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Cougars hope recent losses prepare them for tournaments

By Jeff Appelblatt

No one ever wants to lose, but following a recent defeat to John P. Stevens High School, Colts Neck High School volleyball coach Greg Hope refused to put his head down.

“It’s not fun. I don’t like losing,” the first-year head coach said after the match in Colts Neck. “There are no excuses, [but] J.P. Stevens — that’s a good team. They’re ranked No. 10 in the state.”

The loss to the Hawks (18-7) left Hope with a positive outlook.

“This wasn’t a step backward. We’re getting better,” Hope said about his team.

The 2-0 (25-20, 25-19) loss was the fourth of the year for the Cougars, who began the season 9-0. Overall, the team looked like it was unbeatable at that point. It won eight of nine by 2-0 scores.

“Obviously, 9-0 was great. It was fun while it lasted,” the coach said. “Competition has just gotten a little bit tougher. We’re playing a lot of matches.”

Hope insisted that losing half of its next eight matches between April 24 and May 8 was going to help Colts Neck down the road in tournament play.

“Sometimes, these setbacks kind of make you realize that you are mortal,” he said. “It doesn’t take away from anything that we’ve done so far and that we could continue to do.”

He scheduled the contest with J.P. Stevens — a team that outmatched the size of Nick Panicali and Andrew Finnegan — thinking of tournament time.

“We put them on the schedule because that’s postseason right there,” Hope said about the Hawks. “That’s the type of team we’re going to see in later rounds of the Shore Conference Tournament. We’re going to see that type of caliber in the states.”

The coach hopes the wins and losses were all preparation for each of the tournaments.

“We have so much more to prove,” Hope said. “I’d rather have [a loss] be now than in the first round of the Shore Conference or in the first round of the state.”

On May 16, Hope and his team found out who they were going up against in the Shore Conference Tournament’s opening round. That match likely is going to be in Colts Neck. But no matter who the Cougars (14-4) will face, the coach said it’s up to his team to decide how long into the competition it will last.

“We control our own destiny,” Hope said.

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