A year after three thrilling five-set matches against archrival Archbishop Molloy, St. Francis Prep completed a stunning regular-season sweep of the Stanners, winning in straight sets for a third time Thursday in a match broadcast live on MSGVarsity.com.
The Terriers, ranked No. 1 in New York City by MSG Varsity, beat their biggest rivals, 25-20, 25-20, 25-17, further separating themselves from the rest of the pack in Brooklyn/Queens.
But what’s the secret to their success?
“It all starts with passion,” star junior outside hitter Jaclyn LaForgia said. “When you have passion, you can run different plays. With a good pass, everything runs smoothly. By maintaining our composure, we don’t tense up and we always stay loose throughout the game.”
LaForgia thought she was going to be the team’s libero in the preseason, but coach Kevin Colucci convinced her she had what it takes to be an outside hitter and she’s blossomed into one of the city’s best players.
“When she understood she was going to be one of those go-to people, she has elevated her game,” Colucci said. “She’s had more confidence and been more aggressive throughout the matches.”
That was the same Thursday as LaForgia had nine kills and four digs, but she was far from the only standout.
As has been the case throughout the season, it was a balanced attack for St. Francis Prep. Senior middle hitter Kelly Flynn had 11 kills and three blocks and Caroline Gorecki added seven kills and three blocks.
“To have almost 20 kills out of the middle is pretty nice to have,” Colucci said.
Jessica Vishnudat had four blocks, Kiara Pierre had six kills, Kendra McCalla had 29 assists and Caroline Vallone had 11 digs.
“We’ve all grown and we have one of the deepest teams around,” Vallone said. “Anyone can come in and step up. We have some of the best middles and setters.”
And with No. 2 Archbishop Molloy (8-3) leading 5-4 in the third set, the Terriers received some of their best serves from Johairy Rivadeneira, a junior outside hitter who reeled off eight straight service points to put St. Francis Prep (11-0) ahead for good.
Rivadeneira had three of her four aces during the 8-0 run.
“I just keep staying with the same routine, keep the same motion,” Rivadeneira said. “I felt good, but I just wanted to stay calm and focused.”
That’s been the biggest strength of this team. Sure, they’re the deepest squad, but the Terriers are also a grounded group. St. Francis Prep is hungry to finish where it left off in the CHSAA state tournament, where it lost to St. Mary’s of Lancaster in the final a year ago.
“I try to preach to them that nobody is handing them anything, they’ve got to work for everything,” Colucci said. “We’re not looking towards States until we get past Molloy or whoever else in [Brooklyn/Queens].”