ROXBURY, NJ - The 2017 season began great on Thursday for the Roxbury High School volleyball team as the Gaels defeated Sparta 2-0 at home.

Roxbury won the first set 25-17 and the second 25-12. Freshman Quinn Longo shined bright, making 11 service points, two kills and 10 digs during the match. Another freshman, Amber Chen, scored five service points, a kill and an ace as well as seven digs. Third-year varsity setter Jenna Shirkey scored six service points and made 10 assists.

Before the game, coach Anthony McMichael said he was confident the team will do well this year. "Our team had strong performances in our scrimmages against perennial state powers Old Tappan, Westfield and Wayne Valley," McMichael said. "The girls have been working incredibly hard this preseason and they have set high goals for the team. The girls plan to contend for the NJAC-National Title, for the Morris County Championship, and in the Group III State Tournament."

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The Gaels lost to graduation this year stellar seniors Reghan Palanchi and Haley Cook.

Despite the lost stars, McMichael said the current Gaels exhibit "strong passing, tough serving and relentless defense."

Senior Kendall Torpin acknowledged the team faced "big losses due to graduation," but she said the current team "is coming together quickly." 

Senior Sydney Dunsmore agreed. "I'm excited to get the season started," she said. "This year we have some new additions to the team, and we have all worked very hard this preseason so we can accomplish our goals in the months to come. The team has really come together as a family on and off the court and I'm looking forward to another great season."

Junior Erin Hawley said Roxbury's "hard work and tough serving" should make it competitive. "Through our hard work and tough serving we are super excited to take on the best teams in New Jersey," she said.

The team next takes on Parsippany  at home on Friday at 4 p.m.