LIVINGSTON, NJ - The Livingston Lancers didn't have to be told what was at stake in their home quad match on Saturday. Facing three ranked teams in the Star Ledger Top 20, two of which being the #1 and #2 teams in the state, Livingston had a prime chance to improve its ranking.
First up for the Lancers 17th-ranked Eastern. The two teams alternated points early as Livingston came out sharp. Behind Justin Delman's serving, the Lancers opened up a 5-3 lead. The Lancers stayed impressive at the net fighting off all of Eastern's attacks en route to a 9-5 lead. Livingston broke serve when Eastern's jump serve didn't make it over the net, but quickly gave it back. A MJ Vincent kill gave the Lancers back serve with a 13-9 lead. The Lancers built a 17-9 lead behind a constant attack from Billy Williams and never looked back. At 21-11, a frustrated Eastern coach called timeout. Out of the timeout, Justin Delman's serve hit the top of the net and came back onto the Livingston side, giving possession back to the Lancers. The Lancers dodged a comeback effort when a jump serve landed long with Livingston up by seven. Livingston took the game in commanding fashion, emerging victorious 25-15.
A revitalized Eastern squad opened up powerfully, up 4-2. The Lancers battled back to 4-4 with a nifty play from Shen Yen Wang to pick the ball off the net. After winning serve, a determined Eastern team opened a 10-7 lead. A Vincent block gave Livingston serve, but Eastern earned it right back. An animated Coach Partelow took a timeout with the Lancers down 12-9. Livingston attempted to fight back with a Shen Yen Wang block, cutting the Eastern lead to three. The Lancers, needing to break serve, gained it back down 20-18. The Lancers could not defend an Eastern attack and lost serve. A Billy Williams kill brought Livingston to within two and an errant Eastern attack made the lead only one. JP Tirone's attack cut the lead again to one, but Eastern won serve back and won the game 25-22 to force a third game.
Regarding preparing for the third and final game, JP Tirone said, "If we don't have fun, we don't play well. For the third game we came out loose and played our game."
After Eastern controlled the start of the match, Livingston broke serve down 11-7. Junior Stephen Birnbaum saw time in the middle of the game when Justin Delman was injured. Even the change of setters could not halt the Eastern attack. Finally, two Vincent kills tied the game at 12. Livingston alternated points with Eastern until a Tirone kill gave the Lancers their first lead at 15-14. Livingston opened up a lead behind the opposite attack of JP Tirone to take a 22-18 advantage. A last ditch Eastern comeback attempt was halted by a Billy Williams kill and a Justin Delman tip to finish the third game with a 25-20 advantage. Ed Jung paced the Lancers with 15 digs, while Williams tallied a career-high 12 kills.
After Fair Lawn suffered a three game loss to Old Bridge, the team moved over to Court A to face the Lancers. Livingston had to fight off the rust, after sitting patiently for the other match to end as theirs had ended much earlier.
Billy Williams picked up right where he left off racking up two kills. The Lancers forged ahead for an 8-6 lead, but Fair Lawn battled back to tie the score. The teams alternated points back and forth, with neither team taking a lead larger than three. Behind the front row attack of Tirone and Williams intially, the Lancers opened a bit of a gap at 15-11. Fair Lawn painted a few kills down the line to tie it up, but the Lancers pulled ahead behind a well-placed tip and a JP Tirone cross court kill.
Fair Lawn's coach attempted to halt the Lancer run with a timeout. The timeout did indeed change momentum as Fair Lawn ran three straight points off to force Coach Partelow to call timeout. The teams traded points until there was a tie score at 22. Justin Delman threw over a tip to put the Lancers ahead 24-22, but Fair Lawn snatched the next two points. Fair Lawn rolled over a tip to make it game point, but Billy Williams slammed a kill off of the block to tie the score at 25 apiece. Fair Lawn rallied to rip off two more points to win the first game 27-25.
Fairlawn picked up where they left off racing out to a 9-4 lead when Coach Partelow called timeout. Livingston battled all the way back to tie it at 11, as the teams started to alternate points. Fairlawn built an 18-16 lead slowly but Jake Delman put away a kill to bring the Lancers to within a point. Fairlawn used their serves to throw off the Lancers en route to a 22-17 advantage. Coach Partelow called timeout to calm down his rattled team, but it didn't help. Livingston was defeated in the second game 25-18.
Livingston opened against second seeded Old Bridge with a vengeance, starting out with a 10-6 lead. Behind the attack of junior Tom Cruz, Old Bridge fought back. The teams traded kills, with the Lancers still leading 13-11. The momentum swung to the Lancers as Shen Yen Wang stuffed an Old Bridge kill, but Cruz came right back with a kill. Ed Jung raced over to pull an errant pass off the net to help the Lancers take the lead. A huge double block pushed Livingston ahead 20-16. Despite two quick points from Old Bridge, an errant jump serve brought the Lancers four points away from winning the first game. Time out was taken by Old Bridge after Livingston took a 23-18 lead. The time out was not beneficial, however, as Billy Williams put away a kill for a 25-18 win.
The Lancers raced out to a 5-1 lead, but an injury to Shen Yen Wang stopped the momentum. Behind the jump serve, Old Bridge cut the lead to 10-7. The Lancers scratched and clawed to take a five-point lead and force an Old Bridge timeout. That lead quickly evaporated as Old Bridge took a 14-13 lead, but Livingston fought back behind the serving of Ed Jung and Justin Delman.
Coach Partelow hammered home a strategy during a timeout after the Lancers took an 18-16 lead. As the Knights' attack flew long, the Lancers led 21-18. Old Bridge had their best chance to come back as a side out made the score 23-20, but Livingston finished it off with a side out and a serve that sailed long, defeating second-ranked Old Bridge.