St. Joseph turns back North Brunswick in GMCT semis

METUCHEN – The goal for the St. Joseph High School boys volleyball team coming into their Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament semifinal matchup with North Brunswick Thursday afternoon was to hold the fourth-seeded Raiders to 15 points in each set. Consider that goal met to a tee.

Top-seeded St. Joseph led from the outset, overwhelming North Brunswick 2-0 (25-16, 25-14) and holding the Raiders to just 30 points total in the two sets.

The Falcons will take on East Brunswick, a 2-0 winner over Old Bridge, in Saturday’s championship match at J.P. Stevens High School.

Head coach Miguel Cabrita was quick to compliment North Brunswick (16-5) for their effort, but in the end, the skill of the Falcons was just too much.

“They’re a solid team. They have some great ball control all the way around, a couple good hitters on the outside that can put the momentum in their favor,” Cabrita said. “Overall they’re a team that doesn’t seem like they get rattled too easily.”

In fact, North Brunswick hung tough at the start, keeping it within four points for a majority of the time, but towards the middle of the set, St. Joseph (36-3) took command. Kurt MacDonald was everywhere for the Falcons, chasing down errant passes and oncoming spikes, keeping momentum with the home team.

“I think the guys did a great job today. The goal was to keep them around the 15-point mark, which we did,” Cabrita said. “But they did well and really held strong. The passing was a little shaky in the beginning, so that’s one of the things we talked about in the timeouts, but they picked that up. The defense was great and our hitters can produce, so as long as we get the ball to the setter, it’s easy money for us.”

Sean Dacey converted a pair of aces in the second set and MacDonald teed up consecutive serves that weren’t returned to put the contest out of reach. The size differential between the two team’s front lines was evident throughout and it was something that North Brunswick couldn’t make up for with outside shots. Sean Finan and Thomas Burrell combined to stop a bevy of Raiders’ shots from becoming threatening ones and Greg Vajtay also contributed as a key blocker in the contest.

St. Joseph has now reached the championship of the GMCT six seasons in a row, but the Falcons’ last title came back in 2008. In order to complete their mission of reclaiming the top spot in the conference, Cabrita stressed that it’s going to take every member of the squad playing their best.

“It’s going to be all-out team play,” he said. “The last couple of years, it’s been unforeseen circumstances that have mentally taken our guys out of the game, but I think this is one of the more solid teams that we’ve had in the 19 years that I’ve been here. It’s ours to lose; if they don’t do what they need to do, they’re giving it away.”

St. Joseph and East Brunswick met twice in the regular season, with the Falcons taking both matches and the last time that they met in the GMCT final was in 2009, when East Brunswick won their sixth title. The two teams have been going at one another all season long for bragging rights in the GMC, but Saturday’s final will be a grudge match to decide it once and for all.

“East Brunswick is solid all-around,” Cabrita said. “It’s just a matter of matching up on that given day. If we’re on our ‘A’ game, I have a confidence that our guys can pull it off.”

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