This year’s winner of the Second Annual Andrew J. Cassius Memorial King of the Court wallyball tournament at the Eastern Athletic Club (EAC) in Brooklyn Heights, Kirill Syroegin, learned his basic skills from Cassius.
“Andrew had spent time teaching me to bump, set, and spike when I was just 13 years old at the Kingsbay Y program,” said Syrogein, age 19. “It was an honor to play in this tournament, especially in honor of Andrew. I saw the way he played with passion and dedication. I came in to this tournament as a new guy and thought that I wouldn’t make it far just because of so many skilled and amazing players. I had to play my hardest and had to learn new tricks and strategies on the spot just to go head-to- head with these great wallyball players.”
Andrew Cassius was a star volleyball player for Midwood High School (having won the Heisman PSAL Wingate Awards in 2007) and then at the State University of New York-New Paltz. He also played on the national champion wallyball teams, representing the EAC. In 2012, Andrew won King of the Court as the youngest player in 32 years. He died at age 25 unexpectedly on August 7, 2014 after a five day unidentified virus. Cassius’ family, including his father George, coach of the EAC wallyball teams, put together a memorial website in Andrew’s honor (www.andrewcassius.org) and started a fund to provide college scholarships to graduating student-athletes at Midwood High School.
On May 27, 2015 the Cassius family awarded $1000 to Midwood graduating senior Michaela Appel, a standout volleyball star and student, with the first Andrew J. Cassius Memorial Scholarship Award.
“With the funds we raise from various events and fundraisers, we will continue to be able to dedicate this scholarship in Andrew’;s memory in the years to come,” said George.
On April 2, 2016, 12 wallyball players competed in this year’s event, playing a total of 16 games each. Syrogein made it to the finals, and prevailed over last year’s winner, Ben Smyth, who had won this event twice before.
“Prior to the event, everyone spoke about Andrew. It was very heart warming,” said George. “They mentioned how modest he always was, and how he would help everyone and always gave 100%.”
He added: “Throughout the memorial, everyone had a special story about how they all appreciated the competition as well as the camaraderie. It felt like a meeting of a very strong, close- knit family.”
Syrogein said “as much as I love playing volleyball and wallyball and anything that has any connection with this sport, having known Andrew inspires me to push myself and to play harder. I knew all the players who were playing since we play together on a regular basis. They have been teaching me the basics of wallyball. Thanks to George and the EAC, I have a chance to play with the best players in the city, maybe even in the country.”
The EAC has won countless wallyball national championships in the past 30 years since George Cassius brought the sport to the club. Hundreds of players have competed for the EAC, and dozens still play regularly on Sunday afternoons in Brooklyn Heights.