RANDOLPH, NJ- In an exciting, back and forth match that seemed to turn into a battle of wills, the Randolph girls volleyball team outlasted Kinnelon to earn themselves a spot in the Morris County Tournament finals.
“The team's mental toughness really is our secret 7th player out there,” said Lady Rams head coach Sebastain DiPietro. “There have been so many games where we have been down, sometimes even by 9 or 10 points. The team has decided that the score in the moment does not matter, because it's ours in the end.”
And in the end, it was theirs, by a score of 25-21, 26-28, 25-21. But it didn’t always appear that way, especially when Kinnelon rebounded in the second game to take leads of 16-12, and ran that lead up 24-19.
Roma Hladky took over the service for the Rams, and sent her team on a run that tied the score up at 24 apiece before Kinnelon ultimately won out 28-26.
“When Kinnelon stormed back in game two, I was a little upset,” said Elyse Podgurski. “But I know my team always does an amazing job at coming back no matter how down we are in a game, so I wasn't scared about losing at all.”
DiPietro echoed a similar sentiment about his team’s never say die attitude.
“I know we lost game two, but I was most proud of them at the end of it,” said DiPietro. “We were down 19-24 and tied it up 24-24. In the end we lost, but it boosted us into game three, and reinforced the idea that we simply do not give up, ever.”
That set up a winner take all game three, and both teams were digging hard and fighting for every point. Before the match, DiPietro encouraged a “rally cry” for his team about how they should approach every point.
“Our mindset going into last night’s game was to play every point as if it was game point of the last game,” said Kayla Kemp. “Every pass, set, and hit leads up to that last point, so our mindset is that every point is just as important as the last.”
The third game brought on more of the same closely played action, and the teams found themselves tied up at 20-20 with the intensity at a fever pitch. The Rams flexed their might at that point, and took charge to grab the 25-21 victory in game three and claim the match.
“Before the game coach told us to be in the moment and take in the experience, and that he was proud of us for making it this far,” said Kayla Heider. “After the game, coach credited the team on our mental toughness throughout the match.
Stephanie Renna led Randolph with a team-high 10 kills. Kayla Kemp had 14 digs and nine kills, while sophomore Caileigh Cox contributed eight kills and 16 digs. Kayla Heider had 15 digs in the game.
“The key to the win was our desire to win and love for the game,” said Kemp. “Every girl on the team wants this just as much as the next. That motivation carried us to where we are now, and will continue to carry us through the finals and the state tournament.”
The Morris County Tournament Finals matchup will be Saturday Oct 29 at 7 p.m. at Randolph High School. The opponent is Mt. Olive, ranked #12 in the state with a record of 18-1, and the #2 seed in the tournament.
“The Morris County finals is going to be an intense match up,” said Heider. “Randolph is Mt. Olive's only loss on the season, so they will definitely be look for some vengeance against us.”