ROCKAWAY, NJ - The Roxbury High School volleyball team today defeated Morris Hills 2-1 in a tight match against an opponent its coach described as "very challenging."

Roxbury won the first game 25-18, but dropped the next one 19-25. This forced a deciding game that, although won by the Gaels, proved to be no easy effort.

"I am very proud with the way our girls responded to adversity tonight," said coach Anthony McMichael. "It is very challenging to win deciding games, and we were able to pull through tonight because each girl believed we could. Morris Hills is a always very challenging opponent and they are very well coached by Christina Hobson. They always play relentless defense and they hit very hard."

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McMichael said his team was able to build on momentum from its success at last weekend's Northern Valley Invitational Tournament. The tournament featured many of  New Jersey's top teams. "We won sets against Fair Lawn, Demarest and Mahwah," McMichael said. "We advanced to the championship bracket and fell to River Dell," a team that went on to win the tournament.

McMichael said the Gaels defense played well against Morris Hills. "We were able to run our transition game because our back court continuously kept us in plays," he said. "Kendall Torpin, Sydney Dunsmore, Jenna Shirkey, Amber Chen and Quinn Longo all had exceptional nights on defense."Senior Middle Blocker Lexi DeNure: "Playing is a stress reliever and I felt such positive energy the entire match today. We are a family. That's what really makes playing worth it."

Senior defensive specialist Julia Viparina, who had an ace and one service point during the match, said much of the team's success depends on harnessing excitement. "When our energy is up we do really well, and when a crazy play happens it pumps us all up and our energy and enthusiasm is through the roof," she said.

As did her coach, freshman outside hitter Quinn Longo, cited the tournament as possibly playing a part in unifying the team. "I believe that at the Demarest tournament we played very good teams and held our own - even making it into the gold bracket," she said. "The wins and losses brought us closer and we grew as a team that day."

Against Morris Hills, Shirkey made two aces, had nine service points, three kills, 14 assists and six digs. Longo had three aces, seven service points, four kills, one block and 19 digs. Dunsmore had three aces, five service points and 11 digs.

"We face a very challenging schedule this week with matches against Morris Knolls and Chatham," McMichael said.