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Not even division move slows RKA

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The first sign last Friday was going to be a good day for the Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy girls volleyball team came during pregame warm-ups. It was then several players from Roosevelt, the Lady Tigers’ opponent, were overheard talking about “all the banners” RKA had adorning the walls of their gym.

Yes, there are a lot of them, many of them paying tribute to past volleyball successes, including the back-to-back city championship banners from 2016 and 2017. So sure, the Rough Riders were more than a little bit in awe prior to the game. And soon it would show.

The next — and final — sign it was not going to be Roosevelt’s day came mere minutes into the first set. After the Rough Riders scored the game’s first point, RKA embarked on a dominating 18-2 run to take a commanding lead before waltzing to a 25-7 victory. The whole process took all of 18 minutes.

RKA was even better in the second set as it needed just 17 minutes to finally send Roosevelt packing as the Lady Tigers rolled to a 25-7, 25-11 victory to run their record to 5-0 on the season. Thirty-five minutes of play to log their latest win. It was hardly worth it for Roosevelt to make the trip north from Fordham Road.

And they said the A Division was going to be tough.

RKA was a dominant force the past several seasons as it made three consecutive trips to the Public School Athletic League B title game, winning it twice.

Its reward from the PSAL was a promotion to the A level, where life was supposed to be considerably harder and trips to the city title game far less frequent. But it looks like someone forgot to tell RKA all about those supposed hurdles.

“I think the competition has been the same, but the one thing that is different is the pressure,” said senior Patricia Casino, who logged 17 assists in the win. “Because we’re in the A now, we have to step it up more and do better. So we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

That plan seems to be working quite nicely.

Aside from Casino, there was Princesa Miranda posting 15 digs, teammate Julianne Fernandez adding 14 of her own, and Erika Hoti checking in with eight aces. But afterward, it was the play of freshman Adelina Elezaj that was the topic of conversation.

“She is phenomenal as a freshman,” Casino said. “I think by next year she is going to be unstoppable.”

RKA head coach John Reingold said his freshman has seen her share of first-year ups and downs, but her performance against Roosevelt definitely got his attention.

“I thought Adelina was tremendous,” Reingold said. “She’s been hot and cold, which is what you’d expect from a 13-year-old. But today was like her coming out party. She is going to be a handful in two years as a junior. But this was, by far, the best she’s ever played. Super consistent. She didn’t try to do too much, the ball was coming off her hand nicely, and she looked composed.

“It was nice to see.”

Elezaj posted nine kills and two digs in the victory.

It was just the latest impressive outing for an RKA team that has made the flawless transition from the B Division to the A. Even more impressive? The fact there are no key players remaining from RKA’s title teams, so this is a young and inexperienced bunch that is dominating on the PSAL’s highest level.

“We’ve just about flushed everyone out who was on those two championship teams,” Reingold said. “Pat and Julie were on those teams, but they didn’t play. So the question we were facing was, are we a good program? Or did we just have a nice run?

“But these kids buy into what we’re doing, so I’m very happy to say that we have a program. We put young, inexperienced players out there, and they play the way we want them to play. They actually take to the coaching. And I think they’re coming along nicely, I really do.”

RKA’s stiffest test to date will come Oct. 16 when the unbeaten Lady Tigers travel to meet the only other undefeated team in the borough — the Bronx Science Wolverines.

“That’s going to be fun,” Casino said. “Bronx Science is always good competition and a good experience for us. So playing against them will be another challenge for us. Just another obstacle to climb over.”

Who will remain undefeated at the end of that contest, which was played after The Riverdale Press published?

“We’ll see how we stack up after that game,” Reingold said. “But so far so good. We’re playing well, and I’m happy.”

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