. Joanne Shevlin had to be whistled off the court, by the referee, after running over to congratulate Sammy.
The girls jumped out to an early lead, in the second game, and never looked back. Cliona Smith and Madison Efron demonstrated their passing skills, as did Kimberly Sluyk, who capped the highlight play of the match. Receiving a strong Holy Child serve, Julia Carey bumped the ball to Cliona Smith who then bumped it towards the sideline. Kimberly chased the ball down, got underneath it and hit it cross-court. The ball skimmed over the net and hit the sideline ('in') before scooting out-of-bounds. The gym erupted! That play demonstrated the skills that have carried this team to the Diocesan Championships.
On April 26 three peninsula parishes participated in diocesan championship matches at Molloy High School. The sub-novice girls from St. Thomas opened-up, but lost 0-2; the SFDS novice girls played next; the St. Camillus rookie girls followed, and won the championship in three thrilling games.
The SFDS novice girls played last year's champions, OLMC, who proved why they were the champions. The first game was a close affair, early on, when the number 8 girl from OLMC stepped up to serve with a 9-8 lead. They would run off nine straight points and OLMC won 21-12. The second game began as the first one ended, with the infamous number 8 opening up with seven straight points. OLMC never looked back in winning the game, the match and the championship.
Still, the St. Francis girls should be roundly applauded for 'resetting the bar' for first-year teams. They earned the thrill of representing their parish in the diocesan championships by brushing-off a mediocre, but respectable, season and battling through three intense playoff rounds. Coaches Debbie and Sean could not be more proud of their 'Cardiac Kids'.