Southern Regional Volleyball Team Has Clearer Road to Sixth Championship

May 31, 2017

The road to the Southern Regional High School boys volleyball team’s sixth state title got less bumpy last week. The Rams, the defending state champs, easily won their first- and second-round matches in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association South Jersey Tournament. Southern, the tourney’s top seed, crushed Collingswood, the 16th-seed, 25-12, 25-8 on Tuesday and manhandled eighth-seeded Cinnaminson, 25-8, 25-17 on Thursday.

Southern coach Eric Maxwell emptied his bench against Collingswood, with 16 players figuring on the score sheet. The usual suspects were there, including setter Brennan Davis and his dozen assists and five digs, libero Matt Maxwell with seven assists and five service points, and right side Collin Lockwood and middle Shane Bent, who recorded seven and five kills respectively. But backup setter Dale Mury also figured prominently with nine assists, and Matt Jones, a defensive specialist, chipped in with 13 service points.

Southern’s starters played a larger role against Cinnaminson, with Davis notching 21 assists and nine service points, Lockwood leading the team with seven kills and Maxwell contributing nine digs and nine service points. Sophomore outside hitter Zach Hem also had a significant impact with his six kills.

The easy Ram victories were to be expected because highly seeded teams seldom make an early-round exit in the state playoffs. The one- and two-seeds in the South Jersey, North 1 and North 2 sectional tournaments all won their first- and second-round matches in straight sets.

The situation, though, was much different in the Central Jersey Tournament. second-seed, Old Bridge, fell in three sets to J.P. Stevens, the seventh-seed, in the second round. And, most significantly for Southern, the Central top seed, undefeated Hunterdon Central, was upset by eighth-seeded Hillsborough in three sets, also in the second round.

Hunterdon Central had pinned the Rams, now 35-1, with their only loss of their 2017 season back on May 13 while playing in the Super Six Showcase. It had been expected the two teams would meet again in the State semifinals, set for June 6 at South Brunswick High School.

Southern won’t get its chance for revenge, but a clearer road to yet another state title has to somewhat make up for that disappointment. —R.M.

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