The Montclair State women’s volleyball team added to their stellar performance against U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on Saturday with a 3-0 sweep against Stevens Institute of Technology later that day. The win gave them an undefeated 2-0 record at the Montclair State tri-match and improved their record to 3-2 on the season.
“We worked really hard in practice and scouting reports getting prepared for these two teams,” head coach Eddie Stawinski said. “They were not easy teams at all so it’s good that we were able to play this higher level of volleyball right away. I’m very happy with the outcome today.”
Both teams came off strong in the first set. Although Stevens went up 4-5, sophomore middle blocker Victoria Tennon kept the Red Hawks in the game with three kills early in the set. Sophomore outside hitter and current New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Player of the Week, Carly Waterman, had a stellar performance as usual with 12 kills. After the kills by Tennon, Waterman brought the Red Hawks back a bit with an ace and a service run.
Montclair State continued to trail shortly behind Stevens well into the set, but kept up a great fight with back row attacks from Waterman as well as a few kills from senior middle blocker Caitlin Lange.
Freshman libero Maddie Valko kept the Red Hawks defense tight with some strong ups, and Montclair State was up 22-20 after an ace from Waterman. A few errors by Stevens and great communication by the Red Hawks allowed the team to take the set 25-22.
Senior middle blocker Jillian Wilson, who had seven kills in the game, talked about how the the team’s success is due to their ability to bond.
“I feel like this team has a lot of great chemistry and we’re able to have fun and get through those difficult positions,” Wilson said. “With previous teams that was a little harder and I feel like just the chemistry we have here has been amazing.”
The team took care of Stevens a bit easier in the second set, which was full of amazing blocks and digs that kept the Red Hawks on top of Stevens. A kill by Wilson at 7-7 brought the momentum for Montclair State as they went on to go up 14-7 with Waterman on a service run. The ball went right back to the Red Hawks with a serving error by Stevens, as junior setter Megan O’Rourke kept feeding perfect sets to her hitters. She totaled 31 assists in the match. After increasing the lead to 21-12, Wilson and O’Rourke completed a block to keep Stevens from getting any more points and Montclair State won the set 25-18.
Stawinski talked about Montclair State’s strengths throughout the game.
“I think our blocking was very good,” Stawinski said. “It might not show in the stats that there was a lot of blocks for points, but we did a very good job of recognizing their hitters as they have a very good offense.”
Stawinski further discussed what he thought was the turning point of the match.
“A lot of defense that we play is actually the block doing its job touching the ball and slowing it down,” Stawinski said. “We were able to do that and that was the turning point of the match.”
The third and final set proved to be the most exciting, with an intense last few minutes.
A kill from Wilson and sophomore outside hitter Leah Higgins brought the team to 11-7. The Red Hawks kept gaining momentum after outside hitter Sierra Herbert aced Stevens. After a Waterman kill, the set started to get a bit tight as Stevens caught up. The Red Hawks kept on top with another kill from Waterman and the set was at 21-20.
Wilson commented on why the Red Hawks still delivered despite some setbacks.
“We have really fantastic defensive specialists and outside hitters that are able to pass the ball,” Wilson said. “We had some ridiculous ups, it was really entertaining to watch when I wasn’t on the court and when I was on the court.”
Junior outside hitter Sarah Gonczlik was serving as Higgins continued to add kills and attacks, but the game was still going back and forth between the two teams. A kill from Lange brought the set to match point, and a block from her ended the match, 25-23.
“It looks stressful from the outside, but we were prepared for it,” Stawinski said. “Like I say to the girls, everybody from 1-17 can contribute. The girls are in control of the match and what happens on the court.”
The Red Hawks will continue to try and keep their home win streak against Mount St. Mary College on Saturday, Sept. 14.