Harrison wins first-ever Hudson County title with sweep over Bayonne
Eight years ago, when Nick Landy ascended to the head coach position on the Harrison boys’ volleyball program, it wasn’t known if the Blue Tide could win more than one match.
Now, eight years later, the Blue Tide program has come completely full circle.
Last Saturday night, Harrison defeated Bayonne, 25-13, 25-14 to capture the school’s first-ever Hudson County Tournament championship at New Jersey City University.
“It’s almost surreal,” Landy said. “It’s definitely amazing. Two of our guys, Piotr (Namiotko) and David (Penaherrera) were on the team when we lost to Bayonne in the finals two years ago. Now they got a chance to win it.”
In typical Harrison fashion, the Blue Tide surrendered the lead early on and then stormed back to win. The Blue Tide trailed, 5-0, after the first five points of the first set.
“I don’t know if it’s jitters or what,” Landy said. “It was a little scary at first there, to give them five points. But then we made our run.”
“I don’t know why that happens,” said Penaherrera, who also was a key member of the Blue Tide soccer team that won the NJSIAA Group I state championship last fall. “We lose the first few points, but then after that, we get used to playing that game and we play better. We know how we can play and then we play hard.”
Landy said that he felt some apprehension when the Blue Tide fell behind.
“I’m always crazy and nervous with the first set,” Landy said. “But once we get through that, all the weight comes off our backs.”
Landy said that Bayonne did whatever the Bees could do to handle Namiotko, who earlier in the season collected the 500th kill of the season.
“They stopped him,” Landy said of Namiotko, one of the state’s premier players. “They triple blocked him and he only had three kills.”
It meant that Penaherrera had to step it up a little.
“He had nine kills, 15 service points and seven digs,” Landy said. “The kid was all over the place for us. Once we got started, it wasn’t close.”
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Penaherrera said. “I’ve been playing volleyball for four years and this was the first time we won it. It’s special because it never happened before. That was the goal this year. We wanted to win. We all worked so hard for this. It shows that the hard work pays off.”
Landy had a sense that the Blue Tide could muster a championship-like season.
“We were in pretty good spirits coming into the season,” Landy said. “We had a lot of guys coming back with good varsity experience. We had some guys who did their work playing for club teams over the summer. We had a very good crew.”
The Blue Tide improved to 25-2 with the county championship win. The Blue Tide defeated Kearny, Dickinson and then Bayonne in the tourney.
“They were all pretty big teams and we pretty much dominated,” Landy said. “It’s the kind of season that you don’t want to end.”
It’s the best single-season record in the school’s volleyball history.
The Blue Tide hasn’t lost a match since dropping consecutive matches to Southern Regional and Fair Lawn last month.
“Those are the kinds of teams we want to play,” Landy said. “They were No. 2 and No. 3 in the state at the time. We definitely turned it on after playing those two. I think the key is that we play so well together. They keep helping each other out. We’ve made some incredible strides as a team and we’re achieving this one game at a time.”
Now that the Blue Tide has captured league and county tournament titles, they want to move onto the next challenge _ the NJSIAA state tournament.
The Blue Tide received a first round bye and will play Thursday against the winner of Dickinson and Science Park.
“A win like this definitely boosts our confidence,” Landy said. “We have to see how we can do in the states.”
Landy has traditionally taken his team to watch the NJSIAA finals every year.
“We don’t want to be spectators this year,” Landy said. “We want to be on the court with everyone watching us. I just want to keep on riding this for as long as we could.”
“It’s an amazing feeling, winning the county,” Penaherrera said. “I loved winning with the soccer team, but this is really amazing, because not a lot of people expected it.”