SPARTA, NJ — As their incredible season continues, the Sparta varsity volleyball team has advanced to the NJSIAA Section 1, Group 2 finals. The Spartans will host Demarest in a matinée Tuesday evening, April 20 at 5 p.m.
With a season record of 15-1 Sparta will continue to have home court advantage in the finals. Captains MacKenzie Wiggins and Martina Foy said they attributed part of their success to knowing each game could be their last, that the season could be halted or ended at any moment.
“It makes us work hard,” Foy said. Wiggins, committed to play at Iona next year, agreed it gave them a common goal to "work together for the win every game."
In the semifinal game on Saturday, top seed Sparta demolished fifth seed Westwood 2-0 (25-12, 25-10).The semifinal match took place at Sparta Middle School, due to an issue with the HVAC system at the high school.
Outside hitters MacKenzie Wiggins and Brynn McCurry both chipped in with nine kills apiece in the win, while setter Arianna Puleo dished out 16 assists.
In the first set, passing was a real issue for Westwood early on. Sparta took a 10-5 lead, thanks to a miscue by Westwood, leading to a Westwood timeout.
A massive kill by Daniella Abbasante shook the building and also shook Westwood. Sparta went on a 7-3 jolt, forcing Westwood to burn their final timeout of the set.
Ariana Puleo ran off back-to-back service aces following the timeout.
Senior right-side hitter Martina Foy dropped the hammer, throwing down a big-time kill on set point. Sparta took the first set 25-12.
Westwood did what so many teams have done against Sparta this season—committing self-inflicted errors. Poor passes and service errors have given Sparta more chances to take control of games and that was on display in this match.
Sparta jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the second set, prompting yet another Westwood timeout.
However, this timeout led to a highlight of awkward sort: Sparta head coach Derek Hall played ‘fly-swatter’ and stomped a bug on the court, picked it up with his bare hands. Hall received a round of applause from his team as the game was finally able to resume.
Sparta was able to keep applying the pressure as they put on a clinic of how to serve aggressively. Emily Smernoff went on a short service run, and Westwood was forced to try to stop Smernoff’s momentum with their final timeout of the second set.
The Spartans went on a 9-3 run and won the match, punching their ticket for a date with second seed Demarest on Tuesday evening.
The championship game is scheduled to be held at Sparta High School.