For the third time this season, the Kearny and Harrison boys volleyball teams crossed paths and while the stakes are always high when the forever rivals square off, there was an added importance knowing that only one would have another game to play after Thursday’s NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2 quarterfinals.
After another emotionally-charged contest, it was the Kardinals, seeded third, who emerged on top and lived to play another day, as they defeated sixth-seeded Harrison, 25-16, 25-23, in Kearny.
With the victory, Kearny (23-4) advances to the semifinals Wednesday when it travels to play second-seeded Union. The winner will play for the sectional title on Friday.
Harrison finishes its season at 22-7.
“We lost the first time we played them (and won the second in the Hudson County Tournament final) so it was like the rubber match,” Kearny head coach Bill Mullins said. “We knew this was going to be a tough game, Harrison is always prepared. But we were fortunate enough to get the win today.”
Mullins cited an improved balance on the offensive end as a factor in the win. In particular, it meant a big day for senior outside hitter Ethen Lugo, who recorded a match-high 10 kills, taking advantage of the extra defensive attention that fellow outside hitter William Mullins receives. Lugo’s 10 kills matched his total from the previous two Kearny-Harrison matchups combined.
“(Ethen) played very well today,” said Bill Mullins. “He played smart today and he played under control.”
William Mullins had eight kills, adding to his school single-season kills record with 268, to go with nine digs. Zackaria Abazine added four kills, Anthony Narvaez recorded nine digs and Christian Poncio dished out 25 assists.
In total, seven different Kardinals recorded at least one kill in the win.
“It’s important to mix things up because we got two good outside hitters and good middle hitters. It keeps other teams off-balanced,” Bill Mullins said. “We’re trying to get more of that and keeping it simple and under control.”
Guilherme Queiroz paced Harrison with 10 kills. Adrian Vivanco and Amaru Perales had six kills apiece with Vivanco adding eight digs. Jose De La Cruz added 22 assists.
Kearny, which defeated 14th-seeded Snyder, 25-17, 25-16, is the last remaining local team in the state tournament after the first week of play.
In North Jersey, Section 1, Belleville, the 11th seed, defeated 22nd-seeded West Orange in three sets (25-20, 19-25, 25-23) in Monday’s play-in round before losing the next day at sixth-seeded Teaneck, 17-25, 25-11, 25-16. Also, in North 1, 13th-seeded Bloomfield swept 20th-seeded Garfield (28-26, 25-23) on Monday before falling to fourth-seeded Jefferson, 25-18, 25-14.
Bloomfield finished the season 15-9 while Belleville concluded the season 14-11.
Harrison won its first round match in the North 2 Section against Elizabeth, 25-18, 27-25.
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)