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Fontbonne volleyers hope to rebound this year

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Fontbonne Hall’s varsity volleyball squad took last year’s loss to Archbishop Molloy in the Catholic High School Athletic Association Brooklyn-Queens Division I semifinals especially hard, because the second-place team had played the team ahead of them, St. Francis Prep, so well all season — beating the Stanners twice.

But the loss to Molloy ended their season — without the chance of taking on the Stanners one more time.

“We let ourselves think we were gonna walk that day,” said coach Linda Strong said. “We didn’t play our best at all and Molloy played phenomenal. They were hungry and they wanted it.”

The coach and her players were miserable for days after the defeat, but with a strong nucleus returning, the squad again has its eyes on the Brooklyn-Queens final for the second time in three years.

“We were motivated right after that,” Strong said.

Fontbonne lost right side Brianna Johnston and middle hitter Amanda Glodowski to graduation, but returns its best two players: Lauren Ganun and Katie Lang, who were both Post All-City second team selections last season. Ganun, a 6-footer, will play outside or middle and Lang is one of the most athletic setters in the city. Both improved after a season with the Aviator club program and a summer playing beach volleyball.

“They just know where each other is all the time now,” said Strong, who has built Fontbonne into the best Catholic High School Athletic Association team in Brooklyn after Bishop Kearney held the borough in a stranglehold for almost two decades. “They just really play well together.”

Ideally, the coach wants Ganun on the outside with 5-foot-9 sophomore Kristen Sullivan or 6-foot JV callup Michele Moran in the middle. Strong moved Sullivan up for the postseason last year and said she “looks awesome” in the preseason. Victoria Starace, who played libero, could also see time at middle, though she is just 5-foot-6, due to her leaping ability and athleticism.

Junior outside Siobhan Salmon will see significant time and JV callup Valerie Good and strong-serving Mary Kate Nestor will split duties on the right side. Senior Brianne Kelly could get the nod at libero. Many things are still up in the air for Strong with what she calls her deepest team yet.

“I have a very deep bench,” she said. “I tell them every day, every practice is tryout. We’re not sure exactly what the starters are going to be.”

Strong and the Bonnies know where they want to be at the end of the year. The coach even partly blamed herself for the semifinals loss because she brought up Sullivan, changing the dynamic of a successful season.

“We just had a glitch,” Strong said. “They stopped talking on the court. All of a sudden it was people I didn’t know.”

Things are looking much more familiar so far in the preseason.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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