Harrison boys volleyball repeats as Hudson County champions

All season long, Nick Landy has known this year’s Harrison boys volleyball team had the on-court talent to be a championship group. The one unknown about this group was how a relatively inexperienced team would handle pressure and if it could maintain composure in the tightest of situations.

Now, Landy and the Blue Tide have the answer to the question – yes!

Facing a potential set point on six different occasions late in the second, Harrison rallied each time and, in the end, emerged with a 25-15, 32-30 victory over Hudson Catholic to repeat as Hudson County champions on Saturday in Jersey City.

“One of the things that we try to stress with them is we don’t worry about their skills as much as keeping their composure in crazy situations like that,” Landy said. “And you need to get through it so that you can learn how to deal with it.

“It’s amazing to see them really keep their composure and go out there and do the job.”

Trailing 30-29 and staring at the possibility of a decisive third set, senior Anthony Narvaez evened it at 30-all with a killer. Then, with Narvaez on serve, Yamil Espinoza’s kill gave the Blue Tide the lead. Championship point featured a critical block by Alattim DeLeon before Jeremy Rivera sent a pass to a leaping Espinoza on the left side for the clinching kill.

It is the Blue Tide’s fourth county title since 2015, but this group bears little resemblance to last year’s with Anthony Narvaez being the lone starter from the team that won a year ago.

Narvaez, a libero last season, moved to outside hitter for his senior year, led the offense with eight kills. But what separated him was his ability to be in the right spot at the right time by making key plays all over the court with 15 digs and two blocks.

Narvaez, who has taken on a bigger offensive role the last two weeks, was similarly clutch three days earlier when he had 10 kills in 19 digs in the three-set semifinals win over North Bergen.

“He comes out of nowhere sometimes and hits a ball somewhere and he just really gives us that extra effort, which I ask kids to do all the time,” said Landy. “This is where you are going to win a lot of these matches. You have to extend yourself and you gotta work hard. He seems to do that all the time.”

Espinoza had seven kills, while DeLeon and Frank Barrerra added four apiece in Saturdays’ final. Rivera dished out 25 assists and Espinoza had three aces to give Harrison its ninth win in a row.

While the first set was an easy one for the Blue Tide as they jumped out to a 14-3 lead and never looked back, the second quickly took a different turn.Hudson Catholic held a slim lead for most of the tightly contested set, which featured multiple lead changes.

“They’re definitely growing in the right direction and doing what we needed to do.We try to get them to understand that they’re a really good team, they just have to play the way they can all the time.”

Alan Santiago had 11 kills and 11 digs to pace a Hudson Catholic (19-2) team that had won its last seven games, a streak which included a three-set victory over Kearny in the semifinals.

Saturday’s win also gave the Blue Tide the extra power points needed to earn the top seed in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group 1 state tournament that begins on Thursday, leapfrogging West Caldwell Tech and defending Passaic Charter in the process.

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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.)