April 25, 2014 at 4:40 AM
LIVINGSTON, NJ – Belleville, Livingston’s most fierce rival arrived at The Fitness and Wellness Center on Thursday looking to avenge an earlier season loss. With the matches between the schools usually close—players and coaches seem to turn up the intensity a few notches whenever the teams meet. Thursday’s match was no exception.
Livingston (10-3) has defeated Belleville each of the last two years in the Essex County Tournament Final—something the Buccaneers do not look upon fondly. The Lancers defeated Belleville in three hard-fought games.
The Lancers opened up in Game 1 with some deft passing by senior setter David Shulman. He helped senior outside hitter Mike Cheng compile several kills during the opening game. Livingston took the first game, 25-20, and it was close throughout.
But Belleville, delayed to the match with some bus trouble, was not going back home without a fight. The Buccaneers kept finding their All-Conference outside hitter P.J. Gencarelli—and he did not disappoint. He earned points from both the front row and back row, with Belleville taking the second game, 25-16, to set up a third and deciding game.
In Game 3, Livingston jumped out to a seemingly comfortable 13-7 lead. However, it soon seemed like the Lancers had lost their edge, and Belleville closed the gap to 13-12. A timeout by Coach Partelow calmed down the team, and they never gave up the lead.
Junior outside hitter Jason Levine was dominant throughout the final game, compiling six kills and two blocks in the third game alone. However, keeping the score close—Belleville would not go away. Levine then finished off Belleville with his ninth and final kill of the day.
Shulman led the Lancers with 31 assists and he kept everyone involved. After the match, Shulman, playing on Varsity for the second year stated, “It was a good conference win for us, but we still need to be more consistent on both offense and defense.”
Mike Cheng led the team with 11 kills, followed by Levine’s 9. Sophomore middle E.J. Okopie and senior opposite hitter Jay Schaefer chipped in with five kills and two blocks apiece. Junior middle blocker Mikey Thompson added four kills.
On the defensive front, there were many key contributors. Junior Matt Brown had several tough digs and kept the ball alive many times. He tallied a team-high 12 digs. Sophomore Jack Rulka added 10 digs and junior libero Kevin Cheng had eight.
On Friday, Livingston will host no. 2 ranked Bridgewater-Raritan at 4:30 pm. This will be a stern test for the Lancers.
And, to close out the week, the Lancer Invitational will take place on Saturday, April 26, starting at 9:00 a.m. The tournament should last until late in the afternoon. There will be 20 teams participating including 10 that are ranked in the state top 20. Admission is free and there will be a full service snack bar.
On April 23, it was announced that the Lancers are the number one seed going into the upcoming Essex County Tournaments, and will be hosting the winner of the West Essex/Millburn game on April 30.