The Junior Varsity came off their great showing versus the Westfield Blue Devils in the County Semi-Finals and followed it up with a solid performance versus the Crusaders of ALJ. The Hilltoppers took a solid serving performance and used Davies and Nowicka to power the offense that set up a 25-15 set 1 win that never really looked in doubt.
Set 2 saw much of the same as Meltzer and Smidt powered the Top to a 15-6 lead from the service line while Ge and Herring did the damage up front. Cammarano, Handal and Smidt turned away many Crusader attacks as the squad improved to 14W-5L with a Cammarano OPP kill on match point to wrap up set 2 25-19.
SUMMIT DODGES A BULLET AFTER DROPPING ANOTHER SET 2
Varsity took on the Madison Dodgers at home in a late added matchup as both teams had exited the their respective County Tournaments and were looking for quality matchups to prepare for the state sectional run. Madison entered the matchup at 15W-4L and the winner of the NJAC Liberty Division while Summit similarly held a 13W-4L record and had earned their first division title in the Mountain Division since 2011. On paper, it seemed like a “pick ’em” matchup and it turned out to be a very competitive and exciting match in “IRL”.
Summit began the opening set 2-0 after a Zacharias setter dump but the Dodgers roared right back with a 3-0 run to take the lead back 3-2. This was the pattern for most of set one as neither team could muster a long run and the defenses held strong through most of the set. As evidence to this pattern, after Wauters had knotted things up at 5, Summit went to the senior for 2 more kills and got a block as well from the OPP to see their lead expand to 9-5. But Madison answered back with a 5-1 run and the score differential was back where it started with both teams tied at 10.
Later in set 1, SHS held a 16-15 lead but the Dodgers ripped 2 aces to take control at 17-16. But this time, the Top responded with a sustained run that made all the difference in the final result. It started with a Madison service error and Barlow used the opportunity to get an ace of her own in the next service attempt. Then, Wauters ripped another kill and Roberts continued her stellar defensive play of late, stuff blocking the Dodger middle attack which forced Madison to call a TO at 20-17. The TO did not deter the Hilltoppers and Barlow again hit for an ace off the break in action. Despite a service break, Wauters again stepped up, getting a kill to switch serve, followed up with an ace and then saw Roberts tally a tip kill to give SHS a 24-19 lead they would not relinquish as they closed out the set 25-20 with a Roberts kill.
Set 2 proved to be a near copy of the opening set except that the Top were the victims of a sustained run this time, not the visitors. After a Barlow spike had pulled SHS on top by a 12-10 lead, Madison went on a 6-0 run to take control at 12-16. Summit responded and got an ace by Henry to crawl back to within 2 at 14-16 but the Dodgers slammed the door with another 3-0 run which forced a Martins TO.
Off the TO, Barlow and Roberts tallied 2 kills to get Summit within 3 but as the pattern had been most of the match thus far, no further sustained momentum was in the works and the visitors tallied 6 of the next 10 points to close out set 2 25-20.
The entire match had echoes of the Governor Livingston matchup and the squad needed to put some of those ghosts behind them. Could the Top overcome a 2nd set loss and take the match? With the score 8-8 after 4 rotations it seemed that the task was going to be a most difficult one for both teams as both squads seemed to be a different side of the same coin. But as has been the trend most of the year, when there is doubt, Roberts steps up and delivers. The senior OH got 2 kills and Zacharias surprised everyone with a dump kill and just like that there was daylight between the squads at 11-8. Madison broke the SHS serve but the home side came back with a Barlow tip kill and a long rally that Barlow again terminated to give Summit an emotional 14-9 lead and force a Madison TO. After the TO, Barlow again found the court 2 more times despite Dodger service breaks and after a down ball kill by Roberts 3 rotations later, SHS held a 19-13 lead. Madison kept fighting and got to within 4 at 21-17 but a service error and a Thompson ace pushed the Summit lead to 23-17 and forced the last Dodger TO. The pause in action was to no avail as Roberts stuff blocked the next Madison attack and Thompson ripped another ace to give the Top a huge win versus the #27 ranked (NJP) team in the state.
Match Statistical Leaders:
Serving: Thompson 3 aces
Serve Rating: Thompson 2.50
Receiving (Perfect Passes): Henry 4
Receiving (Pass Rating): Henry 2.00
Attack (Kills): Barlow and Roberts 10
Attack (Kill %): Wauters 53.8%
Attack (Efficiency): Roberts .320
Defense (Blocks): Webb 4
Defense (Digs): Roberts 15
Defense (Dig %): Barlow and Wauters 100%
Assists: Zacharias 27
HILLTOPPERS FEND OFF CRUSADER CHARGE, GET TOUGH ROAD WIN
Playing without Barlow for this match, the Top looked to use its bench depth to secure win #15 for the campaign and solidify their top 4 state sectional ranking. Welsh got the nod as Setter to quarterback the offense and the 9th grader looked to gain some invaluable experience in a pressurized game situation. Demm got tabbed to be the OH2 and take the reigns of that part of the Hilltopper offense in Barlow’s absence while Kulabas would get to play in the back-row in the 6 zone in the junior’s stead. The Libero duo of Yarden and Henry would sit set 1 to give way to Feuerstake and Thompson who would fill in defensively for the middle blockers. Roberts, Wauters, Webb and Nardino played their usual roles in set 1.
Things did not begin well. Summit was down to the home side 4-0 before the match was 2 minutes old and it took an ALJ net error to give the ball back to SHS. Wauters began heating up early with a kill from the OH slot and Feuerstake drove an ace deep into Crusader territory to get the Hilltoppers to within 2 at 3-5. Despite a service break, Summit continued to look for Wauters to keep the offense going and the senior ripped another kill, this time from the OPP position and one rotation later hit a bullet of a serve that the ALJ defense failed to return to keep the Top within striking distance at 6-9. A 3-0 run by ALJ again put some distance between the home side and the visitors and even though Summit yet again had cut the lead to 4 after a Roberts kill, the Crusaders got a service error and nailed 2 aces of their own to open the lead up to 8 at 17-9. SHS got a gift in the form of a service error and then forced the Crusaders into a back-row attack error which gave the frosh Welsh the opportunity to blister an ace and the Top were still in it down by 5 at 12-17. Unfortunately, the Crusaders won 6 of the next 8 points and the Hilltoppers seemed out of sorts, giving the ALJ squad 2 hitting errors, 1 service error and an ace in that run.
At 23-14 for the home team, all seemed inevitable but the Hilltoppers continued to try to find some rhythm to their game. Roberts got a kill, Webb added a block and Thompson notched a kill and an ace to fuel a 6-1 run that had the Hilltoppers within sniffing distance of the home side but ALJ was able to close it out 25-20.
Set 2 saw the return of Zacharias and the front row got a refresh with Wells on the OH and Kim on the Opp with Wauters still playing back-row in that position. Yarden came in as Libero for the set as the Hilltoppers were looking at a must win set on the road. Summit opened up some breathing room early as Wells quickly got into the match with a kill and teammate Yarden tallied an ace which was then followed up by a Kim kill out of the OPP and punctuated by a Webb block to give SHS a 5-2 lead. The teams traded points and ALJ found itself still down by 3 at 8-5 when Roberts hit a down ball kill that sparked a 3-0 run (ace Wauters, Roberts tip kill) which had the ALJ side looking at an 11-5 scoreboard. Roberts continued to be a menace over the next few rotations and added 2 more kills to bring Summit closer to the set win at 13-6. ALJ fought back and hit for a kill and an ace and there was some hope left at 13-8 SHS. This was quickly dashed as the Crusaders failed to keep an out-of-system ball alive and then suffered a Nardino stuff block which forced a TO with Summit ahead 15-8. Down 16-10, the Crusaders manufactured an 8-1 run (4 SHS errors) to suddenly put the pressure on the Top trailing only by 1 at 18-17 forcing a Hilltopper TO. The subsequent play after the pause in action saw Wells put up a perfect pass to Zacharias who found Webb out of the middle for a point and then Roberts again came through on defense blocking the ALJ middle for a 20-17 lead. The Crusaders kept pushing though and won 3 of the next 4 points to crawl back to within 1 at 21-20 but Yarden perfectly covered a tip attack by the Crusaders which gave Roberts the opportunity to send a ball to the campfire zone for a crucial kill to give the Hilltoppers a 22-20 lead and then Thompson powered a shot from the service line that forced a free ball back to the Top which Roberts put away for a 23-20 lead. ALJ called a TO to no avail as the Crusaders notched an attack error and Thompson scorched an ace to zone 1 for a set two win at 25-20.
The deciding set 3 began rather auspiciously as the Top was down 4-1 early. The offense did not get going until Wells got a tip kill out of the OH slot which triggered a 7-1 Summit run sparked by 2 kills by Roberts, 1 by Webb and 2 aces by Wauters to give SHS a 9-7 lead. A few rotations later, with the score tied at 10, an ALJ service error opened the door for a 3-1 run (Zacharias kill and ace) that had the Hilltoppers up 14-11. The Crusaders got a kill to break serve but Nardino crushed a slide attack and then Yarden served the ALJ side into trouble forcing an error by the home side which led to a 16-12 SHS lead and an ALJ TO. Off the time-out, Summit went to Wauters again and the senior put a kill down to get the Hilltoppers up by 5. The teams traded points over the next few rotations but Wauters again stepped up with another crucial kill and then Webb put a ball through the floor to give Summit an insurmountable 20-14 lead late in the set. Nardino made her presence felt again on defense with a block and a Roberts serve forced an ALJ return error and Summit could sense victory was within its grasp at 23-17.
The Crusaders made one last push and got themselves to within 4 at 24-20 but, appropriately enough, it was Wauters again who got one last kill to seal the set and the win, 25-20, for the team’s 15th victory of the year.
Match Statistical Leaders:
Serving: Wauters 3 aces
Serve Rating: Wauters 2.59
Receiving (Perfect Passes): Yarden 4
Receiving (Pass Rating): Roberts 1.78
Attack (Kills): Roberts 10
Attack (Kill %): Wauters 54.5%
Attack (Efficiency): Roberts .364
Defense (Blocks): Webb 4
Defense (Digs): Yarden 9
Defense (Dig %): Wauters 100%
Assists: Zacharias 23