State Tournament Girls Volleyball

Barnegat Girls Volleyball Team Grabs Momentum Early, Bounces Vernon From State Tourney

By David Biggy | Nov 06, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy The Barnegat girls volleyball team celebrates its 25-12, 25-18 win over Vernon in the preliminary round of the NJSIAA Group II tournament on Oct. 30.

Barnegat — For a few weeks, the Barnegat girls volleyball team was missing its most experienced and most effective player, senior Gilana Fitzmaurice, and the inexperience amid the rest of the Bengals’ lineup showed. Once she returned to the court, the Bengals had won five of their previous seven matches heading into the state tournament.

“We go to the Moorestown tournament and our most dominant middle gets hurt,” said coach Karla Jennings after her squad ousted Vernon, 25-12, 25-18, in the preliminary round of the NJSIAA Group II tourney on Oct. 30. “At that point, we’re missing our best player and a senior, so from that perspective it was a bit tough for our team to overcome that for a while. At one point in the season, I was playing five sophomores and four juniors, so we had a lot of growing up to do.”

Against the 34th-seeded Vikings (13-11), the 31st-seeded Bengals took advantage of their opponents’ 2½-hour trip to Barnegat in the first game, scoring 11 of the first 12 points to take control. Eventually, Vernon’s offense started working its way out of its funk, but the Bengals never were in trouble, taking a 17-9 lead before registering eight of the next 11 points to go up, 1-0.

After the brief intermission, the Vikings looked like a different team in the second game, grabbing a 7-5 lead to force Jennings to call a timeout. Vernon pushed its lead to 15-10 before the Bengals ran off four straight points behind the service of junior Julianna Padilla.

Following several trade-offs, Barnegat grabbed the lead at 19-18 when Fitzmaurice hammered down one of her 12 kills, and sophomore Patria Moreno served the Bengals to two more points for a 21-18 lead, forcing Vernon to take a timeout. It didn’t matter, as Barnegat scored the next four points to secure the victory.

Fitzmaurice also tallied five digs and two blocks, while Moreno gave out 24 assists and recorded six digs. Padilla had four digs and three aces, while Victoria Tikhomirova delivered eight kills and five digs, and Nina Soberano added six digs

With the win, Barnegat (13-10) advanced to meet second-seeded Ramsey (20-4) in the first round and pulled off the huge upset with a 26-24, 22-25, 25-19 win. Fitzmaurice delivered 11 kills, four blocks and four aces, while Tikhomirova smashed eight kills and four aces, and Moreno contributed 20 assists, three aces and six kills. Erskine also hammered five kills, and Padilla came up with eight digs.

“I knew Ramsey wasn’t taking us seriously by the way they were warming up,” Jennings said. “We knew serving tough would have to carry us today. We had a game plan and executed it. Our girls played great. I don’t recall a 31st seed ever beating a two-seed, so this is pretty damn exciting.”

The victory set up a wild scenario on one side of the Group II bracket. Barnegat now will play Thursday, Nov. 7, in the second round against 15th-seeded Madison, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals to take on 23rd-seeded Cinnaminson – a 2-1 winner over 10th-seeded Oakcrest on Tuesday – or 26th-seeded Voorhees, which upset seventh-seeded Pinelands, also on Tuesday.

“Seeds are never 100 percent, so at this point it’s realistic for us to keep going past the quarterfinals,” Jennings said. “Obviously, we don’t want to look too far ahead, but I have to start thinking about the possibility of playing in the semifinals. With how things are happening today, it’s reasonable to think we’re not going to face a team like the one we faced today. But, who knows? Everything’s up in the air now. We’re excited that we get to keep playing.”

Unfortunately, Pinelands’ season is over after falling, 25-14, 25-18, 25-23, to Voorhees (13-13), despite an outstanding effort from Sharon Benson, who scored 21 service points including nine aces, delivered four kills and mustered three digs and a block. Emma Capriglione whacked 11 kills and had five kills, while Ciara Rheiner banged down seven kills, and Allison Grotts gave out 23 assists. Adrianna Dancisin and Brittney Houseworth each recorded eight digs, and Dancisin had four aces.

Southern Cruises

Into Second Round

While Barnegat and Pinelands played three-game matches in the first round, Southern easily cruised into the second round of Group IV tourney, as the Rams walloped Hackensack, 25-8, 25-12 on Nov. 4.

During the fourth-seeded Rams’ victory over the 29th-seeded Comets, senior Gianna Schiattarella scored four kills to become the program’s career kills leader and added three aces, while Stephanie Soares delivered 10 assists and six digs, and senior Riley Vaughn contributed a pair of aces. Rachael Pharo whacked a pair of kills and three aces as well, and Emma Gildea recorded three kills and two blocks.

Southern (30-3) is scheduled to play 20th-seeded Washington Township on Thursday, Nov. 7, with the winner to meet either fifth-seeded Cherry Hill East or 12th-seeded Lenape on Nov. 9. One of the Rams’ losses this season was to Cherry Hill East. One of the others was to North Hunterdon, the defending Group IV champion and the likely opponent should the Rams reach the semifinals on Nov. 13.

— David Biggy

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