SUMMIT, NJ - After a tough start to the season, which saw several heartbreaking, three-game losses, the Summit High School Girls Varsity Volleyball Team headed to Plainfield, looking for a taste of sweet victory against the Cardinals. Not even through the opening game, the team was dealt a blow when they lost its Libero and captain Jocelyn Mendez to illness, forcing the Hilltoppers to finish game 1 and play game 2 without its best defensive player and top rated passer.
The Maroon & White, however, showed great resiliency and determination, getting key performances from its bench and walking out of the Cardinal gym with a 26-24, 25-23 victory.
Head Coach Antonio Martins admitted post-match that he knew his Libero was on borrowed time, and he had hoped the team could roll through the first set using its superior passing and hitting attack but, as has been the case so far this season, the best laid plans were not going to come to fruition.
Summit led 11-5 after its 4th rotation but could not hold the lead as the team gave up a 4-0 run to see its lead shrink to 11-9. Although Summit regained control after Mendez's serving put the team up 16-11, a free ball mistake opened the door for a 3-0 run in the seventh rotation that had the Cardinals within two at 15-17.
It was at this point that Mendez retired from the match, unable to continue. Plainfield took advantage and a few rotations later, and were looking at three game points by virtue of their 24-21 lead. Summit rallied behind a Madison Young kill to pull to within two at 22-24 and regain serve. Young stepped up and delivered five pressure-packed, quality serves -- including an ace -- to give the Hilltoppers the win at 26-24. Captain Val Guzman also contributed with a kill during the defining run.
Summit ended with 9 kills, but also 9 errors ,and served 24/26 (92.3%) and hit for five aces (19%) while passing at a 1.82 rating, ,led by Val Guzman who passed 10/23 receptions at a 2.20 rating.
Game 2 was another tight affair and Summit used an 11-player effort to secure a game 2 win, both ending their losing run overcoming the loss of Mendez in the process.
Summit trailed briefly at 13-12 entering the 6th rotation, but key serving by captain Gabby Mejia brought the lead back to 15-12 in rotation 7. The lead seemed safe because of the quality team play, but the Cardinals showed some fight of their own and, within 2 rotations, Summit had seen a three point lead evaporate and morph into a 17-18 deficit despite the team being nearly perfect with a 9 kill, 1 error offensive effort and a perfect 17/17 from the service line with 1 ace.
Taylor Thompson stepped up though and ripped a quick ace and earned two other service points to give the Hilltoppers a 21-19 lead late in the match. Later, knotted at 21-21, a Guzman kill settled the team and got the Hilltoppers closer to the victory. Tied again, this time at 22 apiece, Sammy Auerbach took the ball from the service line and ripped three consecutive pressure serves to lead Summit to its first win at 25-23.
Guzman was outstanding in game 2, hitting on 5 of 11 attack attempts with 0 errors. The other Outside Hitters -- Katie Samay and Young -- combined for 4 kills on 11 attempts with 3 errors. The team also went a perfect 24/24 from the service line with two aces. For the match, Mendez and Guzman combined for 24 of the team's reception attempts and passed at an outstanding 2.31 pass rating.
Guzman also led the team in digs with 9 and was by far the best hitter with 8 kills and an outstanding 30% hitting percentage and a 40% kill percentage. Samay nailed 5 kills in the match for a 12.5% / 31.2 hitting / kill percentage. Lauren Trindell had an outstanding day putting down 2 kills with 0 errors and adding 2 blocks. Thompson led the way from the service line with 3 aces (.250) and a 92% serving percentage, while she and Guzman combined for 15 of the team's 26 digs.
Summit returns home September 22 to take on Oak Knoll. The JV match begins at 4 p.m., with the Varsity immediately following.