NJSIAA Group II Girls Volleyball

Barnegat Girls Volleyball Team Gets ‘Scary’ on Voorhees in State Tourney

By David Biggy | Nov 13, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy The Barnegat girls volleyball team celebrates one of its points during the third game of the Bengals’ 17-25, 25-18, 25-9 win over Voorhees in the NJSIAA Group II quarterfinals on Nov. 9.

Barnegat — After the Barnegat High School girls volleyball team knocked off Vernon in the preliminary round of the NJSIAA Group II tournament, coach Karla Jennings said when her Bengals are playing well, “we’re a good team, even scary.” Their third game against Voorhees in the quarterfinals on Nov. 9 became an exhibit in how frightening they can be.

“We’re at our peak right now, but we want to keep playing, and we’re still pushing to get better,” said sophomore setter Patria Moreno, who delivered 23 assists and registered 10 digs to help the 31st-seeded Bengals score a 17-25, 25-18, 25-9 victory over the 26th-seeded Vikings. “This week was a big eye-opener for us. I think we realized that if we don’t give up on each other, we can go anywhere and win.”

Jennings has had a few good teams during the past 15 years she’s been coaching the program. but last week may have been the best week in the program’s relatively short history. The Bengals (15-10) not only upset second-seeded Ramsey on Nov. 5, they followed it up with a 2-0 win over 15th-seeded Madison two days later before taking another lengthy trip, to Voorhees High School.

Keep in mind this is a Barnegat squad that went 4-7 in September and lost three matches during the first half of October.

“We had such a slow start, nobody thought it was possible for us to get this far,” said senior middle Gilana Fitzmaurice, who contributed seven kills, two blocks, 12 digs and a pair of aces. “But we’ve proven to ourselves that we belong here. Even after we lost the first game today, we were behind each other and encouraged each other to keep fighting and not quit.”

After the Vikings (14-14) closed out the first game by winning nine of the last 13 points, the Bengals rebounded nicely, grabbing a 3-0 lead, then tallying another 3-0 spurt to go up 6-1. Voorhees chipped away at the deficit and later tied the second game at 8-8, but Barnegat scored the next six points to take a 14-8 lead.

The Vikings temporarily stopped the rally, but Robbiann Erskine smashed a ball to the floor, and Julianna Padilla served up an ace to make it 16-9. Voorhees eventually closed the gap to five points at 21-16, but a service error gave the ball back to Barnegat, which scored two of the next four points before Erskine dumped a ball to the back corner to tie the match at 1-1.

“For the first game, I toyed with our lineup a little because I wanted to try to match up with their big girl in the middle,” Jennings said. “It didn’t work, so I tweaked the lineup for the second game, and it got better. In the third game, I tweaked a little more, and we crushed it.”

Literally. After starting off with a 5-2 lead, the Bengals worked up to an 8-4 lead before Fitzmaurice took the ball behind the service line. Barnegat then ran off 12 straight points – starting with a huge block along the left side by Kaya Foy, including an ace from Fitzmaurice, and culminating with a kill from Victoria Tikhomirova – to shatter the Vikings and take command.

“I told the girls during one of the timeouts that for every ball they kept alive that Voorhees thought might be a winner, it would just keep breaking them,” Jennings said. “And eventually, we saw the positive results of what we were able to do to them. They got frustrated, started overhitting the ball or serving it out, let a ball drop between two girls, and they just looked panicked.”

After the Bengals pulled within a point of winning the match, 24-7, Voorhees managed to score its final two points before Erskine again swatted a ball to the back corner for the victory and sending Barnegat to the Group II semifinals for the third time in program history.

Tikhomirova ended with 15 kills, eight digs and three aces, while Erskine finished with five kills, Morgan Giaccone added 10 digs and a pair of aces, Kristen Pavese banged down two kills, and Foy delivered a kill and two big blocks.

Of course, the road through Group II doesn’t get any easier for the Bengals. It was scheduled to travel back to Bergen County on Nov. 13 to take on third-seeded Northern Valley-Demarest, the defending Group II champions, which last year defeated this year’s top seed, Rutherford – the team that may be awaiting either the Bengals or the Norsemen in the final at William Paterson University on Saturday, Nov. 16.

“The best thing that happened to us this season was starting off so slow,” Jennings said. “I feel like we aired our dirty laundry, got over some silly stuff the girls had to get over, and then the team grew from there. Now we have a team of girls that knows what they can do. We have a team that believes rather than hopes. We know how good we are and nobody else does, so anything can happen now.”

— David Biggy


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