Conrad Zajkowski likes his nickname. And it’s just as well because as nicknames go, it’s pretty apropos.
“They call him Zideout,” said American Studies coach Joshua Yang. “We slide out until Conrad gets into the front row. Our motto is to get Conrad into the action and have him dominate the game.”
“I like it,” added Zajkowski. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but it fits. They’ve been calling me that since last year when I was an offside. That’s my role and I’m happy to do it.”
The 6-foot-7 middle was a dominant force as he helped lead American Studies 25-17, 24-26, and 25-18 over Cardozo in the PSAL semifinals Tuesday evening at Hunter College.
While the Eagles came out in full force to take the first set, things really got interesting in the second. Fourth-seeded Cardozo (13-2) found the chink in American Studies armor giving NYC’s top ranked school its first dropped set all season.
“We haven’t dropped a set yet this season but dropping a set to Cardozo is not saying anything bad about our team,” Yang said. “I don’t think that we were rattled. I think that we made a push at the end of that second set. We made a few mistakes, but our guys are really confident.”
“I’d rather lose a set now than earlier in the season,” Zajkowski said. “Cardozo is a great team and I don’t mind losing a set to them. They played a great game. It was sort of like a rude awakening that we’re not unbeatable.”
The Eagles (13-0) used the loss as motivation to propel them in the third set.
“We won the first set because we were aggressive and confident,” said sophomore setter Piotr Kasza (30 assists). “They came stronger in the second set and we fell. But in the third set we wanted it more. We wanted revenge for losing that second set particularly because it was the first set we’ve lost all season. We came out with all we had in that third set. We were surprised and so were they.”
Zajkowski was a big part of the Eagles comeback in the third set, coming up with some powerful blocks near the net. The junior finished with 12 kills, seven blocks, five service points and two aces.
“Last year he was just getting involved in volleyball and this year he’s looking to put the ball down and be really dominant,” Yang said. “He’s become an extremely dominant player and I don’t see a ceiling for him yet. He’s always looking down on me and I tell him to stop.”
American Studies will enter the finals for the second year in a row with a chance at redemption following a disappointing loss to Bryant. They will match-up with second-seeded Bronx Science, which won a hard fought victory of its own over Brooklyn Tech.