The Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, volleyball program had quite the exciting fall season.
Both the junior varsity (JV) and varsity teams captured their respective GCHSAA ‘AA’ city championship titles. For the JV team, it’s the Clippers’ fourth consecutive city title, while the varsity team captured its first-ever city championship and even came within a few points of fully rewriting the state’s girls’ high school volleyball history books.
What makes these accomplishments even more impressive is that both teams wound up playing the bulk of their matches on the road, since a flash flood in Xaverian’s gym led to needed repairs. Affectionately known as the “Roadies,” these teams were road warriors throughout the entire fall campaign.
Starting with the JV team, the Clippers dominated the reg- ular season with only one loss. The team beat The Mary Louis Academy, Jamaica Estates, in the diocesan semifinals to set up a championship title bout with rival Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood.
With the match being held on Molloy’s home court, Xaverian knew it had to show up with its ‘A’ game. Luckily, team captain Holly Murray provided just the right inspiration before the match to get the Clippers in the right mindset.
“You could feel the anxiety,” said Murray, a sophomore setter. “Just to calm everyone down as a joke, I looked up the famous speech from the movie ‘Miracle.’ It got everybody super excited and ready for the game.”
Of course, the “Miracle” speech was delivered by U.S. Hockey head coach Herb Brooks prior to his team’s improbable victory over the mighty Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Murray’s pep talk was exactly what the Clippers needed heading into that tough environment.
“That JV game was the loudest JV game I’ve been to in forever,” said the team’s head coach Marie McGoldrick.
After losing the first set and falling behind in the second, the Clippers turned up the intensity to win the best-of-three match for the diocesan crown. From there, it was a two-set sweep of the city championship match against Maria Regina H.S., Hartsdale, N.Y., that landed Xaverian with its fourth- straight title.
As JV was celebrating as city champs, they were also keenly interested in the fate of the varsity program, which turned in an undefeated 12-0 regular season. The Clippers faced off in the diocesan semis against rival Fontbonne Hall Academy, Bay Ridge, which defeated Xaverian in last season’s Brooklyn-Queens title game.
The Clippers turned in a clean three-set sweep against the Bonnies, setting up a championship match with St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows. Prep proved to be a tough opponent, winning the first two sets of the best-of-five match.
McGoldrick, who also coaches the varsity team, gathered her team after the second set and said there would be a long night of volleyball ahead. If the team could win the third set, she said, they could then win the fourth as well.
Sure enough, that’s exactly how it played out. The Clippers then built off that momentum to capture the deciding fifth set and the diocesan title. Next up was Maria Regina in the city championship, and the team pulled off another three-set sweep to become undefeated city champs.
So then it was on to the state finals in Buffalo, N.Y., where perennial girls’ Catholic high school powerhouse St. Mary’s H.S., Lancaster, N.Y., was waiting in an attempt to capture its 19th state title within the last 20 years. A powerhouse indeed.
Nov. 12, 2022 will go down as a whirlwind day of emotions for the Xaverian Clippers varsity team. The state tournament featured pool play rounds, semifinals, and a championship match all in the same day beginning with the bus ride to the court at 7 a.m.
After taking down St. Anthony’s H.S., South Huntington, L.I., in the semis, Xaverian of course drew St. Mary’s in the final. A close first set went to St. Mary’s, 25-23, and they followed that up with a statement win in the second, 25-10.
Suddenly, Xaverian was once again faced with an insurmountable task against the strongest opponent in the state. However, just like the diocesan final, the Clippers found their inner gumption to take the third set and then the fourth – setting up an epic one-set-take-all showdown on the biggest stage.
Tied 19-19 and with each squad having used its last timeout, St. Mary’s had a few more relentless plays left in them to go on to capture the title. Still, in this David vs. Goliath match-up, Xaverian not only held their own, but they nearly pulled off what would have been the ultimate high school volleyball upset.
“In our first trip to the states, we almost rewrote two decades of history,” McGoldrick said. “There’s no sadness in second for us, but we were so close. We’re still super proud because it would have been like a ‘Hoosiers’ moment.”
“Even though we didn’t do it and we were so close, I’m just as proud of my teammates,” said senior outside hitter and team captain Claudia Bayard. “Either way, the fact that we made it to that point makes me so proud. Win or lose, I would have been just as happy.”
All told, the last two seasons for both teams have yielded lots of on-court success. Collectively, JV went 29-1 in the regular season, while varsity amassed a 31-1 regular season record. The future certainly bodes well for the Clippers program.
While it may take a “miracle” if the varsity team gets another shot at St. Mary’s next fall, Xaverian has cemented itself as a formidable opponent to bring down Goliath. Anything can happen.
“When all of these girls look back on this season, I hope they remember the amazing way they left it all on that court every time they played,” McGoldrick said. “More than this, I hope the bonds of friendship live in their hearts for as long as they can remember, knowing that is the mark of the true champions they are.”
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.