With the lack of a true star on the court Harrison head coach Nick Landy knew this year’s team was going to require everyone to be on the same page and contributing in order for the Blue Tide to reach their potential.

Now, at the most important time of the year, that chemistry and overall team play is the best it’s been all season.

After a trio of convincing state tournament victories, Harrison, now 26-4, has won 12 of its last 13 matches heading into the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group 1 final, which was set for Monday, June 3, after The Observer’s deadline, against West Caldwell Tech.

Monday’s winner will play for the overall Group 1 state title on Wednesday at South Brunswick High School.

“I think we really found our way after we won the Hudson County Tournament,” Landy said. “I think that was the best volleyball we played all year. I think we really figured it out. Everybody was involved and that’s what happens.”

The proof is in the box score as Harrison has had a different leader in kills each of its state tournament games.

In its 25-12, 25-17 first round win over Science Park, it was Frank Barrera, who led the way with six kills. In the quarterfinals against Technology, Yamil Espinoza had a team-high seven kills in the 25-17, 25-15 victory.

The greatest example of that balance came in the 25-14, 25-13 victory over Paterson Charter in the semifinals on Friday when Espinoza and Anthony Narvaez had five kills apiece and both Alattim DeLeon and David Renderos added four apiece.

“We’re a team of players, not stars,” Landy said. “That’s what makes us better is that we don’t have just one guy to rely on. We rely on everybody.”

For the season, four different Blue Tide players have 100 kills, led by Espinoza’s 163.

“I think Yamil surprises people because he’s not a big kid,” said Landy. “He doesn’t look like he’s the type of player he is. But when we need him to play, he plays and that helps us a lot.”

Espinoza’s bigger role in the offense has allowed Narvaez to play more of an all-around game, in which he excels at.

Thirty-three of Narvaez’s team-high 205 digs have come in the state tournament.

“(Narvaez) just makes plays and plays wherever he is needed,” Landy said of Narvaez, a starting libero last year. “He just gets the job done wherever he is. He can play wherever we need him on the court, which is awesome. When he’s on fire and he’s hot, we’re hot.”

Monday presents an opportunity for Harrison to “right a wrong” that’s been in their consciousness for 12 months. Last year, the Blue Tide were heavy favorites when they got upset by Passaic Charter in a game that Landy called a dark moment for the program.

Unlike last year, where Passaic Charter was an unknown program that relied heavily on basketball players, there’s a much greater familiarity with West Caldwell Tech, which has been a part of Harrison’s Summer League in recent years.

Harrison won’t be the same heavy favorite against a 24-6 West Caldwell Tech team, and this time the Blue Tide know what it will take to be champs.

“We just got guys that have to step up and get the job done,” said Landy. “Nothing’s easy, we tell them all the time. Nothing is easy from here on out so we got to really play hard and play well together.”

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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 (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)