BASKING RIDGE – Despite not leading at all in the first set and not until the score was 4-3 in the second set of Thursday’s match against Ridge, the Hunterdon Central High School boys volleyball team remained focused on the task at hand and thanks to a solid showing from their bench and role players roared back to win the final two sets and emerge victorious, 2-1.
Hunterdon Central gained the momentum they needed for the remainder of the match at the end of the first set, when they came back late to tie the score on two different occasions. Although they lost the set 27-25, Hunterdon Central head coach Steve Fenton saw something in his team at the end of the opener.
“The end of the first set is what got us back into the right tone and the mindset we try and have on this team,” Fenton said. “What we talk about is that this is our business and if everyone does their job and puts in their piece of the puzzle, momentum starts to come back our way and that’s what happened. I was very pleased to see us respond in the correct way and that everyone did their job.”
Fenton used his allotted substitutions to perfection in the remaining two sets, which Hunterdon Central won 25-20 and 26-24, subbing in specific players to serve at key times of the action. But his swaps in personel weren’t reserved simply for serving; Fenton relied on his deep bench of young players to get through a tough time in a difficult matchup.
“One of the things I set up at the beginning, as best as I can, is to get my bench to be an intrical part of this team,” he said. “I knew who to bring in and at what time and they came in and performed.”
Matt Hyman, Billy San Giacomo and Daniel Salerno all came off the bench at different times in the match to help win a key point, especially when Ridge made pushes to take a lead in the final two sets. Hyman and San Giacomo each came up with key aces in the second set and Hyman spurred a 5-0 run in the early part of the second set to buoy the Red Devils to a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Outside hitters Kevin Tripp and Josh Peters helped close out a lot of key points Thursday; especially Tripp who had a lot of power behind his kills, but it was Leo Giovanni, a setter, that helped Hunterdon Central secure a road victory against one of their Skyland Conference rivals.
“I think [Leo] and I are working well together; he’s running the floor well from what I can see,” Fenton said. “And now that I have some trust in him, he’s delivering the balls where I want them and I’m basically playing chess with my opponent. And more often than not, I’m going to win.”
Hunterdon Central, a team that lost eight seniors from last season’s squad, relies on the experience that they gain within matches to get better as the year goes on. A win against Ridge, on the road, is something Fenton believes will help his team as they move forward.
“This is a good challenge for us early in the season, when adversity hits,” Fenton said. “We need to remain strong and a match like this is good for our team to push through this, especially the younger guys. This is only going to add onto what we’ve learned and it’s going to allow us to be more comfortable in those types of situations for the rest of the season.”