Pinelands Regional Leading Strong Southern Ocean County Girls Volleyball Teams

4-0 Wildcats Win Tournament and Defeat Last Year’s Nemesis
Sep 13, 2017

The Pinelands Regional High School Wildcat girls volleyball team has had a perfect 2017 season so far. The girls not only were 4-0 in dual match play as the sun set on Monday evening, but also hadn’t lost a single set. Toss in a championship performance at the 25-team Moorestown Tip-Off Tournament on Saturday and a victory over Jackson Liberty on Monday and it is safe to say Pinelands is firing on all cylinders – and we’re talking a V-8 engine.

The ’Cats opened their season last Wednesday at Washington Township and came away with a 25-20, 25-19 win. Senior outside hitter Carly Jannsch – get used to seeing that name – led the way with nine kills, 17 service points including nine aces, and a dozen digs. Junior outside hitter/middle blocker Kayla Thornton also racked up big numbers with 12 kills, six service points and two aces, two digs and two blocks. Jessie Rising, a senior setter, recorded 24 assists, two aces and three digs.

Pinelands took to the road again the next day, visiting Toms River North, and won 25-18, 25-18. Jannsch had seven kills, 11 service points, two aces, 10 digs and a block. Thornton contributed 13 kills, three service points, eight digs and three blocks while Rising had 19 assists. Junior middle blocker/right hitter Alexa Houston made her presence known at the net with four blocks.

Lakewood provided the opposition for Friday’s home opener. The ’Cats rolled to a 25-18, 25-13 victory. Jannsch – we warned you – had eight kills, five service points including two aces, and six digs while Thornton recorded five kills, seven digs, four service points and an ace. Senior libero Jillian Williams racked up nine digs. Coach Kathy Bennett was able to give significant playing time to her bench, and it responded. For example, junior Victoria Pickel, the team’s backup setter, contributed nine assists, five service points including two aces, and four digs.

The Wildcats didn’t have much time to rest before they headed off to Moorestown on Saturday morning, but the quick turnover didn’t put a crimp in their style.

The rather unusual tournament does away with the traditional best-out-of-three-sets structure and instead plays 18-minute timed sets with no cap on the score. Pinelands opened up with a 29-18 win over St. Joseph’s (Hammonton) in the first round and defeated Absegami, 26-16, in the next. The girls then beat Montgomery, 28-21, to set up the championship match against a familiar foe, B South rival Donovan Catholic. Pinelands prevailed, 22-20.

Jannsch was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Rising was tagged as a tourney all-star.

As nice as the tournament title must have been, the win over Jackson Liberty on Monday evening may have felt even better. The Lions were Pinelands’ nightmare in 2016, beating the Wildcats four times, including in the second round of the Shore Conference Tournament. But this time around, Pinelands not only won, but dominated, 25-18, 25-11.

Jannsch and Thornton recorded big numbers as usual, with the former posting five kills, nine service points, three aces, a block and a dozen digs while the latter had 10 kills, three service points and six digs. Rising had 14 assists. Tiffany Papa, a junior defensive specialist, contributed nine digs. Cierra Seals, a junior right hitter, was a force at the service line with her dozen service points, including three aces.

The team will have a couple of important B South matches in the coming days, hosting Barnegat on Thursday and visiting Donovan Catholic next Monday.

Pinelands isn’t the only Southern Ocean County girls volleyball team to get off to a hot start this season. Like Pinelands, Southern Regional has been perfect – if not as busy – going 2-0 without losing a set.

On Thursday, the Rams absolutely crushed Marlboro in their home opener, 25-9, 25-9. The scoring at the net was well distributed with junior Kari Klimek leading the way with five kills while senior Lauren Cruse and junior Sarah Gildea each added three and seniors Cali Modri and Jenna Kulinski and sophomore Gianna Schiattarella contributed two each. There’s a very good reason for what seems to be an unusually low kill total – junior defensive specialist Zoe Deakyne racked up an amazing 18 service points, including four aces.

On Friday, the Rams visited Toms River South and came away with another easy victory, 25-14, 25-19. Modri led the scoring at the net with eight kills while Cruse and Klimek each added four. But Southern once again had a great day at the service line, with junior Jess Sprankle accounting for 13 service points while Gildea had nine, including four aces. Koeppen had a good all-around game with 16 assists, nine digs, a block and six service points, one of which was an ace.

Barnegat got into the fun on Friday when its team visited Manchester and came away with a convincing 25-12, 25-17 victory. Get used to this mega-syllable name – Veronica Tikhomirova. The freshman outside hitter made an immediate impression in her very first match, with a team-leading seven kills and a team-best 10 digs, not to mention four service aces.

Unfortunately the Bengals couldn’t keep up Southern Ocean County’s momentum on Monday, dropping their home opener to Toms River North, 17-25, 9-25.

— Rick Mellerup

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