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Fontbonne shocks, stops Molloy in five sets

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The attack from Archbishop Molloy was out. It was the fifth set, match point. But the players on the Fontbonne Hall Academy girls’ volleyball team didn’t celebrate. They didn’t do anything.

The Bonnies just stood there. Stunned.

“We were in a state of shock,” sophomore libero Brianna Johnston said.

Added junior setter Sarah McCarthy: “I couldn’t believe we won.”

The match was an emotional roller coaster with twists and turns, momentum changes and collapses. When all was said and done, Fontbonne scored the first win for a Brooklyn team over Molloy, 25-21, 25-14, 11-25, 22-25, 25-23, on Sunday afternoon in the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens quarterfinals at St. John’s Prep HS in Astoria.

Amid all the chaos – the comebacks, the service errors, the sprawling digs – Johnston, who didn’t even start the season on varsity, stood out. Her attack from the back row somehow found the floor on the opposite side of the net to give the Bonnies a 23-22 lead in the fifth set. Three points later, Fontbonne (11-2 CHSAA) was headed to the semis where it will play St. Francis Prep on Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Prep.

“I just hit it,” Johnston said. “I didn’t think it was going to go in either.”

But it did. It was the big play the Bonnies were looking for to turn the tide throughout the third and fourth sets. After a sloppy and disastrous first two sets, Molloy (6-6 CHSAA) woke up and dominated play to tie the match, 2-2. The Stanners had a lead of 20-17 in the fifth set, too, but a service ace by Justina Johnson tied it at 20 and Molloy never led again.

Stanners senior Michelle Eichorst, who was a boon off the bench with 14 digs, nine kills and four service aces, noticed her team let down after the changeover in the fifth set when it had the lead.

“I think everyone on the team was like, ‘OK, we got this,’” Eichorst said.

But the same things that plagued Molloy in the first two sets and all season came back: the lack of focus, the non-existent teamwork and the tuning out of coach Steve Leoutsakos.

“We all know the potential we could play to,” Eichorst said. “The whole season we were trying to figure out what happened.”

There was a play in the second set that perfectly summed up the Stanners’ struggles: both Brigid Carragee and McElligott, two seniors, went for an easy pass on the same ball. Neither of them called it, both moved away and it fell to the floor right in the middle of them. That point gave Fontbonne a 21-8 lead and someone from the stands shouted “someone take control out there!”

“As a team, they didn’t play together the first two games,” Leoutsakos said.

Added Eichorst: “It’s really frustrating. I really thought we were a better team than [Fontbonne].”

Molloy senior middle hitter Maggie Bolan had 13 kills, junior middle Christina Perez had 12 kills and McElligott led the team with 18 kills. Fontbonne was lifted by the defense of Johnson and Johnston and McCarthy’s usually steady setting.

The Bonnies were trying to exorcise their own demons. They came within a hair of beating Brooklyn rival Bishop Kearney this year – a team that hasn’t lost a league match since 1995. Like Sunday, Fontbonne won the first two sets, but the Bonnies dropped the final three.

“I was like, here we go again,” Fontbonne coach Linda Strong said.

But it wasn’t a repeat. In fact, it was something very new. The Bonnies are owed some celebrating.

“Is it really for us?” Strong said she asked after McElligott’s ball fell out. “Did we get that point?”

Yes. And a spot in the semifinals, too.

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