Rams Ready to Defend State Boys Volleyball Title
Journalists know the answer in advance when they ask Southern Regional High School boys volleyball coach Eric Maxwell how he expects his team to perform as each new season opens.
2017 was no exception.
“Expectations will not change. It’s all about the postseason and being ready to make a run when it matters most. Goal is to win the state title as it always is.”
Maxwell, the winningest boys high school volleyball coach in New Jersey history, has the right to be confident considering his team’s performance over the last decade. It has reached the state championship game the last eight years and won the state title five times, including the 2016 crown. Maxwell’s squad has been ranked in the state’s Top 5 every year since 2004.
He also knows he has a deep, experienced and talented roster, despite the loss of his nephew Liam Maxwell, who won NJ.com Player of the Year honors last year, to graduation.
We’re talking players such as senior Brennan Davis, who was 2nd Team All-State last year and whom Maxwell declared “the absolute best setter in the state.”
“Brennan is fantastic as a setter and a leader,” said his coach. “He has played in three state finals, and I couldn’t be putting our fate in better hands. He makes everyone around him better. And he knows what it takes to win. He is of course surrounded by some tremendous talent as well.”
Maxwell was talking about the likes of senior right side Collin Lockwood, middles Shane Drayton and Shane Bent, a senior and junior respectively, and yet another member of the Maxwell clan, sophomore Matt Maxwell, who was a 3rd Team All-State libero in his freshman campaign.
“Collin and Matt will handle a majority of our service receive game and that should enable Brennan to have a variety of options,” said the coach. “If we can get our middles going, we are going to be tough to beat.”
Key newcomers include senior right side Jay Boehler and classmates Dale Mury, a setter, Max Maffie, a defensive specialist, and Deric Vincent, an outside hitter. Juniors include outside hitters Ryan Callahan and Dan Maurus, defensive specialists Sam Iacoves and Matt Jones, and middle Joe Exel. Southern’s sophomore class is represented by outside hitter Zach Hem as well as the previously mentioned Matt Maxwell.
Southern, which started its 2017 campaign with a huge target on its chest considering it was the state’s top-ranked squad in the preseason, has responded marvelously in its early matches. As of April 11 the team had gone 7-0.
The Rams rolled through four Shore Conference opponents to start their season, not even coming close to losing a set to Lacey, Toms River South, Central Regional and Toms River North and giving Maxwell a chance to go deep into his bench, allowing younger players to gain valuable experience. Then, on Saturday, April 8, Southern got its first chance to play against ranked competition when it hosted a quad against Kingsway, pegged by NJ.com as the state’s 13th best team, St. Peter’s Prep, ranked third and Christian Brothers Academy, ranked second.
Kingsway actually took the first set against Southern, 26-24. But the Rams responded with decisive 25-12, 25-17 wins to take the match. Southern didn’t leave an open door for St. Peter’s, shutting the Marauders out, 25-19, 25-17. And if CBA truly is the second-best boys high school volleyball team in New Jersey it seems as if nobody stands a chance against the Rams because Southern won out, 25-19, 25-19.
You can bet against Southern if you want. Hey, maybe your grandfather used to bet against the New York Yankees in the 1940s and 1950s.
— Rick Mellerup