Category Archives: Girls Volleyball

Knights produce dominant effort

OLD BRIDGE — With a spot in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament finals on the line, the Old Bridge High School girls volleyball team came out with one of its dominant performances of the season. The fourth-seeded Knights never trailed from the start and never looked back, taking out eighth-seeded East Brunswick in straight sets 25-20, 25-15 Wednesday afternoon.

Old Bridge will meet second-seeded J.F. Kennedy at 3 p.m. in Saturday’s final at J.P. Stevens in Edison.

The first game remained close until the Knights got rolling and used an 8-0 run to open the score from 13-10 to 21-10 and essentially put any chance East Brunswick had to rest.

“I feel like it was closer than the score; I felt like East Brunswick played well and I expected after they beat South Brunswick, that we would need to pay a little more attention to them,” Old Bridge head coach Andrew Hopman said. “I realized that they were kind of up-and-down all season; them beating South Brunswick was no fluke.”

Analis Capobainco aided the run with a pair of aces and the steadying play of the middle blockers for Old Bridge helped set the tone and maintain the lead, according to Hopman.

But the star of the match was Marta Belli, whose serves kept East Brunswick off-balance all day long. She helped spur the Knights to a runaway victory in the second set with an early ace, something that Hopman has become accustomed to seeing.

“Marta was the standout today. She just does so many wonderful things for us; she keeps the ball alive, she keeps plays going and we always seem to score on her serves. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s just a hard-to-predict ball because it doesn’t go anywhere, so it’s hard to know where it’ll land,” he said. “The next thing you know, it hits the floor or they make a bad pass.”

East Brunswick, which beat top seed South Brunswick in last week’s quarterfinals, appeared physically spent and just couldn’t make the play when it needed to. The Bears hit the ball into the net on multiple occasions and had no answer for the Old Bridge serves.

“Even though we beat them twice in the regular season, we knew they have good coaches and good players and they have great history, so we were worried a little bit. But we feel that if we serve well, we can win most of our games. If our serving is on, that adds to our confidence,” Hopman said.

John F. Kennedy 2, Edison 0: Much like Old Bridge, second-seeded J.F. Kennedy took an early lead and never lapsed, running away with a 2-0 (25-12, 25-18) victory over 11th-seeded Edison.

“The girls came out focused,” J.F. Kennedy head coach Rob Hugelmeyer said. “Volleyball is all about energy; the team that has it plays well and the team that doesn’t, doesn’t. The girls came out fired up and that was the game plan. I wasn’t talking strategy to them at all, just motivation. We kept the energy and we put the ball away when we had to.”

Jolie Tang was the catalyst for the Mustangs, recording 18 assists and 12 service points, while sisters Cassie and Francesca Garison combined for 18 kills and 10 service points, along with five digs and a good number of blocks.

Mustangs take care of business

J.F. Kennedy's Casandra Garison blocks a shot by Woodbridge's Deana Kotsianas during the second game of Monday's match. Photo by: Jason Towlen

J.F. Kennedy’s Casandra Garison blocks a shot by Woodbridge’s Deana Kotsianas during the second game of Monday’s match. Photo by: Jason Towlen

ISELIN — With a five-game winning streak on the line and the potential of beating a local rival for the second time in the same season for the first time in school history, the J.F. Kennedy High School girls volleyball team came out and took care of business Monday. The Mustangs, behind stellar play from the front line of sisters Cassandra and Francesa Garison and Alexa Parmann, dominated Woodbridge 2-0 (25-9, 25-16) in front of a raucous crowd to stay hot at the most important time of the season.

“Our girls came out focused in the first set; they were serving really strong and putting the ball exactly where we wanted it to go and that was the game plan,” head coach Robert Hugelmeyer said. “We wanted to take advantage of the crowd early on, knowing we’d have a big crowd today and the girls feed off of that.”

After running away with the first set, J.F. Kennedy was met with a lot more resistance from their neighbors from less than two miles away, but Cassandra Garison put any comeback attempts to rest with her powerful swings. She came up with two aces and multiple blocks to keep momentum on her squad’s side, getting help from the rangy Parmann and her sister Francesa.

“I think after a first set like that, the other team is going to come back more ready to play, so that was the difference,” Hugelmeyer said. “They’re a good team so you expect them to play better. But this feels great; we’ve actually never taken both matches from Woodbridge, we usually end up splitting with them every year, so this feels good for the team.”

With precious few matches remaining before the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament, Hugelmeyer knows that his squad still has some work to do if it is going to meet its ultimate goals.

“There’s always room for improvement and there’s always things we want to do better. We went to the semifinals of the GMCT last year and our goal is to get back and win it this year and we feel like we have the ability to do it. I know there are a lot of tough teams in the Red Division, but when the girls play well, they can do it,” Hugelmeyer said.

As is the case in any sport, learning from prior mistakes is key for improvement, and J.F. Kennedy is no exception. Since losing to Old Bridge on Sept. 26, the Mustangs have dropped just two sets, overpowering their opponents and continuing to rack up GMC victories.

“The girls are learning from some of the tougher matches we had in the beginning of the season, especially the two we lost against Colonia and Old Bridge,” Hugelmeyer said. “The girls saw the mistakes they made and they’ve made the proper adjustments and corrections and with volleyball, as the season progresses, the team begins to gel a little bit more.”

J.F. Kennedy will get two cracks at Red Division contenders later this week when its travels to Monroe and East Brunswick. If the Mustangs can escape this week unblemished, it’ll go a long way to strengthen their chances in the postseason.

Red Devils’ Drew hits milestone

It wasn’t until last Friday when Emily Drew found out how close she was to reaching a career milestone worth celebrating. Going into Hunterdon Central’s matchup with Warren Hills, Drew was told that her next assist would be No. 1,500 for her career, a number not attained by many in New Jersey history.

Against the Blue Streaks, Drew had a team-high 14 assists, pushing her career total to 1,513, in a 2-0 victory that upped Hunterdon Central’s record to 12-1.

“I actually found out the day before that I was one away,” Drew said. “I had no idea that I was that close. But it was just like any other game: I was prepared and excited to go out there and play.”

Drew, a 5-foot, 6-inch senior setter for the Red Devils, has been perfecting her craft since she was in the 5th grade. But she knows that she’s just a part of the equation that helps Hunterdon Central rack up the victories.

As a setter, Drew is normally positioned in the middle of the Red Devils attacking formation for Head Coach Stephen Fenton, receiving passes from the defenders in the back of the court and setting up lobs for her hitters to crush onto the hardwood.

In the win over Warren Hills, nine different Hunterdon Central players finished with at least one kill, most all of them being set up by Drew. And when the competition has been at its highest this season, Drew has played some of her best volleyball.

In Hunterdon Central’s fifth match of the season against Cherokee High School, Drewfinished with a season-high 31 assists in the three-set victory. Five games later, Hunterdon Central lost for the first time this season, but it wasn’t because Drew didn’t have a big night. She finished with 29 assists in the three-set defeat to West Morris, which is 13-1 this season.

For the season, Drew is averaging 19.7 assists per contest, helping Hunterdon Central win all but one of its matches in 2-0 sweeps. They’ve played the maximum three sets just three times, the victory over Cherokee, the loss to West Morris and a 2-1 win against North Hunterdon on Sept. 21.

Drew began playing for Fenton last year, when he took over as Hunterdon Central’s coach. But in the two years that they’ve been working together, Fenton has seen Drew grow into a real leader on the court.

“She’s developed a great work ethic since she got here,” Fenton said. “She’s a leader on the floor and she’s a leader in how she plays the game. Due to her tremendous athleticism and her experience, we’re able to rely on her in the middle. We wouldn’t be able to do the things we’re doing without Emily.”

The Red Devils have seven games remaining on their regular season schedule, with the state tournament looming large afterwards. With their current 12-2 record, Hunterdon Central should be a force to be reckoned with, with Drew leading the way. For those remaining games on the slate, Drew has high expectations for her squad.

“I expect to play to my fullest potential and I expect that we’ll get to states and win it,” Drewsaid.

Fenton echoed his star’s words, saying that reaching the championship of the state tournament is the ultimate goal for the Red Devils.

“We’re looking to do well in the county tournament and to get a good seed in the state tournament,” Fenton said. “Anybody can beat anybody in volleyball, but if we’re playing well, we can beat anyone.”