ROXBURY, NJ – The season ended not-so-happily this week for the Roxbury High School volleyball team, but coach Anthony McMichael said he’s proud of the Gaels’ performance and looking forward to next year.
Roxbury had only two seniors on the roster this year, Jessica Allen and Stephanie Lemanis, meaning that the team will retain most of its talent instead of losing a big chunk to graduation. "We've had a lot of youth on our team," McMichael said. "The core of the team will all be back for another run."
McMichael is upbeat about the future of the Roxbury volleyball program. "The girls work hard,” he said. “They are the hardest working girls I could ask for. They are just fun to be around and I'm just happy they are coming back."
The team ended the season with a 20-9 record. After dropping the season-opening match to West Morris Central, the Gaels won eleven of the team's next thirteen matches, to improve to 11-3.
Roxbury then hosted Randolph for “Dig Pink” night, but Randolph took the match in straight sets.
After splitting their next four games, the Gaels hosted Parsippany in the first round of the Morris County Tournament. After crushing the Red Hawks, Roxbury won two more regular season games, defeating eventual the Morris County Tournament champion Mendham followed by a victory at Morris Hills.
The Gaels played host to Jefferson in the second round of the Morris County Tournament and Roxbury advanced to the semifinals after sweeping Jefferson.
Four more regular season games remained, three of which led up to the Morris County Tournament semifinals. After winning one of those three games, Kinnelon took down the Gaels, ousting Roxbury from the tournament.
A win at Hackettstown warmed the Gaels up for a run in the NJSIAA Group 3 State Tournament. Roxbury, seeded No.8, defeated Woodbridge, but lost Thursday to No. 9 West Morris Central, ending the team’s season
The Gaels lost in two straight sets, 26-24 and 25-21, respectively. Both Roxbury and West Morris Central are Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rivals in the American division.
McMichael had to experiment with a different lineup during the match with the absence of a key player. "We tried a brand-new lineup today, and it didn't click," he said.
The first set featured a lot of service errors by both teams, perhaps due to the early start time of 11 a.m. The teams were practically deadlocked all set long, with the exception of some runs late in the set by each team.
Following a block by Roxbury's Samantha Olander, West Morris Central went on a 5-0 run. This led to a Roxbury timeout.
The Gaels were able to draw even at 24 points, when West Morris Central scored two consecutive points to take the first set in heartbreaking fashion.
In the second set, the issue seemed to be that Roxbury couldn't put the ball down. The Gaels were unable to find many holes in the Wolfpack defense, as three West Morris Central players finished with over ten digs each.
Late in the set, there was a controversial no-call; the Roxbury team and fans were sure someone on West Morris Central hit the ball for a fourth time before sending the ball over the net.
The Gaels gathered themselves and scored three consecutive points, tying the set at 17.
After trailing 20-21, West Morris Central ran off five consecutive points, sandwiched by a Roxbury timeout. The Wolfpack took the set and the match to advance to the quarterfinals in the Group 3 Tournament.
Amber Chen and Quinn Longo led the attack for the Gaels, tallying six and five kills respectively. Olander brought the shingles for the roof, notching a team-high three blocks. Ashley Spiteri was the primary setter for the game, recording nine assists.
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