On a blustery, early afternoon at Panzer Gym, a vital early season matinee was brewing. The matchup featured the visiting Mount St. Mary’s Knights and their intense defensive philosophy against the home team Montclair State University Red Hawks and their potent offensive attack.
Montclair State started out with a large lead, scoring 10-0 in the first half due to their incredibly aggressive offense. The Red Hawks relied on their height advantage and athleticism with their talented hitters and blockers, such as freshman middle blocker Gianna Arias, junior outside hitter Siyara Herbert and senior outside hitter Schyler White.
Despite the attempts of Mount St. Mary’s valiant defensive players Klaire Wall and Jenny Picarillo, the velocity of the sets and attacks ricocheted at top speeds and were too much to defend. At this point, the outcome was in favor of Red Hawks as they coasted through to win the opening set 25-19.
To open the second set, Montclair State started with all engines firing. This time it was the vertical game that was really clicking. Well-coordinated passes and sets by junior setter Megan O’Rourke created a 10-0 lead for the Red Hawks. Every time Mount St. Mary’s took a step forward with scoring by their top scorers, Montclair State took three steps ahead each time, scoring 25 points in order to seize victory in set two, while only giving up nine points.
All of the momentum was with the Red Hawks to start set three, but with momentum comes pressure. Montclair State was able to start fast and furious, gathering a quick 5-2 lead with great sets and attacks. The Red Hawks were able to feed on the ineptitude of scoring by the Knights offense and gathered their lead to 16-2.
However, a cornered athlete is a dangerous one, and this was shown with a furious rally as the Knights offense finally woke up. Scorers for Mount St. Mary’s, such as sophomore middle hitter Danielle Guarasci, cut the deficit to 16-10 quite quickly, showing extreme resilience.
Still, the Red Hawks scoring surge resumed, making it 21-10. Mount St. Mary’s was having an issue scoring all afternoon due to the strength and athleticism of the Montclair State offensive line. On the other hand, Mount St. Mary’s was able to attack from the sides, crippling the offensively-oriented Montclair State frontline into mistakes that costed points and cut the deficit to 21-14 for the Knights. A wide set by the Knights made the score 23-14 Montclair State.
With the crowd on an excited edge, Mount St. Mary’s refused to capitulate. The Knights got a good serve that caught the Red Hawks off-guard, which got them to 15 points. Despite this, the Red Hawks’ frontline did its job, getting the Montclair State a point closer to victory.
The next serve went across the middle and was hit a few times by a few Red Hawks and went to Wall on Mount St. Mary’s. Wall made a mistake, but this one costed the most. A bump that ricocheted wide and hit the outside of the net, took a bounce and harmlessly fell to the court, gave Montclair State the victory and a 5-2 record as Mount St. Mary’s fell to a 3-6 record.
Montclair State’s offensive play was spectacular and will help carry the Red Hawks this season in their quest for a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship.
Head coach for the Red Hawks Eddie Stawinski commented on the team’s win and how he thought his team played.
“Our team played well, but there is a lot obviously we can work on early in this season,” Stawinski said. “We played good offensively and defensively against a good team, but we can improve.”
Clearly the talent is visible and prominent. Only time will tell if Arias, Herbert and White will carry the Red Hawks to a NJAC championship.