Southern Regional Girls Volleyball Team Headed to Championship Match

Pinelands Team Falls in the Semifinals
Nov 08, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

The Southern Regional High School girls volleyball team has returned to its once-accustomed heights. The Rams, the two-seed in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Group 4 Tournament, beat the tourney’s six-seed, Ridgewood, in Manahawkin on Wednesday in a semifinal match to punch their ticket to Saturday’s Group championship match against top-seeded North Hunterdon.

It wasn’t easy. Ridgewood took the first set, 25-21, and led in the second, 22-16. But Southern, with sophomore sensation Stephanie Soares at the service line, went on a run and nailed down the set at 25-22. The Rams then went on to take the third set 25-20.

Gina Schiattarella led the Rams with 17 kills, followed by Kari Klimek with 10. Soares had a monster match, recording 28 assists, a team-leading 12 service points, and eight digs. Defense was the key to Southern’s amazing come-from-behind victory, with Jess Sprankle and Schiatarella each contributing nine digs while Madison Gellis added her eight to Soares’.

It will be Southern’s first trip to the finals since 2009, and if the team is successful, it would win its first Group 4 title since 2008.

Southern, now 31-4, has dealt with North Hunterdon already this season, losing in three sets back on Oct. 13. But that game was at North Hunterdon. This time around the match will be played at a neutral site, William Paterson University in Wayne, starting at 4:30 p.m.

Pinelands, playing in its first-ever NJSIAA Group 2 semifinal match (its varsity program is only five years old), fell to top seed Rutherford on Wednesday. The Wildcats came out strong, taking the first set, 26-24, and were tied at 10-10 in the second before Rutherford took over, winning that second set, 25-17, and the third, 25-13.

Senior Kayla Thornton had 18 kills for Pinelands. Brittney Houseworth had 13 digs for the ’Cats while Adrianna Dancisin contributed 11. Victoria Pickel had 26 assists while Emma Capriglione led the way at the service line with six service points, including three aces.

Pinelands, which a couple of weeks earlier had defeated Southern in the championship match of the Shore Conference Tournament, exceeded coach Kathy Bennett’s preseason expectations. She said at the time she’d love to see her squad merely reach the Group 2 quarterfinals, uncharted territory for Pinelands. It not only reached the quarterfinals, but won.

— Rick Mellerup

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