When the PSAL boys’ volleyball seeding came out last week, coach Noreen Begley and her Brooklyn Tech players saw the No. 12 next to their name and felt slighted.
The Engineers finished the regular season undefeated and thought they should have been slotted higher. But Begley convinced them to use it as motivation.
Their new credo became “We love 12.”
“In a way, maybe that was a good thing,” the coach said. “Maybe nobody was paying attention to us.”
They better be now.
No. 12 Brooklyn Tech pulled off a second straight upset, this time over No. 4 Walton, 20−25, 25−23, 25−19, on Saturday in the quarterfinals at Hunter College in Manhattan. The Engineers, who knocked off No. 5 Bayside in the second round Tuesday, will meet No. 1 Cardozo in the semifinals Tuesday night back at Hunter.
“We embraced the underdog role,” junior middle hitter O’Shane McRae said.
Brooklyn Tech (15−0) went down, 7−1, in the first set and looked flat. Walton (11−2), a big, athletic team, looked dominant. But the Engineers came back in the first and made the score respectable.
“We still scratched back to make it a game,” Begley said. “It showed us that as long we keep fighting we could do this.”
The turning point of a rollercoaster second set came when junior Max Laskowski blocked three straight potential Walton kills before the final one fell to the floor for a point. Laskowski is known for his blocking ability, but in the first half of the match he wasn’t producing.
“You gotta give me a couple of blocks,” Begley said she told him. “That’s why you’re in there, son. I didn’t think it would be that easy.”
With Tech ahead, 23−19, in the third set, junior setter Adrian Liang sliced a pinpoint service ace right onto the line, all but sealing the victory. Liang, who usually splits time with the sick Eugene Remennik, had 20 assists, Jonah Park had 10 kills and eight digs, Brian Ryu had five kills, Timmy Yan had 15 service points, Laskowski had four blocks and McRae added five blocks and five kills for the Engineers.
Park didn’t have the dominant performance he enjoyed against Bayside last Tuesday, but he remained Brooklyn Tech’s emotional leader. Begley said Park, an experienced junior, brings the team up and Yan brings them down.
“Timmy is the glue – he’s very calm,” the coach said. “Jonah is the fire. They’re like earth and fire.”
Added Yan: “Jonah is like my older brother when it comes to volleyball.”
Walton coach Andrea Milsome said her team put itself in an awkward spot when it won the first set. The Wildcats had been thriving digging themselves out of a hole.
“They weren’t used to being in that situation,” Milsome said. “They’ve been a comeback team all season long.”
Next season is bright for Walton, though. Only starter Henry Nunez graduates and the rest of the team’s nucleus is juniors and sophomores. The Wildcats made their first−ever quarterfinals this year, but the sky is the limit in 2010.
“I’m just honored to play with these guys,” Nunez said. “It’s not over yet. Next year, we’re gonna be No. 1.”