Small school Valhalla comes up big at John Jay
CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – With just 314 students, Valhalla is one of the smallest Class B schools in Section 1. In the John Jay-Cross River softball tournament, the Vikings went up against Arlington (Class AA, enrollment of 2,544) and John Jay-Cross River (Class A, enrollment of 915).
But it didn’t faze the Vikings in the slightest.
Valhalla showed that they can hang with the bigger schools by defeating John Jay-CR, 12-4, in the tournament championship on Saturday. The Vikings (11-4) came from behind to beat Arlington 4-2 in the opening round behind a two-run home run from senior outfielder Danielle Maffei.
“It means a lot,” freshman shortstop Brandi Coon said of winning the tournament. “We put a lot of hard work into what we did and kept our heads high the whole time. We just did our best and it turned out in our favor.”
After John Jay-CR cut Valhalla’s lead to 5-4, the Vikings responded with seven unanswered runs including three runs in the top of the fourth. Coon had a two-RBI double.
“Our batters just focused on the new pitcher (Joanna Giordano) and saw what was going on with her,” Coon said. “We just had to put the ball in play and get some more runs.”
“We put the ball in play, found a couple of holes and were able to tack on,” Valhalla coach John Hayes said.
Valhalla scored two runs in the top of the sixth with RBI singles from first baseman Jenna Saldi and freshman pitcher Sydni Holtz. Outfielders Kaylie Dymek (5 for 5, two RBI) and Jade Fumarelli each added an RBI in the seventh. Fumarelli also had an RBI double in the first inning.
Also contributing RBI for the Vikings were Maffei and senior catcher Madeline DeMilio.
“Everyone in our line-up can hit,” Coon said. “They’re all hard workers.”
Holtz allowed 11 hits, but seemed to get better on the mound as the game progressed. She has been battling a groin injury.
“For the last three games she’s been able to hit spots,” Hayes said. “She’s been able to go in and go out. She keeps kids off balance. She’s not going to blaze it by you, but she’s going to throw some junk at you to get you to hit some weak ground balls and pop ups.”
The defense was also there to back up Holtz as Valhalla was virtually flawless in the field.
“We’ve always taken pride in our defense,” Hayes said. “But to be honest, when we opened up, things were very shaky and inconsistent. Now they’re finally starting to be more consistent. Offense wins games, but defense wins championships and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
After falling behind 2-0 in the top of the first, John Jay (6-8) fought back with two runs in the bottom half. Kim Dolhon started things with a double followed by a single from Joanna Giordano. Theresa Swertfager then smacked an RBI single and Victoria Gullen had an RBI single of her own a few batters later.
Devon Novick tripled to start the bottom of the third and was brought home by a Gullen triple. Ali Matschke had an RBI double.
After a slow start to the season, the young Vikings have been on fire of late. They picked up a 3-1 win over Class B contender Rye Neck on Thursday and expect to see them again down the road.
“We’ve got some senior leadership and a lot of young kids,” Hayes said. “In the beginning we had some growing pains. It’s starting to come together and we’re being a little more consistent. Our defense keeps us in every game.”
Valhalla is the defending Section 1 Class B champion and won back-to-back Section 1 Class C titles prior to that.
“We want to do our best and whatever happens, happens,” Coon said of the mindset heading into sectionals. “We just have to always keep a positive attitude.”