Monthly Archives: May 2013

Hillsborough out to defend Skyland Cup title

Coming into Saturday’s Skyland Cup semifinals, the Hillsborough High School boys volleyball team has won 10 of its last 12 matches, with the only losses coming to out-of-area squads.

The top-seeded Raiders, who will play the conference tournament on their home floor, finished with a 7-1 record in Skyland Conference matches, their only loss to second-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan.

In fact, Bridgewater-Raritan racked up an identical 7-1 conference record, with its only loss coming in the second meeting of the season against Hillsborough. The two squads appear destined for a third matchup in the finals.

“It’s impossible to not think about things like that, but we know that we have a big step in front of us,” Bridgewater-Raritan coach Corey Romanak said.

Hillsborough will have to take care of fourth-seeded Ridge in the first semifinal, which will get underway around 10 a.m.

The Red Devils, who struggled in conference play and recorded a 3-6 mark against Skyland opponents, defeated fifth-seeded Watchung Hills on Wednesday to advance to the final four.

Ridge had a difficult time winning points against Hillsborough in the two regular-season meetings. In all, Ridge collected just 64 points in the two matches to Hillsborough’s 100.

“For us, our mentality is always one opponent at a time and one match at a time,” Hillsborough coach Todd Sudol said. “We’re preparing for Ridge like we would for anyone else — we never overlook an opponent. They’re well-balanced and they have some good hitters. We prepare for all of our opponents the same, regardless of if we’ve beaten them already.”

In the second semifinal, scheduled to begin 20 minutes after the Hillsborough-Ridge match, Bridgewater-Raritan and third-seeded Hunterdon Central meet for the third time this year. The Panthers won both meetings in the regular season, outscoring Hunterdon Central 125-100.

In the second matchup on April 18, Hunterdon Central hung tough, winning the first set before running out of steam. Of the Red Devils’ four Skyland losses this season, they all came against Hillsborough and Bridgewater-Raritan.

“It’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season, so right now, we’re focused on Hunterdon Central,” Romanak said. “I could tell you that the two times we’ve played them, they’ve been our two best matches this season and by far the most competitive We’re two evenly matched teams and I expect a lot of the same.”

Last season, Hillsborough topped Hunterdon Central in the final in the inaugural Skyland Cup. Playing on their home court this time isn’t something Sudol expects to have much of an impact on his squad.

“When you have a team that’s focused on goals that they’re trying to achieve, you have to look beyond where you’re playing the games,” Sudol said. “It doesn’t change much of the end result. The goal is to win the tournament for the second year in a row.”

South Brunswick spikes Edison to advance in GMCT

MONMOUTH JCT. — In the postseason, any boys volleyball team has the ability to look dominant on any given day.

On Friday, the dominant team was seventh-seeded South Brunswick, which took the lead early in the first set and never looked back, throttling 10th-seeded Edison 2-0 (25-15, 25-15) to advance to the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

The Vikings (6-13, 3-9) will meet second-seeded East Brunswick Tuesday with a berth in the semifinals on the line.

Edison came out as the more aggressive team at the start of Friday’s match, passing well from the back of its formation and finishing hits from all angles, but South Brunswick found its groove when the score was tied 7-7 in the first set.

From there, the Vikings established themselves as the team to beat, eventually opening up leads of 18-11 and 23-14 en route to a 25-15 victory.

Because the two teams didn’t meet in the regular season, South Brunswick head coach Shaun Ruymen wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Edison (6-13, 4-8).

“You never really know what’s going to happen,” Ruymen said. “We haven’t seen these guys at all throughout the season, so you don’t really know what to expect.

“You can look at the records in the division, but it’s hard to find out how we’ll line up. And it’s been a trying season for us, so you never know which team we’re going to have show up on the court. Of course, today we showed up and played a strong game.”

The Vikings received strong performances from Brandon Mariano and Jimmy Quilter, who came up with eight and six kills, respectively. The passing was also crisp throughout the contest as Ryan Wahl recorded 22 assists and libero Jason Wang helped set the pace in the middle of the Vikings’ formation.

In the second set, Rogin Mathew and Emmanuel Fiotakis keeping the Eagles in the mix, but a 7-0 run with Wahl serving for South Brunswick blew open a close set. The Eagles couldn’t recover, with passes not connecting and serves coming at them in ways that couldn’t be returned, as South Brunswick raced to a 25-15 decision.

“We don’t have a ton of size, so we need to take advantage of every opportunity we have on the court,” Ruymen said. “We need to get good serving, passing and blocking, especially swinging from the back row, and we had to stay aggressive, which we did today.”

South Brunswick will now take on East Brunswick, a team that handled them with ease in two regular-season meetings, by a combined score of 100-75.

Seniors key to J.P. Stevens on links

For the J.P. Stevens High School girls golf team, the season’s first month has been one to remember. The Hawks wrapped up the first four weeks with a 12-1 record, boosted by the play of a trio of seniors who have played at the varsity level for the last three seasons.

Sophia Chen, Jen Kim and Kim Wu have carried the banner for J.P. Stevens this spring, much like they have since breaking into the Hawks’ starting lineup as freshmen.

“The three seniors are good role models and mentors for the younger girls,” coach Patty Savulich said. “Sophia has already qualified for the state individual tournament and both Jen and Kim are very close to doing the same.”

Along with the three senior leaders, Paulina Lee and Kobj Dent have helped round out the Hawks’ roster, adding depth to an already potent lineup. J.P. Stevens’ only loss came at the hands of Westfield on the season’s second day and, although they hung tight with the Blue Devils, Savulich said her girls were crushed by the defeat.

“We lost by only six strokes, which was heartbreaking for the girls,” she said. “But some of the girls learned a hard lesson; if you want to play well, you need to practice more.”

Since that defeat, the Hawks have rattled off 10 consecutive victories, including a commanding 186-260 decision against Bishop Ahr their last time out. Savulich has seen her squad’s averages trending down, which in golf is the way you want them to go, and that’s been encouraging for her as the season progresses.

“Some of our younger players’ handicaps are trending down and with a little more experience, both on the course and at the range, should create a good foundation for the future,” Savulich said.

Colonia boys flying high

For the Colonia boys golf team, the main goal all season has been to finish what they’ve started — reach the Greater Middlesex County Tournament finals and the State Tournament’s finals.

According to coach Jeff Holmes, whatever the Patriots accomplish in the regular season is just getting them primed for the postseason.

“We’re playing well so far and we have compiled a nice record,” Holmes said. “But losing to Monroe on Tuesday was tough for us. We get another crack at them next week, so we’d like to avenge that loss.”

In dual matches this spring, the Patriots boast a record full of victories, 14 of them to be exact, to overshadow that one loss. Holmes’ squad returned all but one player from last season’s team, giving them a lot of experience heading into 2013.

A core of three seniors, Mike Orak, Justin Rasmus and Bruce Thome, have buoyed Colonia to the top of the GMC standings, while junior Rob Coffman and sophomore Brendan Demitus have chipped in as well.

Holmes knows that there is still a lot in front of his experienced group and that they need not worry about individual performances down the stretch; he wants his players focused on winning the team titles.

“We want to achieve a lot as a team and get to the finals of the GMCT and states,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for in the rest of our season.”

Hunterdon Central golfers enjoy success on links

Larry Reis, boys golf coach at Hunterdon Central High School, doesn’t put too much into whether or not his teams win the matches they play this spring. Instead, he just wants them to have fun on the golf course, and the fun that the Red Devils are having is evident in their 10-0 record through Wednesday.

“We’re in the hunt and I’m happy about that,” Ries said. “I just want the kids to shoot well, whether we win or lose.”

But more often than not this season, Hunterdon Central has dominated its opponents, pleasing Ries.

Of the six players that have seen action in 2013, none has a scoring average higher than 42, and three players entered the week with identical averages. Consistency has been key for the Red Devils in the competitive Skyland Conference.

“They work as a team and the young guys are accepted,” Ries said. “It doesn’t matter what class they’re in. Everyone is just focused on the task at hand.”

Eric Mastrull leads in scoring average at 38, but Keith Noonan, Dylan Stein and James Wolfangel are all one stroke back at 39. Luke Wolklin (41) and Nick DalCortivo (42) round out the Red Devils’ lineup that has steamrolled the competition through the season’s first month.

The girls at Hunterdon Central have been enjoying similar success, rolling to a 7-3 mark through Wednesday. And if not for Montgomery and Ridge on their schedule, the Red Devils would be unbeaten just like their male classmates. All three of Hunterdon Central’s losses have come to the Skyland Conference’s top two squads (two to Ridge, one to Montgomery).

But coach Robert Nicolson believes that having those two powerhouses on the schedule has helped his very young team to be better.

“Playing Ridge and Montgomery help us a lot,” Nicolson said. “It’s great that our players can play against superstars from those schools. Those girls are very good at what they do and they’re respectful of the younger players on our squad. It definitely helps us out, because when you play with good players, you play better yourself.”

Hunterdon Central hasn’t needed much inspiration to play well this season, with a trio of captains leading the way. Junior Jess Wild, who posted the lowest score of her career Monday against Ridge, and classmate Julia Tonnesscen have been two of the stalwarts in the Red Devils’ lineup this spring, along with senior Nicole Petrocchi.

Those three players have helped close the gap between Ridge and Hunterdon Central as the season has progressed, according to Nicolson. When the two schools met in the first match of the year, Ridge emerged victorious by 23 strokes. But this past Monday, in heavy downpour and high wind, Ridge only won by seven strokes.

“They’re (Ridge) stronger (than us) but we’ve gotten better,” Nicolson said. “We don’t worry about what anyone else is doing and we are getting better. We’re going in the right direction.”