Academy at Palumbo are PLL volleyball champs

For the first time since 2010 and only the second time in school history, the Academy at Palumbo are volleyball champions of the Philadelphia Public League (PLL), defeating Central High School three sets to one.

For the first time since 2010 and only the second time in school history, the Academy at Palumbo is volleyball champion of the Philadelphia Public League, defeating Central High School three sets to one. It was the fourth year in a row Palumbo made it to the Public League Championship, but the team lost the first three years.

“The core of my team was returning from last year,” said the team’s coach, E.J. Goldstein. “They were very motivated to win the championship.”

Unfortunately, the team lost to Archbishop Wood High School in the Title XII District Championship. However, it still qualified for the state tournament and is lined up to play Elizabethtown High School in the first round. The game was scheduled for this past Tuesday night, after the Review had gone to print.

Goldstein said his team will have a challenge on its hands, saying many of the schools in Lancaster County compete at a “different level of volleyball.”

That being said, Goldstein thinks with such a tight-knit team with great leaders, they have a shot. He said the biggest leader on the team, who was also the team captain, was senior Bruno Vargas.

“Bruno brings the love of volleyball and he’s like fire,” Goldstein said. “Sometimes it’s his strength and his weakness. He gets emotional. He wants to compete. He brings that energy to the table. He’s kind of like a point guard in basketball. He’s that culture on the court.”

Vargas spoke to the tight-knit friendship found among all the players on the team.

“It’s pretty different from other teams I’ve seen,” said Vargas. “Other teams — they don’t go out or play games with each other or make jokes or talk about actual personal stuff like we do. We would sit in the gym and talk about life and things that are going on and stuff like that. We knew each other so well.”

“The biggest difference between this team and the other three years that we made it to the championship is that this group really are friends,” said Goldstein. “They have their own group chat and they bust each other’s chops and they all love it.”

To get to the Public League Championship, Palumbo had to knock off South Philadelphia High School in the first round, Horace Furness High School in the second round and George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science in the third round.

In Palumbo’s PLL Championship game against Central, it lost the first set, 25–20. It won the next three sets by scores of 25–10, 25–14, and 25–22 to win the championship.

“We lost our first set, which was a wake-up call,” said Vargas. “We had a great crowd. We got a lot of energy from them. We knew we’d come back no matter what. We stayed positive. We were hungry.”

Vargas, who is graduating this year, is committed to playing volleyball for Eastern University next year. He said he’s excited to start training and dieting for the next season.

“I want to show the coach that I’m hungry,” he said. “I am very excited to go to Eastern.”

Vargas said he’ll be earning his degree in nursing while he plays volleyball.

If it gets past the first round in states, Palumbo will have checked off two of its three goals for the year. The first was to win the PPL (check), the second was to win a round in states (potential check) and the third was to be the Title XII District Champion (unfortunately, due to the team’s loss to Archbishop Wood, it lost the Title XII District Championship). But, hey, two out of three isn’t bad.