RKA volleyball single victory from repeat


Amber Elson was having a busy Sunday afternoon.

The senior had just played a pivotal role in Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy’s straight-set victory over Aviation in the Public School Athletic League volleyball semifinals. After that, she had a couple of conversations with some college scouts on hand.

Discussing possible collegiate destinations for 15 minutes or so, Elson finally got around to talking about the Lady Tigers’ latest impressive performance, a 25-12, 25-17 demolition  of the Flyers at York College in Queens, which put RKA back in the PSAL city championship game for the second straight season. 

For a team that has not lost a single game — let alone a set — this season, Elson had a one-word description for her team: “Dominating.” 

“We have great team chemistry, and it definitely shows on the court,” she said. 

Dominating is as good a description as any, especially as someone can run out of superlatives in describing the 19-0 Lady Tigers. RKA has posted straight-set 2-0 victories over every opponent this season, while the most points it has allowed an opponent this season were the 18 IN-Tech Academy managed back on Oct. 26 in a first-set match. 

RKA then took the second match that day, 25-6. 

It seems you don’t ever want to poke the bear.

“I can’t speak to the quality of the other teams, I can only speak for us, and we’re good,” RKA head coach John Reingold said. “The girls go out and they want to take care of their business. They take pride in winning.”

Last Sunday it was the usual cast of characters doing the damage for the Lady Tigers. Elson finished with 28 assists, fellow senior Sommer Code registered 12 kills and nine digs, while junior Krystal Paulino posted 24 digs.

It was barely competitive in the first set when the Lady Tigers jumped out to a 16-2 lead with a trio of Code kills coming in the run. Aviation then made a mini-comeback attempt to get back in the game as it pulled within 22-8. But RKA closed out the set in short order from there.

The second set began as it always does for the Lady Tigers as they broke from the gate for a quick 5-1 lead. But RKA uncharacteristically seemed to temporarily lose its focus, and suddenly the Flyers had tied the game at 8. 

Timeout RKA.

“I just wanted to settle them down,” Reingold said. “We got away from some of the things we try to do. We just needed to clean some things up, and as I’ve said before, if we’re clean I don’t think anyone is going to beat us.”

RKA responded to the timeout by boosting its lead to 16-11 on an Elson service point, then to 20-12 on another kill by Code. The Flyers made one last attempt to scratch their way back into the contest when they pulled within 22-17, but RKA got the next three points with the final one coming on a kill by senior Juliann Garcia to clinch the match.

“The timeout helped us,” Code said. “It was just a time for us to catch our breath and get our bearings because we lost our little push there for a while. But then we showed that we’re a team that just likes to put people away as soon as we possibly can.”

Since September when the season was just starting, the goal for these Lady Tigers had been to roll through another unbeaten conference season, and then win another city title. 

“To hang another championship (banner) in the gym,” as Elson said. 

Now they stand one win away from achieving that goal, and RKA is ready for the challenge.

“I’m really excited,” Elson said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for all year. If we can win the championship, it’s something we’ll definitely remember for the rest of our lives.”

Top-seeded RKA was scheduled to meet No. 2 seed Robert Wagner High School of Queens in the city championship game on Tuesday night, Nov. 21 in a game that wasn’t played by press time. But Reingold said it would be no cakewalk to a second title.

“They’re a good team,” he said. “We’re going to have our hands full. If we play like we did in the first set, we’ll be OK. If we play like the second set, it could be anyone’s game. 

“But if we just do our thing, I think it’s difficult for anyone to stop us.”