Francis Lewis has been a girls volleyball juggernaut for a decade, winning five PSAL Class A titles and reaching the semifinals for eight straight years.
But no trip to the Final Four has been sweeter than this one, which the Patriots clinched with a 25-18, 25-19 quarterfinal win against No. 5 Bronx Science Thursday afternoon in Fresh Meadows.
That’s because fourth-seeded Lewis has had to deal with so much adversity, especially in terms of injuries. The biggest loss was star setter Jessica Chung, who first suffered a knee injury, then had an ankle ailment and most recently was hit by a car. The senior was on the bench Thursday to cheer on her teammates.
“This is probably the most rewarding,” Lewis coach Arnie Rosenbaum said. “With all the things they’ve gone through this season, all the injuries we’ve had, they’ve really adapted to whatever we did.”
It’s taken some time to adjust to life without Chung, but the Patriots turned the corner at the Grover Cleveland tournament last month and haven’t looked back since. Lewis (10-3), ranked No. 9 in New York City by MSG Varsity, is now comfortable with Stacy Paickattu (19 assists) at setter and sophomore Ragina Anthony has taken more of a leadership role.
On Thursday, Anthony and Lisa Camargo punished Bronx Science (14-1) with a bevy of blistering kills. Anthony had nine kills, six digs and two aces and Camargo added nine kills, four digs and a block.
“It’s amazing. I love her playing opposite me,” Anthony said of Camargo. “It makes me feel like if I’m not on my A-game one day, she’ll pick it up for me. I like that I have someone else there.”
Bronx Science coach Jeremy BasSie knew all about Lewis’ one-two punch of outside hitters, but the Patriots role players like Annalise Fee (two blocks), Sandra Arcabascio (11 digs), Naya Harris (three blocks) and Michelle Gomez all stepped up.
“I was impressed that they were more than just an outside hitting team,” BasSie said. “You think of Regina and Lisa as their primary offensive weapons, but they also ran the middle pretty effectively. I give credit to them. I think they played really well on their home court.”
The Wolverines reached the quarterfinals for the fifth time in 10 years largely thanks to junior middle hitters Dominque Watts and Mary Platt, who were integral in a second round win against Townsend Harris.
On Thursday, Watts had nine kills and Platt had six, but Rosenbaum countered by double blocking whoever was in the middle to try and take away the duo’s effectiveness and force someone else to beat his team.
No one else did.
“It seems to be a glass ceiling for us because we’ve made five quarters in the last 10 years,” BasSie said. “We’re like the Buffalo Bills. We can’t get over that hump.”
Francis Lewis, though, has and will meet top-seeded Stuyvesant Saturday at York College. In a rematch of last year’s final, Cardozo and Susan Wagner will battle in the other semifinal.
“It means the world to us,” Camargo said of reaching the semifinals.
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