RKA’s road to repeat off to dominating start

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Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy’s volleyball team was anxious to get back out on the floor.

It had been 10 months since the Lady Tigers were last together as a unit, back when they laid claim to the school’s first-ever Public School Athletic League city championship last November. 

Now here they were, just moments away from opening the 2017 season against Dodge High School.

And although the match was delayed 10 minutes at the start, it was simply delaying the inevitable for Dodge as RKA needed just 36 minutes to claim their first victory of the season, pounding home a 25-7, 25-5 straight-set victory over Dodge before a lively packed house at the Lady Tigers’ gym.

For Ambar Cedeno, it was simply a sign of things to come in the PSAL again this year, courtesy of the Lady Tigers.

“We were hungry,” said Cedeno, who notched four aces and five kills in the win. “We wanted to show we are number one, and we’re going to stay number one.”

It would be hard to argue with Cedeno as the Lady Tigers broke from the starting gate with a flurry, building a 5-0 lead, which only set the tone for Dodge’s quick demise.

“In the first set, the first five or six serves, they couldn’t handle it, and we had them back on their heels,” RKA head coach John Reingold said.

And it didn’t get better for the Panthers from there as RKA continued to steamroll them by building leads as large as 21-4 before cruising to easy first-set victory.

“There were butterflies because of the excitement, and there were nerves, too,” said senior Sommer Code, who had a team-high eight kills in the victory. “But the excitement always beats the nerves, because this is what we like to do.”

The beating went on in the second set when RKA ended any Panthers’ hopes of a comeback when the Lady Tigers jumped out to a 10-0 lead and never allowed Dodge to get any closer than 19-4. If making a statement in their first match of the season was the goal for these Lady Tigers, well then, mission accomplished.

“The captains and the coaches have been saying that it’s easier to get to the top than it is to stay there, so we wanted everyone to have the mindset that they could do this,” Cedeno said. “We all believe in each other, so as long as we communicate and keep our skill set together, we’re good to go. 

“I know we have a target on our backs this year, but the way we played today, I don’t think it will matter.”

If you liked RKA’s first act this season you’re bound to be in for a fun ride as Code and her mates think this is just the start of another magical season for the Lady Tigers. 

“We don’t necessarily have a strong division, so we always want to keep pushing forward, because in the playoffs, we’re going to face teams that are going to give us a challenge,” Code said. 

The Lady Tigers are not only very deep in talent but also in confidence, and that plays as much a part in RKA’s hopes of a repeat as does their skill set.

“I like confident kids and I don’t like cocky players, but there’s such a fine line between the two,” Reingold said. “But they are just an easy-going group that likes to work, and they just believe that they are going to win just about every time — if not every time — they go out on the floor.”

A lot of that confidence came from not only winning the PSAL B city crown last season, but from knocking off some heavyweight A programs in tournament play recently.

“I just think the confidence from going up against those A teams like Cardozo, Brooklyn Tech, Midwood, Bronx Science and Hunter, and we either beat them or we lost 25-21 or 25-23,” Reingold said. “That made them realize they could step out on the floor and play with anybody.”

Krystal Paulino had 12 digs and Patricia Casino had 12 assists and four aces to further bolster the Lady Tigers’ cause. RKA will next face Bronx Leadership this week in its second game, with another chance to show the rest of the city what they’re in for this season.

“This is team is going to be better than last year’s team,” Reingold said. 

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