Southern Regional Squeaks By Bridgewater-Raritan to Reach Volleyball State Final

Jun 06, 2017

The Bridgewater-Raritan boys volleyball team didn’t make things easy on Southern Regional High School. Nonetheless, the Rams on Tuesday found a way past the Panthers to win a grueling, 25-19, 25-27, 27-25 contest in the NJSIAA tournament semifinals at South Brunswick High School and reach their ninth straight state championship match.

“We just gutted it out,” said head coach Eric Maxwell, whose squad will play Fair Lawn in the title match on Thursday, June 8. “A lot of our guys have been in that spot before. And even though we didn’t play our best, the experience in big games and playing a tough schedule paid off for us.”

After closing out the first game with a 7-1 spurt, the Rams (38-1) worked their way to a 13-7 lead in the second game before the Panthers (23-8) rallied to tie the game at 19-19. Southern, the defending state champs, regained the lead and surged to a 24-22 advantage, but Bridgewater-Raritan scored four straight points to force a third game.

The Rams immediately jumped out to a 5-1 lead, then pushed it further at 10-6 and 18-15 before the Panthers called a timeout. Bridgewater-Raritan then went on a 4-1 spurt to tie the game at 19-19, before taking the lead, 21-20. Southern eventually knotted things up at 24 and had match point at 25-24.

“It was scary,” Maxwell said. “We got ahead in that last game, and our serving went bad. We weren’t getting any mileage out of that, and the momentum changed. But our guys stick together and don’t quit on each other, and I saw them pick each other up in that third game.”

The Panthers forced the 10th tie of the game, 25-25, but the Rams scored two straight points to reach the state final, scheduled for 5 p.m. at South Brunswick. The Cutters (28-8) knocked off Ridge, 25-11, 25-17, in Tuesday’s other semifinal. Southern will be seeking its sixth state crown.

For Southern, Brennan Davis helped lead the way with 35 assists and 13 digs, while Zack Hem delivered 13 kills and a pair of blocks, and Shane Bent banged down eight kills and mustered seven blocks. Shane Drayton added four blocks and Collin Lockwood registered 14 digs. Sam Iacoves managed 13 service points and five digs, and Matt Maxwell recorded eight digs.

“Give credit to Bridgewater-Raritan. They kept battling and made it tough for us,” Maxwell said. “We’re fortunate to get out alive, but we’ll take it.”

— David Biggy

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