From nearly start to finish, the Montclair State University Red Hawks dominated the game in every aspect, which led to a 3-0 sweep of Rutgers University-Newark Scarlet Raiders in front of a packed house at Panzer Athletic Center.
With the win, the Red Hawks will now face the top seeded Stockton Ospreys in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) semifinals. The Scarlet Raiders proved that they could not handle the Red Hawks’ dangerous offensive attack, which proved to be the difference in the game.
From the opening serve, Rutgers-Newark looked extremely strong as they kept the game close for most of the first set. However, with the score at 19-17 in favor of Montclair State, they finished the set on a 7-1 run led by no other player but senior captain Ashley Griffith. The Red Hawks won the first set, 25-18.
Griffith was honored before pregame for achieving 3,000 assists in her illustrious career. She had 10 assists in the first set alone, setting up several Red Hawk players with crucial goals late in the set. Sometimes, the setter does not get all the attention when the team is playing well.
However, Griffith noted that her position is no easy task.
“Being the quarterback of the team and team captain is pretty difficult,” Griffith said. “I’m the one who has to control the offense, but I just always have to make sure that I’m listening to my coaches so they can help me out.”
The Red Hawks continued to elevate their level of play in the second half, as a frustrated Rutgers-Newark seemed to be no match for the star power that Montclair State possessed. During the set, middle blocker Catlin Lange and outsider hitter Carly Waterman had several kills throughout the set, taking advantage of great passes from Griffith, who finished with 32 assists.
The Scarlet Raiders had a tough time scoring throughout the entire set, as they had a -0.31 percent-hitting percentage in the second set. Montclair State did a good job of limiting senior captain Cassie Luken, as she only managed one kill in the entire set. With great play on offensive and defensive, the Red Hawks crushed Rutgers-Newark in the second set, 25-4.
The third set saw the Scarlet Raiders play much better, as they kept the set very close throughout. However, the Red Hawks would flex its star power again as Waterman made her mark in this with four crucial kills down the stretch and an ace. She finished with 13 kills in the match, leading both teams. With Montclair State leading 24-22, she would score the deciding kill to give Montclair State the victory in the match.
For most of the game, the Red Hawks had the Scarlet Raiders on their toes throughout, not letting them gain much momentum throughout. Coach Eddie Stawinski credits a fantastic second set for the Red Hawks that proved to be the biggest difference in the game.
“We had a lot of nerves and jitters in that first set, but in the second set is where we really took control of the game,” Stawinski said. “When we finally calmed down, that’s when our offensive really opened up for us.”
Montclair State will have a much bigger foe coming up in the semifinals, as they face off against the Stockton Ospreys, the number one seed in the NJAC tournament. They previously defeated Montclair State 3-1, in which the Ospreys managed to dominate the game on all aspects.
Although Waterman and the rest of the team know that they will not be the favorites, fans should expect nothing less than an all-out great effort from the Red Hawks.
“We are going to go in and play our game, which is playing together with loads of energy,” Waterman said. “It might be our last game of the season, so we really got to try to give our best.”