Kellenberg girls volleyball coach Cathy von Schoenermarck maintains her signature positive, reassuring attitude even during trying times.
After her Firebirds stormed out to a two-set lead but dropped the third set to St. Anthony’s (the undefeated top seed) in Tuesday night’s CHSAA league championship match at Molloy College, she went back to the huddle with a simple message: Play for the little girl who fell in love with volleyball.
That resonated with setter Maggie Caffrey, who set Rebecca Meier for the final two points of the match. Caffrey’s 36 assists paced second-seeded Kellenberg to a 25-15, 25-19, 23-25, 25-22 win for it’s fourth CHSAA championship in five seasons.
The Firebirds advance to Saturday’s state CHSAA tournament at York College in Queens.
“I just wanted to win it for my coach because she deserves it way more than we do,” said Caffrey, who was named the game’s MVP. “She works so hard for us every day, and we just wanted to win it for her.
“She basically told us to go out there, play your game. She always tells us to play it for the little girl who fell in love with the game, and that really stuck with me this season.”
Caffrey distributed the ball evenly. Emily Acimovic (who was voted by the league’s coaches as the league MVP) tied with Teresa Moulder and Samantha Lombardi for the team-lead with eight kills. Meier and Carly Kane each had seven kills.
“I think we focused on that because having one person hit every ball isn’t going to win a championship,” Acimovic said.
Libero Krista Handler said feeding every hitter was part of the plan.
“We train the entire year with the mentality that nobody’s left behind,” she said. “Everybody gets a chance; everybody gets a rep. Evenly distributing the kills was a very big part of our victory today.”
Kellenberg (11-3) fell behind 7-2 in the first set before scoring 16 of the next 19 points, taking an 18-10 lead. Moulder finished the set with a kill, assisted by Caffrey.
There was more back-and-forth in the second set, though Kellenberg took the lead for good at 13-12. Handler (14 digs) finished the set with an ace.
St. Anthony’s (15-1) didn’t wilt, as Emma Benes, Jacqueline Cassidy, Maggie O’Flynn and Sofia Termini put forth their most complete set in the third for a 25-23 win.
That’s when Kellenberg rallied around a simple message from its coach.
“When you’re playing a team that’s undefeated, you have to be able to say you have a fighting chance,” von Schoenermarck said. “The only way you can do that is if you look at the present moment. If you look at the past, you don’t have a shot.”