At a time when most teams are in the physical and mental grind of the state tournament, Harrison’s boys volleyball team got a chance to rest.
Due to earning a first round bye in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group 1 Tournament, the Blue Tide went 10 days without a match between their Hudson County final against Kearny and their first state game, a quarterfinal against Montclair Immaculate. According to Harrison head coach Nick Landy.
“I think we were a little bit beat up, a little bit tired. I think it gave our bodies a little bit of a rest,” said Landy. “That week before where we played Kearny, then McNair, North Bergen and Kearny in the Hudson County Tournament. That was like enough volleyball for two weeks. That was a lot of work. I think we were able to use that time off to help us out.”
The benefits of such a break were on display when the top-seeded Blue Tide swept Montclair Immaculate 25-16, 25-9 in the quarterfinals this past Wednesday on May 31. Two days later, Harrison knocked off NJIC rival Bergen Charter for the third time this year with a 25-17, 25-15 victory, extending its winning streak to 13.
In the two wins, Guilherme Queiroz had 16 kills, while Adrian Jimenez and Adrian Vivanco added 12 and 10 respectively. Jose De La Cruz had 38 assists with 17 digs, Anthony Narvaez added seven digs and against Bergen Charter, Luiz Silva added three kills with two blocks.
The Blue Tide, ranked No. 4 in the state, will take a 27-2 record into Wednesday’s North Jersey, Group 1 final when it hosts second-seeded Passaic Charter on Wednesday, June 7 at 4:30 p.m.
Harrison is considered the favorite to come away with a third state sectional champion and a win would send the Blue Tide to the Group 1 state final against the McNair-St. John Vianney winner on Saturday at South Brunswick High School.
But while a state championship has been one of Harrison’s goals since the start of practice, Landy isn’t ready to look ahead that far.
Said Landy, “I always tell them we have to look at the match that’s facing us, not the next match (after).”
Also, on Wednesday, Bloomfield (17-8) will be vying for a North Jersey, Group 4 title when it hosts fifth-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan.
The Bengals had one of their best performances of the season on Friday, when it swept a strong Westfield team, 25-15, 25-19 behind six kills and five blocks from sophomore middle block Desmond Comer. Senior outside hitter Esaias Edwards had six kills with five digs, Ellis Gomez-McPherson added three kills with four blocks, and Jacob Moreno chipped in 16 assists with six digs.
Two days earlier, Bloomfield outlasted West Orange, 25-17, 23-25, 25-19, as Moreno had 36 assists and Comer and Edwards added 13 and eight kills respectively.
Wednesday’s final could prove to be Bloomfield’s greatest challenge as Bridgewater-Raritan, ranked No. 11 in the state, reached the final by sweeping a Livingston team that defeated the Bengals three times this season. The winner will face the winner of the South Jersey, Group 4 final between No. 1 ranked Old Bridge and No. 3 Southern.
In North Jersey, Group 3, Kearny’s season came to an end when it suffered a 25-18, 25-18 defeat at Randolph in the quarterfinals. Nutley also saw its historic season come to an end as it lost to Ramapo, 25-21, 25-15 in the North Jersey, Group 2 quarterfinals to finish 20-5.
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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.)