Youth movement will try to lead Poly to sixth straight Ivy title

With many new faces, one thing is for certain with Poly Prep in 2011.

“The target is on our back,” coach Mildred Piscopo said.

Of course, that’s to be expected for the Blue Devils, who have won the last five Ivy League and New York State Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association championships. Before their run, no team had even won three straight and they also have a 60-game Ivy winning streak. Ace Victoria Capozucca, who graduated last year, never lost a league or playoff game in five years at the Bay Ridge school.

“Those are some pretty big shoes to fill,” Piscopo said.

Poly will have a pair of young pitchers ready to step in for Capozucca. Eighth grader Amanda Grossman pitched every inning at a tournament down in Florida last week with Ciara Schirripa out with a stress fracture in her back. The diminutive windmiller has solid velocity and four or five different pitches.

“She’s going to develop as the year goes on,” Piscopo said. “She’s going to be more than adequate in the Ivy League.”

Schirripa, the freshman daughter of Sopranos star Steve Schirripa, is expected to return in a week or so. Piscopo expects the pair to split time kind of like Capozucca and Erica Sollazzo did last year. Youth is certainly on their side.

“She showed a lot of promise,” the coach said of Schirripa.

The Blue Devils might not have the pitching pedigree they did the last few years, but Piscopo was very pleased with how they hit in Florida.

Sophomore Jacquie Kennedy, a good defensive catcher, has shown serious power. In a preseason scrimmage, she became the first Poly player to hit the ball over the fence for a home run in the three years that it has been up. Another sophomore, Kerri Saputo, will take over for the graduated Christa Wojcik in center field and is a similar player with good range and a solid stick.

“They’re both swinging the bat well,” Piscopo said.

The lineup will be anchored by senior shortstop Jamie Sarubbi, a travel ball player and one of the team’s leaders. On a relatively young team, Piscopo will be looking to Sarubbi to guide the inexperienced players.

There are no real superstars in this bunch like Capozucca and Sollazzo were or like Stephanie Caso, who now plays at Penn, was two seasons ago. But Poly fully expects to be in the mix for a sixth straight Ivy League title and another NYSAISAA crown. Target on their back or not.

“We have a young group that’s enthusiastic,” Piscopo said. “We’re showing some good signs this year.”

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