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VOLLEYBALL TEAM MAKES MSG VARSITY FRONT PAGE NEWS!

Unbeaten Kennedy spikes Lourdes

by Rob DiAntonio on Thursday, September 29 at 09:30 PM  / Updated Thursday, September 29 at 09:32 PM

Unbeaten Kennedy spikes Lourdes

Rob DiAntonio

SOMERS – With a roster featuring many underclassmen and few returning seniors, expectations were naturally lowered for the Kennedy Catholic volleyball team, which won its league championship last season.

But the Gaels have surprised many with an undefeated start. Kennedy cruised to a straight-set victory (25-10, 25-19, 25-13) over Our Lady of Lourdes on Thursday.

“We lost a lot of big people last year and I didn’t think that we were going to be this far,” star senior outside hitter Cat Purdy said. “We’re actually better this year. I’m surprised and really happy.”

After an easy win in the first set, the Gaels (6-0) met some resistance. The teams were deadlocked at 13 in the second set, but Kennedy responded. Lourdes changed their strategy by going from hitting to tipping the ball over the net, and it took Kennedy some time to adjust, coach Ellen Casey said.

“We moved the defense around and made one girl accountable for the tips (Kelly Gallagher),” Casey said. “We pushed the defense up because their hits weren’t coming very hard, they were more shallow.”

Gallagher, only a freshman, is starting at setter in her first season on varsity.

“I knew that when Kelly stepped on the court on day one that she was going to be my setter,” Casey said. “She plays with a lot of confidence and continues to improve with every game.”

Most freshman starters would feel some pressure, but not Gallagher. She credits Purdy, a captain, for helping ease any nerves she had.

“We just want to keep on improving every single game,” said Gallagher, who had 27 assists. “We want to keep getting better so we can be undefeated.”

Gallagher and the team built immediate chemistry. She even played in a doubles tournament with Purdy over the summer, which they won.

“She’s absolutely amazing,” Purdy said. “We would not be here without her.”

“I would not get half of my hits if it weren’t for her,” sophomore outside hitter Anni Abbruzzese said.

Purdy, who had eight kills, is one of the few returning seniors and is assuming a large leadership role with such a young squad.

“Cat is a joy to coach,” Casey said. “She is the sparkplug of the team. She’s very good in mentoring the younger girls and building up their confidence. When she’s on the court she makes everyone play at a level they normally wouldn’t play at because of her encouragement and enthusiasm for the game.”

“She means everything to this team,” said Abbruzzese, who had 10 kills. “Cat is an amazing player. We’re going to miss her so much when she graduates.”

Along with Purdy, Abbruzzese and sophomore middle hitter Caroline Erb (eight kills) have been forces up front.

Given the youth of the team, Casey has been impressed with the unbeaten start.

“My only surprise is how quickly they are jelling together,” she said. “For as young as they are, it’s coming together pretty nicely.”

For Lourdes (3-4), Samantha Blanchfield had 12 assists, eight digs and three blocks. Senior Krystn Horan had nine kills. Nora McElduff and Casey Castellano added 11 and 10 digs, respectively.

“We need to learn how to come off a bus and start playing the game, and how to psyche ourselves up for matches,” Warriors coach Emily Krieger said. “We play well at home but when we go on the road our first game is always a bit of a downer.”

Kennedy, which is undefeated at home since 2009, is hoping to capture another league title and maybe more after falling in the Class B sectional semifinals to Hendrick Hudson last season.

“We also want to try to have as good a record as we had last year (13-2 regular season),” Casey said. “We’d like to travel a little further in the sectionals.”

Purdy agreed with her coach.

“The team goal is definitely to win leagues again,” she said. “But I think we’re looking even further than that. We’re like, ‘All right, section finals, let’s get there.’ We lost in the semifinals last year to Hen Hud — we’re ready to face them again.”

Check back later for highlights, postgame interviews and photos.

* Follow Rob DiAntonio on Twitter @MSGV_RJD *

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