All Local Volleyball Teams Compete in Southern Girls InvitationalPinelands Comes Off the Best
Saturday’s Southern Girls Invitational Tournament proved two things.
One, all of Southern Ocean County’s three high school girls volleyball teams are good.
Two, none have reached the very good level quite yet, although Pinelands is knocking on that door.
Eight teams filled the Southern Regional 11-12 gym with all-day action on Saturday including Southern, Pinelands, Barnegat, Kingsway, Camden Catholic, Notre Dame, Jackson Liberty and the Atlantic County Institute of Technology. The three local teams all advanced through round-robin play to make the quarterfinals.
Barnegat and Southern met in one of the quarterfinal matches (Kingsway and Jackson Liberty had earned quarterfinal byes) and the Rams won in straight sets, 25-17, 25-22. Pinelands and Notre Dame clashed in the other quarterfinal and the Wildcats won in three sets, 23-25, 25-21 and 25-22.
Up next for Southern, Kingsway, a team that returned all of its starters from a squad that went 17-8 in 2015 and now boasts a 16-2 record this season. The Dragons prevailed against the Rams, 25-21, 25-17.
Meanwhile, on court 2, Pinelands was tackling an undefeated Jackson Liberty team. The Wildcats had visited the Lions back on Sept. 23 and come home fairly mauled, losing 11-25, 15-25. This time, though, Pinelands hung tough in the first set, losing by a much closer 24-26 margin. Jackson Liberty took the second set more convincingly, 25-14.
The Lions went on to beat Kingsway in the tourney’s title match in three sets. The match was a nail biter – Jackson Liberty finally put it away with a 27-25 win in the third.
Southern coach Eric Maxwell was pleased with his tournament.
“It turned out to be a pretty strong event,” he said.
He did, however, find a wee bit of fault with his team.
“Our main issue continues to be about consistency and being able to finish,” he explained. “We got off to a great start against Kingsway, 10-3, but couldn’t maintain. In our pool games against Pinelands we had opportunities to win both games. Up 23-20 in the first game, but couldn’t close. After being down 14-3 in game two, we came all the way back to tie it at 20-20, only to lose 28-26.”
Maxwell, however, is generally happy with his young squad’s progress.
“Nice to get a regulation win over Barnegat,” he said. “I continue to be pleased with the direction we are headed. The win over Barnegat was our fifth in a row before losing to Kingsway. Like they say, “our arrow is pointed up.”
Pinelands coach Kathy Bennett was happy with her team’s performance as well.
“It has been a fun day,” she said as she got ready to leave – her girls were anxious to get home because the Pinelands Regional homecoming dance was scheduled for the evening. “It is fun to play some teams outside of the Shore Conference. We only lost one set in pool play and that was to Kingsway.”
Indeed, the Wildcats had a roller coaster of a week. On Wednesday they got revenge for an earlier 0-2 loss to Barnegat with a 25-20, 25-15 win in front of a pumped up home crowd. Carly Jannsch led the way with a dozen kills, 10 digs, three service aces and two blocks. Kayla Thornton contributed six kills and three blocks; Alexa Houston added three kills and three blocks. Syndey Burke had a good all-around game with four kills, five digs and three aces. Jessie Rising set everything up with 20 assists while Jillian Williams anchored the defense with 15 digs.
On Friday, however, Pinelands fell to Donovan Catholic, 18-25, 26-24, 10-25. The ’Cats had defeated the Griffins earlier in the season, 25-17, 26-24.
Jannsch once again put up great stats on Friday, recording 11 kills and 13 digs. Thornton had five kills and four blocks while Burke had eight kills and seven digs. Williams had 18 digs while Joanie Vasikonis had 13.
“We play in the toughest division in the Shore Conference,” said Bennett, noting Barnegat, Donovan Catholic, Jackson Liberty and, of course, her own team, are all tough outs.
As of Tuesday morning, Jackson Liberty is 15-0, Donovan Catholic is 15-2, Pinelands is 11-3 and Barnegat is 8-7. Southern Regional, an A South competitor, is 11-8.
— Rick Mellerup