Blue Tide volleyball squad wins school-best 19 matches
By Jim Hague
Although the Harrison High School boys’ volleyball team suffered a tough loss to Livingston in the second round of the NJSIAA state tournament Thursday afternoon, there was no shame whatsoever in Blue Tide land.
That’s because the Blue Tide won an impressive 19 matches during the course of the season, the most ever in the history of the school. They also advanced to the semifinals of the Hudson County tournament before losing to Union City and won a match in the state tourney, defeating North 13th Street Tech of Newark in the opening round.
“It really has been just an amazing season,” head coach Nick Landy said. “I told the kids the other day that most of the teams we’ve faced this season are all schools bigger than us. It’s just the way it is.”
It’s true. Harrison is a Group I school, but since many schools don’t offer boys’ volleyball in the spring, the Blue Tide has to face Group IV schools most of the time, putting them in a major disadvantage.
But that didn’t stop this hungry bunch, which was set on making history.
“We had an experienced team coming back that won 15 matches last year,” Landy said. “I knew it was going to be a competitive season. But we had a good team back.”
The leader of the group was senior Rahim Douelfakar, who ended his brilliant Harrison athletic career on a high note.
The talented Douelfakar, who also played football and basketball at the school, had a sensational senior volleyball season.
“I’ve coached him in three sports and volleyball may be his best sport,” Landy said.
Douelfakar may have to agree, after accepting a package to continue his volleyball career at Rutgers-Newark, which has a Division I volleyball program.
“Rahim hits the ball very hard,” Landy said. “I’m glad he’s going on to Rutgers-Newark, because I think it’s a good fit and he’ll be really happy there. I also think he’ll do well there.”
Landy spoke of the emotional lift Douelfakar gave his team.
“When he hits the ball, he really gets the team up,” Landy said. “He gets everyone going. It puts the other team at a disadvantage, because they don’t have anyone who can hit the ball like he can. He also does a great job blocking at the net by himself. He also serves the ball well. He really brings it to the table every time. He’s a three-sport star and he’s done a great job.”
Junior outside hitter Chris Osiecki also had a fine season for the Blue Tide.
“He’s pretty tall, so he’s able to get to a lot of balls,” Landy said. “He just knows the game so well. He has great savvy on the court. In fact, he’s always all over the court and sometimes I have to calm him down. But he does so much for the team.”
Junior Andreas Economou is another outside hitter who is also a solid hitter and ranks second on the team in service points.
Senior Facundo Barreto came over from the storied Harrison soccer team and joined the volleyball team for the first time this spring.
“Facundo was a welcome addition,” Landy said. “He has a killer serve and he led us in aces.”
Senior Bryan Costa was another newcomer from the soccer program.
“Bryan helped us out as a defender,” Landy said. “He hadn’t played in a while, but after about two or three games, he got right back into it.”
Junior Matt Muchowski is a middle hitter.
“He’s a big kid who played as a freshman, but missed all of last year with an injury,” Landy said. “He always manages to make big plays, key plays. Everyone knows he’s there.”
Junior Lucas Nogueira is the team’s libero or defensive specialist. Junior Victor Narvaez is a solid setter.
Landy gave a lot of credit to assistant coach Anthony Sabia, who did a lot of work training the players in the off-season.
“He’s very intense and knows the game,” Landy said of Sabia. “He’s a big help.”
Although the Blue Tide loses three members of the squad to graduation, Landy believes that the future looks good for the program.
“It’s looking like we’re going to be a tough team again,” Landy said. “It’s been a great year. I really don’t want it to end. These kids have been great to coach and it’s been fun to win some games.”
Landy is also the boys’ basketball coach and the Blue Tide didn’t exactly have a successful season over the winter.
“This was a nice change of pace, a different change,” Landy said. “Even the games we didn’t win, we were competitive. This was just a pleasure. It’s safe to say we have a solid program now. It’s a program builder.”