BLOOMFIELD, NJ – For the first time since 2016, top-seeded Bloomfield Bengals Boys Volleyball captured the Essex County Tournament by sweeping 2nd seeded Livingston Lancers 2-0 (25-21 and 25-15) on Saturday afternoon at a lively Bloomfield High School.
2019 marks the fourth consecutive time Bloomfield met Livingston in the ECT Finals. After the Bengals captured the crown in 2016, the Lancers beat Bloomfield in 2017 and 2018.
Just like in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Bloomfield beat Livingston twice in regular season matchups, and they repeated that feat with 2 wins in 2019, but this time, the Bengals ripped through the Lancers to give Head Coach Louis Stevens his sixth ECT Championship.
With this ECT Championship, Stevens surpasses George Cella and Jim White with most county tournament wins.
The journey started more than two months ago, as Stevens set up a rigorous scrimmage schedule in March for the Bengals to get them prepared to go over the county hump at the end of the season.
“Come county time, we knew that we would be one of the better teams, so we wanted to have the experience of facing teams that were better than us so that we could prepare for that type of environment and I think it paid off in our regular season with having only one loss in our division,” Coach Stevens told TAP. “Out of our five overall losses, four were to ranked teams, so it really did help us.”
Senior Christian Voicu led Bloomfield with a team-high 9 kills, 2 blocks and 2 digs. Senior James Bonilla added 6 kills, 4 digs and 2 aces, junior Nikkoli Samonte had 3 kills, and junior Dante Gibbs chipped in with 3 kill and 4 blocks.
“I know that Livingston is always going to be good, they’ve got a good coach and he knows what they need to do to make themselves successful,” Stevens explained. “I knew that if we just relied on the fact that we’ve beaten them in the past, that would come back to haunt us. So we worked specifically on things that I knew they were going to do. Luckily, Christian Voicu stepped up and was a man – he made a big difference. He’s always been our best player but today, he really stepped up and proved that he is one of the best players in the state.”
In the first-round on Saturday, May 11, the Bengals swept 16th seeded Newark West Side Rough Riders 2-0 (25-10 and 25-11) at Bloomfield High School.
The Bengals beat 8th seeded West Essex Regional 2-1 (25-9, 20-25 and 25-16) in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, May 14 at Bloomfield High School.
In the semifinals, Bloomfield swept 5th seeded Millburn Millers 2-0 (25-17 and 25-23) on Thursday, May 16 at Livingston High School.
The Bengals stand at 19-5 overall and 7-1 in the Super Essex Conference American Division, good for first place. Livingston trails at 13-10 overall and 6-2 in the division, followed by Payne Tech at 18-9 overall and 4-4 in the division.
The Bengals have won the SEC American Division title three years in a row and have finished in the New Jersey Top 20 nine times during the 15 years of Stevens’ tenure.
The Bengals host Hackensack in the first-round of the NJSIAA Tournament on Tuesday, May 21, 3:30 pm at Bloomfield High School.