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13 straight titles - and in a rut

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The Bishop Kearney girls volleyball team has won 179 straight league matches to go along with 13 straight CHSAA Brooklyn titles. But Tigers coach Kristin Wulff, who played on the team that started the streak, says her program is in a rut.

How is that possible? Well, Kearney has dominated Brooklyn for the better part of two decades, but in that time it has never beaten an opponent from Queens in the Brooklyn/Queens playoffs. Last year, the Tigers were ousted in the semifinals by Mary Louis.

“We could win 100 years in a row,” said Wulff, who graduated the all-girls school in 1999, “but if we don’t get better then what’s the point?”

The coach lamented her team’s performance in last season’s CHSAA Class A state tournament, where it struggled to win a single match.

This year, Wulff has stacked the schedule with scrimmages and non-league games with the hope that Kearney can finally knock off a Queens team and play for a CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens title. The Lions, Wulff said, have played more scrimmages %u2013 against teams ranked in the Post NYC top 10 like Susan Wagner, Fontbonne Hall, Poly Prep and Mary Louis %u2013 in the first three weeks of preseason than they did all of last year.

“At the high-school level, individual skills are important, but it’s really about how they play together on the court,” she said.

This Kearney squad certainly has a chance to press Queens powers like St. Francis Prep, Mary Louis and Archbishop Molloy in the postseason. The gap has been closing between the two boroughs in recent years. Fontbonne, Kearney’s biggest intra-borough rival, beat Molloy in last year’s quarterfinals and stole a set from St. Francis Prep, its first set loss of the season, in the semis.

The Tigers are also talented, experienced and have size. Star outside hitter Christina Shalhoub (5-foot-8) returns, as does right side Meaghan McGoorty (5-9), who doubles as the school’s best big girl in basketball. Setter Bridget Kinane is also back and Jen Jamin (5-10) and Colleen Shea (5-9) will play in the middle. Dierdre Smith will start as the other outside and the diminutive Molly Tacopina will play libero or defensive specialist.

“She’s 4-foot nothing and quick as hell,” Wulff said of Tacopina. “She’ll play somewhere.”

The goal, more than anything, is to advance past the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens semifinals and to knock off a Queens team en route to a championship. But Kearney also has to hold off rival Fontbonne, which came dangerously close to snapping the Tigers’ streak twice last year.

“We’re hoping to be better this year,” Wulff said. “We’re kind of stuck in a rut.”

As far as ruts go, it’s a pretty successful one.

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