The boys’ volleyball team of Packer Collegiate Institute shrugged off its heavy underdog status and stunned previously unbeaten Brooklyn Friends in last week’s ACIS Championship Game at Downtown’s St. Francis College. Photo courtesy of Karin Wood/Packer Collegiate Director of Communications

Sweep Mighty BFS for Independent School Volleyball Crown

Sixteen had taken on the challenge, and 16 had failed.

The previously unbeaten and, to a certain extent, unchallenged boys’ varsity volleyball team from Pearl Street’s Brooklyn Friends School hadn’t dropped a single set this season, reeling off 48 stanzas in a row, entering last week’s Athletic Conference of Independent Schools championship match at St. Francis College.

But the Blue Pride’s neighborhood rivals from Joralemon Street’s Packer Collegiate Institute put an unexpected end to BFS’ run at perfection, pulling off a stunning three-set sweep (25-21, 25-15, 25-22) en route to the ACIS crown.

“As a coach, who has many years of experience, I can honestly say it was the best game I have coached thus far,” said Stephanie Rapciak, who teamed with fellow varsity volleyball coach Nino Valencia in guiding the Pelicans to the somewhat surprising, but very satisfying title.

Spearheaded by co-captains Joel Henriquez and Cameron Ewan, the Pelicans (9-5 overall, 6-2 ACIS) entered the contest as clear underdogs to the unblemished Blue Pride Panthers.

But with nine seniors on a roster of 15 players, the Pelicans didn’t shy away from the opportunity to spoil BFS’ bid for an unbeaten campaign, instead rallying to put together a perfect game of their own.

Senior outside hitters George Platt and Lachlan MacIyntire combined for 23 kills, Ewan amassed 36 assists from his setter position, and fellow senior middle hitter Peter Simotas added four blocks for Packer, which also got six digs from junior defensive specialist George Benz.

“I think our strongest feature this year was our team dynamic, the ability to rely on each other and work together,” said Rapciak. “This was mostly due to the hard work of our seniors. Nine of our players were seniors and most of them only started playing last year. They truly led the team, athletically and emotionally. I relied on them to keep our team motivated and focused.”

That motivation and focus was evident throughout the title match as Packer defied the odds and put an exclamation point on their stunning upset by not only besting the Blue Pride, but sweeping them in the same manner BFS had swept all 16 of its previous opponents.

“Every player was on their game, so it was truly a team effort,” added Rapciak.

Though the Blue Pride lost senior standout Thomas Chamberlain to a sprained ankle early in the contest, BFS head coach Felix Alberto refused to use the injury as an excuse for the title-game loss.

“Packer played a great match to defeat us 3-0,” Alberto noted. “I couldn’t be prouder of our squad, who instead of giving up after losing Thomas, fought hard and tried their best to match up against the big and hungry Packer team.  It was a great finals environment, with a huge crowd supporting both teams. We’ll be back next year hungrier than ever!”

So will the defending champion Pelicans as we anticipate the next chapter in this blossoming neighborhood rivalry.

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