Hudson Valley Sports Report


Blazers Take New York-Connecticut Invitational

KATONAH – In 20-something years as coach, through sectional championships, state Final Fours, All-State players and more, Millbrook High School volleyball coach Shawn Stoliker made a startling proclamation on a Saturday in September.

“This is the best team I’ve ever had,” Stoliker said after his Blazers won their second tournament of the year, taking the 16-team New York-Connecticut Invitational at John Jay-Cross River a week after winning the 18-team Clarkstown South Tournament.

Too early for such a bold claim?

Not really, Stoliker said.

“Just because of how long they’ve played together and how talented they are,” he said. “A good chunk of these girls I’ve been working with or coaching when they were in second and third grade. The juniors and seniors have been together for six or seven years. They’re just a well-rounded group of players and talented athletes.”

Funny thing is, this tournament championship wasn’t even Millbrook’s best effort of the season. In pool play, the Blazers split two sets with Southington, Conn., split two sets with Mahopac and swept Cross-River.

That earned them a berth in the eight-team championship round as the No. 4 seed.

In the quarterfinals, Millbrook beat Ridgefield, Conn., 25-21 and then took down Cornwall in the semifinals by the same score. In the championship against Darien, Conn., the Blazers dropped the first set of the best-of-three finals, 17-25, before rallying for a 25-17, 25-21 victory.

Stoliker’s daughter, Julia, was the tournament MVP with 55 kills, seven aces and 21 digs.

“Julia carried us on the offensive side,” Stoliker said. “Today was not our cleanest day. We struggled today and somehow pulled it off, which says a lot about this team.”

Senior Olivia Fried made the all-tournament team and finished with 12 aces, 13 digs and served at 91 percent.

“Her serving was a big deal for us,” Stoliker added. “She controlled the game for us and was able to dig us out of holes.”

Marisa Markou had 84 assists, four kills, seven aces and 14 digs for Millbrook. Bella Darnell added 28 kills, 31 digs, two aces and five blocks, and Natalie Fox had 12 kills and 24 digs.

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