2012-04-11 / Sports

St. Joe’s volleyball team has lofty goals for 2012

BY JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

Miguel Cabrita, coach of the volleyball team at St. Joseph High School of Metuchen, is not in the business of setting goals. He lets his players decide how far to raise the bar in any given season.

This year, the Falcons have set their sights on winning the state championship, capturing another Greater Middlesex Conference title, finishing undefeated at the prestigious Super Six Showcase, and winning the Rhody (Rhode Island) Invitational inMay. Lofty goals, indeed.

“That is [goal-setting] something I never do,” says Cabrita, a former St. Joe’s player, who coached the Falcons to state titles in 2006 and 2008 after taking over in 2005. “I’ve been around long enough to know how to prepare my players to achieve the goals they set.”

Last year’s team started slow, but as they became more familiar with each other, they developed a chemistry that produced a 33-7 record, including an appearance in the state finals (the Falcons lost to Southern). With the return of nearly every starter and the addition of others Cabrita believes will contribute, expectations are naturally high. But, as is always the case, there’s pressure to perform.

“This group knows they are being looked at as being good or better than the previous team,” Cabrita says. “In addition, opponents were gunning to beat us during pre-season scrimmages. I’ve told the guys the pressure is only going to get greater.”

St. Joe’s appears ready for the challenge. In six matches, the Falcons are 6-0 and have been dominant against mostly GMC opponents, losing only one game (against rival East Brunswick). As expected, senior right-side Phil Bueno has played like one of the top players in the state that many consider him to be. Bueno, who blasted 100 kills and blocked 50 a year ago, heads to New York University following graduation.

Setter Michael D’Ambrosio is another important cog. Installed at the key position a year ago, the senior responded with 353 assists. The left side features junior Sean Finan (140 kills) and senior John Lubnan (163 kills), and the middle is occupied by senior Anthony Lubrano and junior Greg Vajtay. Junior Kurt MacDonald (100 digs) is back at libero.

Other members are seniors Austen Mahoney, Brian O’Grady and Joseph Haddad, and juniors Alejandro Monsanto, Michael Hilyard, Connor Jamicky, Sean Dacey, Ray Kowalski and Bryan Rafano.

St. Joe’s hopes to win another state title, but Cabrita says his team is not looking past the competition in the quality GMC.

“The GMC continues to be a hotbed for volleyball,” he says. “When the sport was emerging on the high school scene, [we] and East Brunswick were the powerhouses. Conference teams recognized their players needed to commit year-round in order to become stronger and compete. Now, matches against Old Bridge, Piscataway, J.P. Stevens and North Brunswick, in addition to others, have become extremely competitive.”

St. Joe’s took advantage of the spring break this week with morning and afternoon matches. On April 10 the Falcons hosted a quad meet with Bergen Catholic, Christian Brothers Academy and Belleville, followed by a match with Piscataway later in the day. On April 12, the morning features a quad meet with Old Bridge, Cinnaminson and Fair Lawn and an afternoon match at North Brunswick. The week concludes on April 14 with participation in the Marlboro Invitational.

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