Hillsborough captures second Somerset County girls volleyball championship


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The Hillsborough High School girls volleyball team showed off its dominance in the Somerset County Tournament last week to bring home its first county championship since 2016.

Hillsborough rolled past Gill’s St. Bernards in the quarterfinals, beat Bridgewater-Raritan in the semifinals, and lastly, defeated Montgomery in the Somerset County Tournament (SCT) final on Oct. 21 to win the program’s second county championship.

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“It feels great,” said Hillsborough coach Cheryl Iaione on winning the program’s second SCT championship. “It took a lot of determination. The girls really stepped up their play during a tough week to win.”

The Raiders are built strong from top to bottom, Iaione said, headlined by sophomore outside hitter Aileen Xue.

Xue has recorded 201 kills this season. The sophomore set surpassed the 200 kills mark with 15 during Hillsborough’s match against Hunterdon Central on Oct. 25. Xue also has 159 digs and 107 service points this season.

Junior Claire Marcinek and sophomore Neha Tolpadi have each stepped up their play in their second season of varsity action. Marcinek has 78 kills and leads the team with 38 aces, while Tolpadi has racked up 156 digs and 78 kills.

What steers all of the success that Hillsborough has had this season is the leadership and play from senior captains Seniors Beri Tawe, Gisele Galera and Reagan Pirog, said Iaione.

“Our leadership has been outstanding since Day 1,” she said. “It has made the biggest difference in us having a great season.”

Galera has done a “brilliant” job in her setter role for the Raiders this fall, racking up a team-high 429 assists with 85 digs and 33 aces, Iaione said.

At middle backer, Tawe is second behind Xue with 98 kills so far this season. Pirog leads the Hillsborough defense from her defensive specialist positions with a team-high 211 digs this fall.

After starting its 2022 campaign 4-4, the Raiders have won 10 of its last 13 matches to stand at 14-7 heading into its final regular season match against Watchung Hills on Oct. 27.

Hillsborough received the No. 5 seed in the upcoming NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV Tournament and are scheduled to host Plainfield in the first round on Oct. 29.

Iaione says she likes her team’s chances of making a strong run in the sectional tournament with how well they have been playing the last half of the season.

Hillsborough’s 2-0 victory over Montgomery in the SCT final is a prime example of that, said Iaione, who believes beating a good team in Montgomery for a county championship has given her Raiders a lot of confidence heading into the sectional tournament.

“The sky’s the limit for us. I think we have a good shot (at winning a sectional championship),” she said.

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