The Lady Knights of John F. Kennedy (JFK) High School have knocked the Stuyvesant Vixens, the girls’ varsity volleyball team, out of the playoffs for the last two seasons. In 2005, Stuyvesant lost to Kennedy in the semifinals of the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) playoffs. A year later, Kennedy eliminated Stuyvesant in the quarterfinals of the same tournament.
As the season opener on Thursday, September 20 approaches, the Vixens feel that this season just may be their best chance of winning the PSAL championship.
“We know what the other teams have in terms of what players are returning, and what players they’ve lost,” said junior and starter Tina Khiani.
Coach Phil Fisher, who has been working with the Vixens since 2002, believes, however, that JFK still poses a threat.
“We can’t rest on our laurels from last year. Just because we gave Kennedy a ‘super-match’ in the quarterfinals last year, [we cannot] assume that we’re going to be right there next year,” said Fisher. “We have to be hungry all season—and want to improve, improve and improve, so that we get to the final four this year.”
Many Vixens attribute their confidence about the upcoming season to the fact that only one of its players, Gina Jang (’07), graduated from the team last year. The team still has all of last year’s starters as well as the dynamic and experience from playing together.
To help the team prepare for tough matches, Fisher has set up non-league scrimmage games which should provide more of a challenge than the teams the Vixens are currently facing in their relatively weak Manhattan 4A Division. In addition to their eight-game regular season schedule, the Vixens plan to square off against Benjamin Cardozo High School and Bronx High School of Science. Various weekend tournaments have been scheduled as well.
“Last year, I was happy that we were doing things okay. But now I want all the skills to be performed at a higher level,” Fisher said.
While Stuyvesant still has its experienced players, JFK lost four key players who graduated last year. Senior and Vixens’ starter Vanessa Charubhumi said “[JFK coach Iris Bromfield] always tries to take as many people as she can on the team. She has practice all the time and they work really hard. They’ll be considered a weaker team. But knowing their coach, they are going to try and come back [and] bring a strong team to the playoffs, no matter what.”
Senior and captain Laura Genes believes there is only one strategy to attack strong teams like JFK. “I think the best thing we can do is work on our defense, and more importantly, come up with a more successful offense,” said Genes.
This season will be the last chance for the eight seniors on the team to win a PSAL championship. Like all the seniors before them throughout the years, they are faced with graduating without ever winning the city championship in their high school career.
“We’ve made it deep into the playoffs every year, especially with this team,” said Genes. “So this year, all we can do is to do better than that. I think we pose a major threat to everyone in this league.”