By Warren Rappleyea
South Brunswick High School’s girls’ volleyball team has reeled off three straight victories following its season-opening loss to Old Bridge High School before falling to Mother Seton Regional High School Sept. 16.
The Lady Vikings return several key players from last year’s 9-11 squad, and second-year coach Kacy Kelly acknowledged that expectations are higher this time around.
“We’re still working on building our chemistry, but we have a deep team with 13 excellent players,” said Kelly, a former Lady Vikings player herself. “With that many good players, we want to keep our energy up and play hard for every point.”
South Brunswick may have been a tad nervous for against Old Bridge, which is traditionally a strong team. Kelly’s team bounced back with a strong performance in a 2-0 (25-22, 25-9) win against North Brunswick Township High School, as sophomore Brianna Newsom made six kills and added three digs and a block, while Dakota Apicella pitched in with five kills and five digs.
A solid all-around team effort helped the Lady Vikings down John P. Stevens High School, 2-0 (25-13, 25-21), Sept. 13 and two days later, South Brunswick picked up a big 2-1 (25-21, 16-25, 26-24) triumph over Colonia, a team that had defeated Old Bridge. Kelly Matuszewski had a big day with 11 kills and 14 digs, and setter Lindsay Szucs piled up 21 assists to go with six digs.
Kelly’s team fell behind in the first set to Mother Seton and was unable to catch up before losing a tight second set, 20-25.
“Sometimes it seems the girls don’t realize how good they are,” the coach said. “In some ways as a team, we’re learning how to win. The girls are starting to get more confidence, and they’re beginning to learn how to shake off errors.”
The 5-foot-8 Matuszewski is on pace to surpass the 79 kills and 91 digs she compiled a year ago. The junior outside hitter has the ability to take over a match and score from anywhere on the court. Middle blocker Jaime Klemas is also a force. Last fall, she made 83 kills and 14 blocks.
The versatile Apicella, a co-captain, can play any position and excels on the back row. She posted 39 kills and 61 digs last season. Nina Trach, also a co-captain, is a defensive force at libero. A three-year starter, Trach led the team with 296 digs as a junior.
Szucs is back as the setter, where she had 190 assists and 61 digs in 2015. Versatile Danielle Petersen backs up Szucs and also rotates through the lineup. Seniors Olivia Gonzalez, Leannah Hunter, Samantha Knehr and Serena Ruggerio all play key roles.
Olivia Violante, a junior, is rounding into form after recovering from a knee injury to give the Lady Vikings another dependable libero. Junior Sariyah Muschette and Newsom are making their marks as outside hitters.
“The girls are playing well, and a few more wins will help them,” Kelly said. “A little confidence goes a long way.”
South Brunswick will have plenty of chances with four matches set for this week. The Lady Vikings were to host Perth Amboy High School Sept 21 and were scheduled to be back at home for three matches Sept. 21 and 22 against Edison High School and East Brunswick High School, respectively, and Sept. 24 when Montgomery High School comes to visit.
Meanwhile, on the gridiron, South Brunswick bounced back from its three-point season-opening loss to Old Bridge with a 21-7 success against New Brunswick High School.
The Vikings took a 14-0 lead into the second half, as quarterback Josh Liao scored on runs of 5 and 7 yards. Liao connected with Anthony Blakey for a 10-yard scoring pass in the third quarter to provide insurance points.
Liao completed eight of 14 passes for 74 yards and also ran for 33 yards. Jayvon Palmer picked up 49 yards on the ground and Justin Shorter added another 40 yards. The Vikings defense stymied the Zebras for most of the night, but a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Jabree Jeffrey to Kadas Reams spoiled the shutout bid.
In North Brunswick, the Raiders fell in their football home-opening contest to Colonia High School. The visitors were up, 14-0, at the half and put the game out of reach with three consecutive touchdowns after the break. Ibe Allah and sophomore quarterback Christian Petrillo scored late touchdowns for the Raiders. Petrillo ended the evening with 70 rushing yards. He also completed three of five passing attempts.
On the soccer field, North Brunswick’s boys have allowed just one goal in compiling a 3-0-1 mark.
The Raiders are coming off a 1-1 tie against John F. Kennedy Memorial High School Sept. 17. Hamza Kahn scored the lone North Brunswick goal, and Pawel Dzielski turned aside five shots.
On Sept. 15, Dzielski and Carlos Sorto combined to shut out Carteret High School, 4-0. Bruno Andino, Kevin Cardona, Jeffrey Montoya and Chris Scariano all scored in the win.
Sam Mikhailov scored twice and Dzielski stopped five shots Sept. 13, as the Raiders downed South Plainfield High School. Isa Aguilar scored the lone goal Sept. 8 against Sayreville War Memorial High School in a 1-0 victory, with Dzielski making five saves.