Bengals Girls VB Tops Upstart Pinelands in Straight Sets
The Barnegat girls volleyball team has been on fire of late. After starting the season with a victory on Sept. 9 and then losing its next match on Sept. 12, the Bengals have run off three straight wins.
Senior outside hitter Roxy Urso’s kill gave the Bengals a 26-24 victory in the second and deciding set over Pinelands Regional on Sept. 15. In the first set, the Bengals tamed the Wildcats, 25-12, to earn the sweep. On Monday, Sept. 19, coach Karla Jennings’ crew followed up with a 25-21, 25-19 win over Lacey.
Riding the three-game win streak into its scheduled match on Sept. 20, Barnegat sported a 4-1 mark (4-0 in the Shore Conference Class B South division). After bouncing back from the loss to Barnegat with straight-set victories over Central Regional and Donovan Catholic, Pinelands was 6-1 and 4-1 in B South.
Against Pinelands, Urso had five kills and seven digs.
“Roxy didn’t play last year because she was injured,” said Jennings. “She’s fully healthy now and has the potential to be a very dominant outside hitter. I think she could have a great season.”
Sophomore right-side hitter Lauren Walters also had five kills. Senior setter Emma Lloyd had four kills and had 17 of the team’s 18 assists.
“Along the front line, everyone contributed,” said Jennings. “I was glad that they were very consistent.”
At one point against the Bengals, the Wildcats trailed, 20-12, but battled back. Coach Kathy Bennett said junior Jillian Williams contributed to the rally with some outstanding serving.
“Joanie Vasikonis had an outstanding game,” said Bennett. “She is a defensive specialist, and while we were making a comeback, she was able to return just about anything hit to her.”
The junior was credited with eight digs, while junior middle blocker Carly Jannsch and senior outside hitter Sydney Burke had 11 and nine digs, respectively. Jannsch and sophomore middle blocker Kayla Thornton tied for the lead in kills with four. Junior setter Jessie Rising had nine assists.
Bennett said the game gave her sense of deja vu, recalling late last season when her Wildcats came to Barnegat to battle for the B-South title.
“It was almost the same situation,” said the coach. “In the deciding game, we trailed by double digits, only to come back and then lose a real close one. It was just too little, too late. The girls who played here last year were all pumped up to face Barnegat, but unfortunately, we didn’t play well at times.”
Jennings saluted a Pinelands program that is just in its third year of varsity play.
“I am really impressed how good they have become in such a short time,” said Jennings. “I think they are going to be a power to be reckoned with.”
Of course, Jennings can relate to starting a team from scratch, as she has been Barnegat’s coach since the school opened 11 years ago.
“That first year, we only had freshmen at the school,” she said. “Pinelands at least had all four classes to get their players. But they have done an outstanding job and have given us good competition.”
— Eric Englund