BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — Nearly a year and half since the Gov. Livingston girls’ volleyball team stepped onto the court for a match. Yet, from this season’s early sample you wouldn’t know it.

Despite the fall season being postponed and shifted to the spring and dealing with a two-week Covid protocol quarantine in mid-March, the Lady Highlanders have roared to a 4-0 start. That opening also includes the squad not having lost a game yet, either.

“We’re doing well,” said coach Dana Hilaire, who’s in her seventh season directing Gov. Livingston. “Offensively, we were pretty sure we’d be pretty good, our returning veterans have played really well, and our younger players have performed, too. I think with the delayed season and the quarantine it’s a little surprising how easily the team has been able to jell to this point.”

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In 2019 the Lady Highlanders finished with a 16-6 record, dropping a 2-1 decision to Sparta in the quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA Group 2 tournament.

This past Monday, Gov. Livingston improved to 4-0 with a 2-0 victory (25-9, 25-20) over Johnson Regional. Senior outside hitter Leah Dooley led the effort with seven kills, five digs, six service points and four aces while junior outside hitter Abby Periera added six kills. Senior setter Isabella An contributed five digs, nine assists, nine service points and five aces.

Thus far Hilaire has received stellar play from her entire roster, which also includes senior setter Olivia Teska, senior outsider hitter Ashley Parker, junior middle hitter Brooke Gyory, junior right side hitter Gabriela Debowski, junior defensive specialist Sam Roenbeck and sophomore libero Katie Brokes.

The newcomers have been impressive as well with the likes of junior libero Carly Tullo, sophomores Erin Hilongos (middle hitter) and Bella Garay (setter/right side) and freshmen Annabelle Kuzmin (outside) and Avery Saturnia (right side).

Gov. Livingston was slated to play Oak Knoll on Wednesday (March 31) but the match was postponed. Therefore, the Lady Highlanders, who earned the seventh seed on Monday night, will play next on Thursday when they play host to 10th-seeded Elizabeth in the first round of the Union County Tournament.

The postponement with Oak Knoll could prove beneficial to the Lady Highlanders.

“It will actually give us an extra day to practice,” Hilaire observed, “and allow us more time to prepare for Elizabeth. After we came out of our quarantine we were only able to have two practices before we opened, so the extra practice definitely helps. Elizabeth plays a tough schedule, and we definitely won’t be looking past them at all.”

If the Lady Highlanders prevail they will advance into the quarterfinal round to play the winner of 15-Roselle Park/18-Rahway and 2-Kent Place on April 6. The semifinal round is slated for April 8 at Johnson in Clark while the final will be contested on April 9 at 7 pm.

“Our team is focused and determined this season,” said Hilaire. “Each individual is so talented and their strengths complement each other. Mostly, we’re just happy to be back and are looking forward to competing this season.”

UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT SEEDS: 1-Westfield. 2-Kent Place. 3-Scotch Plains-Fanwood. 4-Union Catholic. 5-Summit. 6-Union. 7-Gov. Livingston. 8-Cranford. 9-New Providence. 10-Elizabeth. 11-Linden. 12-Johnson. 13-Dayton 14-Plainfield. 15-Roselle Park. 16-Roselle Catholic. 17-Oak Knoll. 18-Rahway.