Hendrick Hudson Seeking 15th Section 1 Title in 19 Years
By Tony Pinciaro
Once the high school volleyball season begins there is one annual constant that always occurs: HENDRICK HUDSON will be among the Section 1 elite.
Hen Hud, winners of 14 sectional titles the last 18 years, will either be playing for a title or winning one and moving on to state play.
The 2019 season will not be any different as veteran Coach Diane Swertfager, considered one of the state’s best volleyball coaches, returns for her 31st year guiding Hen Hud. And, this year, her daughter, Theresa Swertfager, a former John Jay-Cross River standout and recent University of Florida graduate, is her assistant. Swertfager played softball for the Gators.
“I am enjoying having Theresa as my assistant coach this year,” Swertfager said.
Hen Hud went 23-1 in 2018, but five seniors graduated. Despite the graduation losses, Hen Hud returns a veteran core, highlighted by seniors Callie Pidoriano (setter/libero), Caitlin Weimar (middle), Ashanti Davis (middle) and Madisen Lupica (outside hitter).
The trio of Pidoriano, Weimar and Davis were All-League selections. Pidoriano and Weimar were named all-conference and All-Section and Pidoriano was selected All-NYS (fourth team).
The senior veterans are joined by sophomore MacKenzie Calhoun (setter), an All-Section performer.
Senior defensive specialist Natalie Urra and freshman Amaya Davis are new to the big club.
Swertfager pointed out that Lupica has added blocking and hitting to an already strong offense. Even though Swertfager said she is tweaking new lineups as because of some injuries this season, Hen Hud has adjusted to them with victories over Valhalla, 25-16, 25-12, 25-15, and John Jay-Cross River. Hen Hud rallied from 2-1 down to win the last two sets, 25-18, 25-22.
In the Valhalla match, Pidoriano registered 19 digs and five ace serves. In her varsity debut, Amaya Davis finished with seven kills and four digs, Lupica rang up nine ace serves, nine digs and four kills and Calhoun collected 21 assists. Calhoun had a match-leading 40 assists, along with 14 digs and nine blocks against John Jay. Weimar added 12 kills, five aces and 16 blocks. Pidoriano had 26 digs and three kills and Lupica had a personal-best 15 kills, five aces, seven digs and six blocks.
MAHOPAC had one of the most successful seasons in program history, going 17-2, including a perfect 8-0 in league, in 2018. The Indians were upset in the Section 1 Class AA quarterfinals, but return with renewed determination for coach Jay Melville. The returning nucleus is led by Bella Marinelli (middle), a 2018 All-County selection. Libero Gabby Rocchio, defensive specialist Jenna Palmiero, outside hitter Leah Vitiello and middle Caroline Feely complete the returnees. Setter Colleen Kelly and defensive specialist Caroline Link are joining varsity.
“The team will be very strong defensively,” said Melville, in his 16th year. “We are returning a large group of players with a lot of experience. Carah Vitkus led the team in kills last year and is a major loss on the offensive side, but we have a strong core returning there also. I have high expectations for this team. If we play up to our potential, I feel that we can win another league title and make a deep sectional run.”
PUTNAM VALLEY will turn to its seniors as it opened the 2019 season with two victories. Coach Nicole Turner has an experienced quartet to lead the Tigers in Kristina Turner (setter), a 2018 All-Section choice, Mya Bert (outside hitter), Genesis Cruz (outside hitter/middle blocker) and Jennifer Olsen (libero). Turner pointed to junior Catherine O’Sullivan (defensive specialist) and sophomore Nia Givan (middle blocker) as two important varsity newcomers.
“After having the same starting line for two years (2017, 2018), we knew this year would have some obstacles,” Coach Turner said. “Despite some key players switching positions, our team chemistry and advanced skill level will give us the ability to compete throughout the season with top-ranked teams.”
Putnam Valley swept Hastings, 25-6, 25-16, 25-20, and Tuckahoe, 25-18, 25-12 25-18.
Olsen led the Tigers against Hastings with 13 digs and eight aces while Turner collected 19 assists, six aces and five kills. Bert added six aces and seven kills and Cruz had a team-leading 11 kills.
Bert filled out the stat sheet against Tuckahoe with 16 digs, eight kills and six aces. Turner contributed 14 assists, seven kills and five aces and Olsen had a team-high 22 digs, and also added four aces.
Turner is closing in on 1,000 career assists, according to Coach Turner.
YORKTOWN Coach Gigi Kemp could not have asked for a better start for her young team as the Cornhuskers opened with consecutive victories on back-to-back days.
The Cornhuskers defeated 2018 Section 1 Class B champion Ardsley, 21-25, 25-17, 25-15, 25-17. The following day, Yorktown swept Clarkstown South, 25-19, 25-15, 25-23.
“We played a tough first match against last year’s sectional champs, Ardsley, and won,” Kemp said. “We always have a good match with them so we look forward to playing them each year.
“The next day we had Clarkstown South, who was a respectable team and was scrappy and skilled.”
Kemp will rely on the returning core group of Jackie Cane, a 2018 All-Conference selection, Jackie Knoesel, Allie Silverman, Olivia Waschenko and Allison Torres.
“Our goal is to keep building our skills in each match,” Kemp said. “We have a young group of volleyball players who love the sport and want to play hard each time they touch the ball.
They have put in many hours to prepare for this season, including attending Penn State team camp and Pelham Summer league.”