CUNYAC Preseason Champion of the Year Ashley Fung.
The Brooklyn College women’s volleyball team was on quite a roll just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the fall 2020 season.
In the CUNY Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) semifinals, the squad enjoyed an epic comeback win against Baruch College. The Bulldogs were losing zero sets to two but rallied to win the next three and pull off the victory. That set up a match against no. 1 seed Hunter College for the CUNYAC title, but sadly the Bulldogs fell to Hunter, 25-12, 25-19, 25-16.
Overall, the Bulldogs finished with a 16-14 record and were 5-2 in CUNYAC play. It was the first time the squad had reached the CUNYAC title since 1992.
This year, they followed that up with the team’s first CUNYAC title in 39 years after defeating defeating six-time defending champion Hunter College (25-23, 16-25, 25-22, 10-25, 15-9) in a five-set thriller on November 5 at Hunter. With the victory, Brooklyn earns the league’s automatic bid to the 2021 NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Championship. The NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball championship will be held from November 18 to November 20 at Francis Fieldhouse in St. Louis, Missouri.
One player who thrived during what was her freshman campaign is Ashley Fung. Now a sophomore playing outside hitter, Fung earned CUNYAC’s Rookie of the Year honors in 2019 and has returned to the court more committed than ever after the long layoff. In 2021, she earned CUNYAC Preseason Player of the Year Honors, four CUNYAC Player of the Week honors, and was named to the CUNYAC/Pepsi Women’s Volleyball All-Star Team.
Fung said the pandemic taught her to live more for now and not tomorrow.
“As difficult as this time has been with the pandemic and the long layoff, I feel like it taught me to look out for myself more,” Fung said. “I was never really that focused on my self-care. Now I take my time and make sure I am OK. I really believe that helped make me a better athlete.”
As for the 2021 championship team she helped lead, Fung really likes the mix of returning and new players, who contributed in different ways. Fung was sensational throughout the contest, recording a match-high 17 kills along with 13 digs. Teammate Aleah Rafat, the 2021 CUNYAC Rookie of the Year, finished with a double-double of her own with 16 kills and a team-best 16 digs. For their efforts, both players were named to the all-tournament team, as Ezri Shor was named Tournament MVP.
“This title means that we are officially a part of history and will be engraved in the record books forever,” Fung said. “Coming back from all the hardships the pandemic threw our way, we persevered; and now we are champions.
“I really love this team, and I am enjoying building some great relationships with this group, including Aleah Rafat, Sydney Gdanski, Noa Young, and Zoey Van Vleet, who are all new and are all incredible. I am also enjoying learning from new Assistant Coach Francesca Castellano,” whom she called a great compliment to Head Coach Mateusz Gotowicki.”
Gotowicki, now in his fifth season with the program, earns his second CUNYAC Coach of the Year citation after guiding Brooklyn to its first-ever CUNYAC Regular Season Championship. The Bulldogs went 14-12 overall record with a 5-1 record against league opposition.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Coach Gotowicki, said after the victory. “They never got too up or too down during the entire match and really rose to the occasion when it mattered.”
Studying physical education with the hopes of one day becoming a physical education teacher, Fung is glad to be returning to some sense of normalcy as the team looks to pick up where it left off. She credits Gotowicki for putting a quality squad together and also leans on Castellano for motivation and improving her play.
Fung, the youngest of six siblings whose father attends almost all of the games, will definitely be a focal point.
“Ashley is a phenomenal athlete who has also grown into a great leader during her time away,” Gotowicki said. “If anything, this unfortunate situation has taught her patience, which will also help her and the team in the long run.”