CEDAR GROVE, NJ - On a night to support those battling with breast cancer the Verona and Cedar Grove Girls Volleyball Team’s gave the crowd a game for the ages with Verona edging out the Panthers 2-1 in a three set thriller.
“They came to play big time it was definitely a big one,” said Verona Head Coach Ryan Brown.
The match would ultimately be on the line in the third set with Verona up 22-21. The Hillbillies turned to their young outside hitter Patricia Rakova to turn the game in their favor.
“The way [Rakova] was playing today I knew as soon as she went into the game they were in trouble,” said Brown.
Rakova connected with back-to-back kills following a block from Sofia Fiorita to close out the contest. For a youthful Hillbillies squad it was a key building block towards the future ahead.
“I told the girls in all of sports anywhere to go to someone’s house and play with a packed house is never good, so to come out and play with some resilience I was really proud of them today,” said Brown.
The game itself was set with the backdrop of the two team’s annual ‘Dig Pink’ theme to support breast cancer awareness. The ‘Minettes Angels’ Charity Organization which help renovate recovery rooms as well as other philanthropic events to support those in need was in attendance.
“I think it’s great, it’s a great cause and to have the crosstown rivals play and raise money for a great cause and to be a good game too it just makes it all the better,” said Cedar Grove Head Coach Jessica Schomaker.
The Panthers showed their potential as a team in the first set stunning the favorite Verona. Stellar defense led by Abigail Finnelly who had three key blocks helped the group out to a lead of six points.
“[Defense] is something we’ve been working on, they were reading and reacting, and they’re getting better every day,” said Schomaker.
Jenna Vega, who was the offensive star for the Panthers, notched five kills in the set including the game winner.
“For them to come out and show up with energy and play like them…for [us] to beat a team like that who’s a very, very good team they should have all the confidence in the world,” said Schomaker.
A victory over a Verona team that had never yielded one to Cedar Grove in the past several years is a tremendous confidence boost for a team that had come into the game three games below .500.
“This is what I wanted with the effort and this is the team that they could be. They worked so hard and I’m so proud of them,” said Schomaker.
Verona battled back in the second set as it seems a sleeping giant was awoken. Kelly Waterman helped notch 11 consecutive points for the Hillbillies who dominated with a 25-5 second set victory.
“That lead is everything, it really takes them out of it, so to come here and do that in the second set when everything is on the line shows a lot for us,” said Brown.
Cedar Grove’s loss drops the squad to 10-14 on the year as they’ve now won four of their last six games. The Panthers will look to get back on the winning track as they take on Livingston on Monday.
Verona’s victory improves the squad to 17-6 on the season as they’ve now won three in a row. The Hillbillies will continue their big-game environment when they take on Millburn in the Essex County Tournament Semifinals where they will continue to defend their title.
“We have Millburn in our County Semifinals, we’re the four seed they’re the one seed, we’ve beaten them already, so we know how to do it, but it’s just a matter of coming in and fighting for it and I think [tonight] we showed we can fight for it,” said Brown.
TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.
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