It seems like every autumn, the Xaverian H.S., Bay Ridge, girls’ volleyball program adds a chapter to its short yet extremely impressive history.
This fall was the most dominant thus far, as both the junior varsity and varsity Tier 1 teams finished the regular season undefeated while both capturing diocesan and city championships.
It’s hard enough in the competitive GCHSAA to win a city championship, so doing so in undefeated fashion — on both levels no less — further cements the Clippers as a local juggernaut on the volleyball court.
After finishing last season as the runner-up to St. Mary’s H.S., Lancaster, N.Y., in the state tournament, Xaverian’s varsity team set out to get right back to business this year. Top standout juniors Julia Turchiano, Cassie McDade, and Sophia Manfredi as well as sophomore Alexandra Carbonaro led the way for the Clippers.
“There’s a lot of discipline within our practices, and that helps with building stamina,” said Turchiano, a team captain and outside hitter. “Everyone is very close. You have to be close with your team, and that’s one of the things we highlight. We’re all a family from the beginning.”
As they rattled off win after win, the Clippers stayed true to a running theme. They dedicated their season to the late Caileigh Duggan, a former Fontbonne Hall Academy, Bay Ridge, volleyball student-athlete who died unexpectedly this past June at just 18 years old.
With 13 straight victories during the season, Xaverian earned the No. 1 spot in the diocesan playoffs. A win over St. John’s Prep, Astoria, in the semifinals matched the Clippers up with St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows, in the Brooklyn-Queens final.
Just five days before the title match, the Clippers and Terriers squared off in an epic five-set battle, with the Clippers mounting a late comeback to keep their undefeated streak alive. Xaverian once again bested St. Francis to earn a berth to the state tournament, where rival St. Mary’s would be waiting.
First though, the Clippers captured their second consecutive city championship with a straight-set victory over Archdiocese of New York champion Maria Regina H.S., Hartsdale, N.Y.
The stage was set at Queens College, Flushing, for the daylong state tournament starting with pool play, in which each team plays two sets against the other three teams to determine the seeding for the semifinals.
Xaverian drew St. Mary’s in the first match of the day, and after dropping a close first set, they took down the defending state champs in an exciting — yet exhausting — second set. Only a handful of teams have ever beaten St. Mary’s in a pool-play set, so the Clippers were riding high early on.
Xaverian earned the No. 3 seed in the semis and took on undefeated Diocese of Rockville Centre champion Kellenberg H.S., Uniondale, L.I. The semifinals are a best-of-three format, so after dropping the first set, the Clippers had to claw their way to two gutsy set wins to set up the state final rematch with St. Mary’s. Here we go again!
After playing since 10 a.m. without any extended break, the Clippers ran out of energy and dropped three straight sets to St. Mary’s — known to be the powerhouse of Catholic state volleyball. Still, to be back-to-back state finalists for such a new program is an incredible accomplishment.
“Every day we spent together as a family may not have been perfect, but like all good families, we took those lessons and grew,” said head varsity and junior varsity volleyball coach Marie McGoldrick. “I am so hopeful that our Xaverian Clippers volleyball program continues to grow in the best ways.”
The foundation of the program is stronger than ever. This year’s seniors did not lose a single regular-season match throughout their tenure, and the junior varsity program continued its dominance of the league as well — winning its fifth-straight city title.
In the past three seasons, the JV team only lost one match, and this year they only dropped one set. The Clippers beat Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, in three sets to win the diocesan finals, before taking down Kennedy Catholic H.S., Somers, N.Y., in a city championship sweep.
“Let’s build it from the ground up and be foundational starting with junior varsity and create a winning culture,” McGoldrick said of the strong JV program. “I totally believe winning is a learned behavior.”
Time will tell if the varsity Clippers are destined for another state finals rematch against their old foe St. Mary’s. Many long hours of preparation and dedication are on the horizon.
Still, when thinking about the perfect script involving Xaverian getting back to the finals against St. Mary’s, you could say:
Third time’s the charm!