After posting a 15-11 record last year, the Harrison High School girls’ volleyball team had higher hopes and aspirations for this season.
With many of the key players returning, head coach Anthony Sabia had an inkling that the Blue Tide would be much more competitive this time around.
“I knew that I had basically my entire team back,” Sabia said. “We also won the Harrison summer league, so that was a good sign. The girls all worked out together all summer long, four days a week. We had a very busy summer.”
So the Blue Tide entered the 2017 regular season with a renewed sense of confidence.
“I knew we were going to be very good,” Sabia said.
But no one could have ever predicted just how good the Blue Tide would be.
The Blue Tide has exploded out to a 5-2 record in the early going, including a huge three-set victory over rival Secaucus.
It marked the first time that Harrison defeated Secaucus since 2002.
Secaucus holds the state record for most NJSIAA state championships with 21. Secaucus is to girls’ volleyball what Harrison is to boys’ soccer.
“Back then, beating Secaucus was a fluke,” Sabia said. “This time, we knew we had a pretty good shot.”
The Blue Tide lost the first game in thrilling fashion, 29-27, then won the second game in impressive fashion, 25-10, before winning the third and final game by a 25-22 margin.
“The first game, we couldn’t put it away,” Sabia said. “After the second game, we won the third game and there was almost this sense of relief that we finally had done it. It was like the monkey on our back was finally lifted. I was sick and tired of losing to them. They were on the winning end too many times. Now, we don’t have to talk about Secaucus anymore.”
The Blue Tide has also defeated Wallington, Ridgefield, Bergen Charter and North Arlington, while dropping a straight set match to state-ranked Hudson Catholic last Saturday.
Harrison lost earlier in the season to Dwight-Englewood School, also in straight sets.
“We played pretty well against Dwight-Englewood, then we came right back after that loss and beat Secaucus,” Sabia said. “It was a big goal for us.”
Leading the way for the Blue Tide is senior Madison Lucas, who has been the team’s starting setter for the last three seasons.
“She’s a good team leader,” said Sabia of Lucas, who is the daughter of all-time great Harrison legend Ray Lucas, the former Jet quarterback and now famed TV and radio football analyst. “She’s improved as a setter. She looks to bring everyone together. She has a lot of intangibles that helps this team.”
Senior Alyssa DaSilveira is the team’s libero. Being a libero is a thankless job with not a lot of glory. The libero is the defensive specialist who doesn’t get much chance to be involved with the attack.
“She knows how to sacrifice her body,” Sabia said. “She puts in the hard minutes. She plays such a valuable role with our team.”
DaSilveira had 21 digs in the win over Secaucus.
Senior Chelsea Ramos is the team’s outside hitter.
“She really has a strong serve,” Sabia said. “She does not get rattled at all. She goes after the ball fearlessly. She’s very athletic.”
Senior Jailyn Montilla is another outside hitter.
“She was injured halfway through last year and basically was never the same player again,” Sabia said. “But Jailyn has stepped in this year and done a marvelous job. She likes to step up and play the big point.”
Senior Jacqueline Mulrenan is the team’s middle hitter.
“She’s strong around the net,” Sabia said. “Every year, she keeps making strides to get better. She’s always trying to improve.”
Mulrenan had a big kill on match point against Secaucus.
“When she gets a set, she can move the ball around and sees the court very well,” Sabia said.
Senior Julia Farkas is another middle hitter.
“She’s become more consistent this year,” Sabia said. “She’s improved on getting balls in play. She’s making more positive plays. She also can hit it hard. She’s a good finisher when she’s needed to be.”
Kierrah Lucas, another senior, is the team’s opposite hitter. Lucas, a cousin to Madison Lucas, is a three-sport athlete at Harrison, so she’s constantly on the go.
“She’s definitely very athletic,” Sabia said. “She dives on the floor and gets to balls. She also has a very big jump serve that she hits hard. She can score some deep points.”
Senior Brianna Martino is the team’s super sub.
“I sub her in to serve and she plays the back row,” Sabia said. “She has a consistent serve. She picks up (service) aces all the time. It’s nice to know that I have someone to hit consistent serves. It’s a nice weapon to have.”
Sabia is hopeful that the winning ways can continue.
“We like to think we have a shot at winning the league,” Sabia said. “That will also help is in the (Hudson) county seeding. We hope that these kinds of wins help us. We hope that it carries us.”
The Harrison girls’ volleyball team, pictured here, owns a 5-2 record in the early going. Front row, from left, are Kierrah Lucas, Brianna Martino, Julia Farkas, Alyssa DaSilveira, Layla Barakat and Angie Espinoza. Back row, from left, are Karolayn Gutierrez, Chelsea Ramos, Madison Lucas, Jacqueline Mulrenan, Jailyn Montilla, Angelique Estremera, Beatriz Barros and team manager Catia Alves. Photo courtesy of Anthony Sabia