Rising Reaches 1,000-Assist Mark for Pinelands Volleyball Team

But Squad’s Great Week Ends With Tough Loss
Sep 20, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

If only The SandPaper were to go to the printer on Mondays instead of Tuesdays.

If that were the case we could report that the Pinelands Regional High School girls volleyball team had one of the finest weeks in the four years of its existence and had a foot up in the B South title race.

The first remains true. The second, however, at least temporarily, can’t be said.

On Sept. 11 the Wildcats slew their Goliath, Jackson Liberty, a team that had beaten them four times in 2016. It wasn’t even close, with Pinelands prevailing, 25-18, 25-11.

Senior outside hitter Carly Jannsch, fresh off of a Most Outstanding Player performance that led Pinelands to a championship in the previous Saturday’s Tip Off Tournament in Moorestown, led the way against Jackson Liberty, recording five kills, nine service points, three aces, a block and a dozen digs while junior outside hitter/middle blocker Kayla Thornton posted 10 kills, three service points and six digs. Senior setter Jessie Rising set everything up with 14 assists while Tiffany Papa, a junior defensive specialist, contributed nine digs and junior right hitter Cierra Seals was a force at the service line with her dozen service points, three of which were aces.

Pinelands coach Kathy Bennett downplayed the win, saying Jackson Liberty isn’t the team it was last year despite retaining two outstanding middle blockers.

“They lost their setter and two outside hitters (to graduation),” said Bennett.

That said, the Lions, who had a 5-1 record as of Tuesday, remain a force in a tough B South Shore Conference division.

The next day the Wildcats visited Point Pleasant Beach and toyed with the Garnet Gulls, much as a cat would with a mouse, winning 25-10, 25-15. Thornton was the dominant player with three kills, 11 service points including six aces, and three blocks. Junior setter Victoria Pickel had 11 assists.

Where was Rising, who has been the four-year-old team’s setter since day one? Well, she was acting as a hitter, scoring three kills, as Bennett took the opportunity against an inferior opponent (1-5 as of Tuesday) to give her bench playing time. But that was only part of the reason she wasn’t setting.

Rising, you see, was approaching 1,000 assists. Bennett wanted her to reach that milestone at home on Thursday against Barnegat.

She did, recording 16 assists, three kills, three service points, two aces and four digs to lead her team to a 25-16, 25-16 win over the visiting Bengals. It was her sixth assist that led to a magic moment as play was halted so her achievement could be recognized on court before an approving crowd.

Rising was a distributing machine that day, getting the entire team involved in the offense, with seven girls recording kills. That’s a key to Pinelands’ success.

After the match Rising reflected on her four years with the team.

“We started off rough,” she said of the team’s inaugural season on 2014. “It was really bad; nobody had confidence.”

Actually, Pinelands had a modicum of success that year, going 9-14. Since then Pinelands has been a winner, going 17-8 in 2015 and 17-9 last year and getting off to a great start in 2017. So the team and Rising now have plenty of confidence.

“I trust my hitters. I can set anybody,” she said.

The next day Rising and Co. hosted Central Regional and Bennett had another chance to give her entire roster playing time considering the Golden Eagles are only 2-5. So while the usual suspects recorded decent numbers – Jannsch had seven kills, nine service points, four aces and seven digs; Thornton has six kills, four service points, two digs and a block; Rising had 13 assists, four service points and five digs – somewhat less familiar names racked up impressive numbers. Papa led the team in digs with 10 while Seals was the day’s hotshot at the service line with 12 service points including two aces. Emma Capriglione, a sophomore outside hitter/middle blocker, had six kills and two blocks; Kati Coverdale, a junior defensive specialist had eight digs.

Over the weekend Pinelands won its second tourney of the young season, taking the Morris Knolls Tournament crown after defeating Kinnelon, 25-23, in a single-set final.

So Pinelands went into Monday’s road match against Donovan Catholic with a 7-0 dual match record and with two tournament trophies. But Bennett knew her girls would be challenged considering the Griffins, too, were undefeated in dual match play. And, although Pinelands had defeated Donovan Catholic in the finals of the Tip Off Tournament the ’Cats had fallen to the Griffins in earlier pool play.

It started off promising for Pinelands, 25-16 well in the first set! But DC, like a DC Comics superhero, fought back and took the second, 25-22, and the third, 25-21, handing Pinelands its first loss of the 2017 season.

Jannsch and Thornton had their usual great matches, with the former recording 15 kills, 11 service points, three aces and nine digs while the latter added 21 kills, nine service points, 11 blocks and a dozen digs. Rising contributed 31 assists and 13 digs and Jillian Williams, a senior libero, led the team in digs with 18.

It looks as if the B South race is going to be a humdinger this fall considering Donovan Catholic remains undefeated in dual match play while Pinelands and Jackson Liberty have only one loss each. Don’t count Pinelands out quite yet considering the next time the Wildcats play the Griffins on Oct. 6 Pinelands will be playing at home in front of its fans.

“We have the best fans,” said Rising. She and her team originally played in front of empty bleachers but now fill them with every home match.

— Rick Mellerup



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