Pinelands Regional Sets Itself Up for a B South Girls Volleyball Title

An Emotional Win Over Donovan Catholic Sets the Table
Oct 11, 2017

The Pinelands Regional High School girls volleyball team was having a fine season on Friday as it prepared to host Donovan Catholic. The Wildcats had racked up an impressive 15-1 record and had clawed their way into the statewide-but-North-Jersey-centric Top 20 rankings while the Griffins, also a Top 20 squad, came into the match with a 15-2 record.

The problem for Pinelands, and what made a win so important for the home team, was the fact that Pinelands’ only loss had been to Donovan Catholic, which meant the visitors, who had been perfect in divisional play, had a step up on the ’Cats in the Shore Conference B South race.

Pinelands won the first set but was down 21-22 in the second when senior Carly Jannsch came to the serving line. The ’Cats definitely didn’t want to let the Griffins back into the match.

A couple of Donovan Catholic fans were told this high-flying jump-server was the last Pinelands girl they wanted to see at the line. They quickly turned around and, in unison, responded, “Oh, we know that.”

Jannsch, who had been extremely vocal in team huddles all day, didn’t disappoint the home crowd.

A kill by junior Cierra Seals notched the score, and Donovan took a time out. It didn’t stop the Wildcats’ momentum – junior Kayla Thornton put her team ahead with a beautifully placed hard smash into the left corner and then followed up with another one through a block, making it 24-22 Pinelands. Jannsch put the game and match away with a service ace.

Afterward Jannsch was asked if she just knew Donovan Catholic was never going to get the serve again as she took the ball when her team was down one.

“Yes, sir, I did,” she answered. “I’m not usually like that, but I was so excited.”

Actually she was still excited, the remnants of tears of joy still glistening on her face.

So were her teammates, her coaches and her fans. The win, after all, tied Donovan Catholic at the top of the B South standings, potentially setting up the Wildcats for at least a tie for the first crown of any sort in the program’s short, four-year career.

Jannsch was certainly an inspirational leader for Pinelands, with her 16 digs, eight service points including two aces, two assists and four kills. But she had plenty of help. Thornton had 11 kills, four blocks and four service points of her own, one of which was an ace. Emma Capriglione was a monster at the net with eight blocks and two kills; Tiffany Papa had eight digs. Seals contributed seven digs, three service points, a block, an assist and two kills, one of which was the all-important one that tied the second set at 22. Setter Jessie Rising had a great all-around game, recording 15 assists, five service points and two aces, three digs and a kill.

The rest of the Pinelands B South schedule will start with an Oct. 10 visit to Manchester to play a 2-10 team they easily handled at home, 25-15, 25-15, earlier this campaign. Two days later the ladies will visit Jackson Liberty. The ’Cats beat the Lions 25-18, 25-11 on Sept. 11, but Jackson Liberty isn’t a creampuff if an 11-3 record is to be believed. A different pride of lions – from Lacey – will visit the Pinelands campus on Oct. 16. These Lions are 6-7 and were mauled by the Wildcats in their first meeting, 25-16, 25-20.

Meanwhile, Donovan Catholic will face Jackson Liberty on Oct. 10, a 6-7 Barnegat team on the 12th, and Manchester four days later.

A couple of things could mess up the Pinelands B South season, with the first being a letdown after their exciting win on Friday and the second being overconfidence. But in all likelihood, both of those things are off the table after a disappointing performance at an out-of-conference tri-match at Williamstown on Saturday.

The girls dropped two matches, one to a tough, 13-3 Williamstown team, 22-25, 25-23, 24-26. The other loss, though, was the real surprise, with the Wildcats losing to a 2-8 Paramus team, 22-25, 11-25.

The letdown has already been suffered; any overconfidence is surely gone.

That doesn’t mean the Pinelands girls will suffer from a lack of confidence once they get back on track. They showed that “we can still win even if we are in a deep hole” spirit against Donovan Catholic.

Pinelands was down 3-9 in the first set. The girls were still down, 8-12, when they went on a run, taking a 13-12 lead. Donovan Catholic tied it at 13, but the Griffins would never lead again in the set, with Pinelands prevailing, 25-17.

The Griffins had leads of 6-1, 7-2, 9-5, 10-6, 13-9, 15-11, 17-13 and 18-14 in the second set. But, as noted earlier, Donovan Catholic’s last lead was 22-21 before Jannsch took over at the line and Thornton took over at the net.

How confident were the Wildcats? Let’s put it this way – in both sets Donovan Catholic called numerous time outs as Pinelands scratched its way back from fairly deep deficits. But in the second set, despite trailing almost throughout, Pinelands head coach Kathy Bennett never once signaled for a stop in play.

That should tell you about this team’s character.

— Rick Mellerup

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