BY AVERY PERSON
The girls volleyball team earned a remarkable 25-3 record on the road to winning the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament and the Central Jersey Group IV championship for the first time in program history. The team’s historic run came to an end Sunday when they lost a hard-fought match to Westfield in the Finals of the Group IV State Championship.
On Friday, November 4,
The girls had recently beaten Monroe in the finals of the GMC Tournament, getting revenge for a rare loss Monroe had dealt to them on October 10. “During practice, we critiqued and worked on our skill, making sure to touch up on our mistakes from the previous games we played against them,” explained senior Leena Tran, who led the team in with 11 kills, one block, and 12 digs. “We knew that we had to play our best volleyball during the State Tournament when it mattered the most.”
“They were willing to do whatever it took to win,” said Red Division Coach of the Year, Andrew Hopman. The win earned the program a chance to play for their first ever Sectional Championship.
With a finals match-up against a tough Hunterdon-Central team ahead of them, the girls dedicated themselves to preparing for the big game. “We worked so hard,” said senior Malvina Sullivan, who had six kills, one block, and four digs in the team’s 2-0 victory. “We practiced from 6:50 to 11:30. We wanted to win this way more than they did.”
All of the hard work the girls put in paid off on the court, and they cemented their position as the most successful team in the program’s history. “After losing in the State Sectional Finals last year, we knew that we had to come back hungry for more,” said Tran, who contributed 11 kills and seven digs. “And we did just that! The 1st State Sectional Championship win of our program’s history!”
The seniors on the squad, such as Tran and Victoria Nazarova, expressed their excitement at having left their mark for future teams and students to see. “Incredible – we finally have something on the banner,” explained Nazarova, who came up big with three kills and two blocks. “We made school history. It feels amazing!”
Winning Sectionals earned the team a chance to compete in the next round and play for a Group IV Championship. “I’m so proud of our team for how well we’ve been playing this season, especially during this playoff push,” said Abigail Jazmin, who added three kills, two blocks, and three digs. “We’ve been so focused and have been making so many sacrifices to prepare for each game.”
In the first round, the team drew Williamstown, who had bested the Knights in two straight sets on October 15. The girls remained undeterred, and, like they did against Monroe, they got their revenge, winning 2-0 in the Group IV Semi-Final round.
After a drag-out battle in a 28-26 victory in the first set, the Knights stayed strong to take the second set 25-21. “Our dynamic on and off the court is incredible, and it definitely paid off in the end because we all had the same goal,” said Nazarova, who contributed two kills, two blocks, and one dig in the win.
Unfortunately, the girls fell short of their ultimate goal as they lost in the final round of the NJSIAA Group IV Tournament to Westfield. After losing the first set 27-25, the team battled back to win the second set by the same score. “One key factor about our team is how mentally tough we are,” said junior Julia Mikucki, who came through with 26 assists, 13 digs, and her first block of the season. “It was the one thing that truly helped us become so successful throughout the whole season.”
Westfield took the third set and the championship, but the girls remain unified and proud of their historic accomplishments. “Our bond is greater than any team I’ve ever seen or been a part of,” said Jazmin, who contributed six kills, four blocks, and two digs. “Win or lose, I could not be any prouder of this team!”
Now that this year’s team has established the program as a force to be reckoned with, the underclassmen will look to carry this momentum into next into 2023. “I’m so excited all of our juniors are very good,” said junior Julia Morgan, who led the team in blocks this season with 44. “The team is going to be even better next year; I’m so excited.”
Posted on 11/16/22
Photos by Jayden Junaid
Video by Tim O’Neill