The Poly Prep Blue Devils volleyball team has lost a star hitter and a team captain to injuries this season, a setback that’s led to a string of losses in what the team’s coaching staff predicted would be a winning season.
“It’s a big loss for us,” Blue Devils coach Vanessa Ruck said. “This year we expected a lot. In our mind we were very strong.”
Poly was confident that a title was well within their reach, but that was before Jacquie Kennedy, considered the first lady of city volleyball’s outside hitters, sprained her ankle after landing on an opponent’s foot in a match against Spence. The senior star is now a seat warmer until the middle of October at the earliest.
Poly Prep lost its first three straight matches in her absence, winning only a single set. The fact that senior-captain Kerri Saputo is also out with a strained Achilles certainly hasn’t helped the Devil’s diminishing odds, team coaches say.
The Blue Devils showed exactly what it was capable of — with Kennedy in the lineup — when it beat defending New York State Association of Independent Schools champion Fieldston Eagles, who was down a starter, in five sets in the semifinals of the Brearley tournament.
Poly then went on to beat the host school in the final. The injuries made its second meeting with Fieldston much different.
Without Kennedy and Saputo, Poly fell 25–18, 25 –13, and 25 –13, to the Eagles in an Ivy League match in the Bronx last Friday.
Now it’s on the younger Devils to rally and overcome the mounting disappointment.
“It has put a lot of pressure on the younger girls,” Poly setter Jacqueline Chirdo said. “We have the talent. We just don’t have the mind set to carry through sometimes.”
It’s also put added pressure on Chirdo, who is now responsible to help bring along some of the other hitters like Gillian Chan, Rachel Licata, and Shannon Twomey.
She said it hasn’t been an easy process building their confidence.
The trio showed flashes of brilliance against Fieldston, but, like their team, they couldn’t sustain it. Ruck said she could bring up some junior varsity players to help bolster the lineup.
Now, Poly seems resigned to treating Kennedy’s injury as a learning experience, albeit a bitter one. It’s given less experienced kids a chance at valuable playing time, without the crutch of knowing Saputo and Kennedy are there to back them up. The rut could make it a stronger club — in the long run.
“As soon as Jacquie gets back hopefully we are all going to jell,” Chirdo said. “Hopefully it will come back to us.”