Don’t dare mention Secaucus’ ‘dirty word’
Despite winning 64 straight matches, volleyball queens don’t speak of streak
Back in the ’70s, when people all around the globe were taking off their clothes and sprinting bare naked everywhere and anywhere to get attention, comedic recording artist Ray Stevens hit the top of the Billboard charts with a novelty song entitled, "The Streak."
Little did Stevens know that a quarter of a century later, his two-word song title would become a source of disdain for New Jersey’s most successful volleyball program.
The Secaucus High School volleyball team has compiled such impressive numbers over the years that they literally have left people staggering.
"I have people come up to me down the shore and recognize Secaucus volleyball," said senior Diana Totaro. "They’ve heard of you down there."
And the Patriots are also recognized by the two words that Ray Stevens made famous singing about people in the buff. Namely, "The Streak," although it has a totally different connotation in Secaucus.
In Secaucus, it refers to the 64 straight matches that the Patriots have won over the last three-plus seasons. The Patriots added No. 64 to their collective belts on Tuesday, when they steamrolled Wallington, 15-2, 15-2.
The string of consecutive wins is certainly prominent and equally impressive. Just don’t mention it.
"Everybody wants to talk about ‘The Streak,’" says senior All-State performer Tiffany Aciz. "It’s the first question anyone asks. No matter who it is. ‘What about the streak?’ ‘What’s it like to have the streak.’ Everyone wants to know how we handle it. But I don’t even think about it."
"I hate talking about it," Totaro said. "Everyone asks about it and wants to talk about it. When people say the words, ‘the streak,’ I get nervous. I guess it is like a curse word, a dirty word, because we don’t want to hear it."
And that’s probably the biggest reason why winning 64 straight matches – an ungodly figure – is really not high on the priority list with the Patriots. Let’s face it. The current members of the team have never once experienced defeat as a high school volleyball player. Not once. That’s too amazing for words.
"I wonder why can’t the other sports be like volleyball," said Aciz, who is also an All-Area softball standout and a member of the basketball team. "It is really wild how we never lose."
But the players go about their business, unfazed by the idea of such an impressive str…oops, ledger of success.
"We don’t go out on the court, worrying about keeping the winning streak alive," said Jessie Lunapiena. "We just go out on the court to win. If we ever stopped to worry about it, we wouldn’t be able to focus on the games. So we don’t even talk about it. People ask us all the time, but we don’t even think about it."
Veteran coach Maria Nolan is the architect of the success. She’s been in charge while the Patriots simply keep winning, to the tune of unthinkable proportions, like five consecutive NJSIAA Group I championships and 191 wins against five losses over the last eight-plus seasons.
And, of course, the 64 straight. Not to mention, 91 consecutive wins at home, dating back to 1993.
Nolan also doesn’t even give the streak a second thought, although the string of success amazes her.
"When I take the time to stop and think about it, I say, ‘Wow, it’s 64 straight wins,’" Nolan said. "It is mind-boggling. But I don’t have the time to sit and calculate what it means. I’m glad I don’t. Actually, I keep forgetting about it, until someone reminds me of it. There are other things that I have to concern myself with. We don’t concern ourselves with numbers. We’re not in it for the numbers."
So what’s the key to success for the Patriots? Why are they able to win every single match while other schools fall by the wayside?
"The key is to keep improving," said Nolan, who collected the 475th win of her prestigious career against Wallington. "That’s what we do. We come to practice every day and we work at it."
The players are willing to work.
"We actually don’t have the easiest practices in the world," Lunapiena said. "And Mrs. Nolan is a big part of why we win. She knows what to do and puts us in the right places. She’s a great coach and she’s very tough, but we all respect her."
"I wouldn’t say she’s easy to play for," Aciz said. "She knows what you can do and wants you to work the hardest. She doesn’t want us to regret anything for not working hard."
Totaro agrees with her teammates.
"I think we win because we practice so much," said Totaro, who moved into the starting lineup for the first time this year. "I don’t know how much other teams practice, but we spend three hours sometimes on a Saturday morning. And after we get started playing, we don’t want to stop. People wonder why we’re practicing so much. But after a while, we all get used to it. It’s part of our daily routine."
Pride is also a part of the regimen.
"We all take a great amount of pride in playing for the team," Totaro said. "I remember being in middle school and all I wanted to do was play for the best volleyball team around, to get a chance to win a state championship. It’s an awesome feeling. I never thought I’d be on the court with the no. 1 team. I couldn’t picture myself there. I went to games when I was a kid and I never dreamed it could actually happen. I now know what pro baseball players feel like when they get a chance to play in the big leagues."
"I always wanted to be a part of it as well," Lunapiena said. "Ever since I was in middle school, I wanted to play for this team. And I take a lot of pride of now being a part of it."
Talent also helps. Aciz, who is one of the best players in the state, leads the way, but she doesn’t get caught up in the hype and reputation.
"I like the pressure and the idea that I have a reputation to live up to," Aciz said. "To be an All-State player, I have to prove that I am that good every match. I think I like showing that I can."
And then, there’s camaraderie.
"I think we win because we all stick together," Totaro said. "No one thinks that they’re better than anyone. We feel more comfortable this year because of it."
"They’re really enjoying themselves," Nolan said. "They’re having a lot of fun. It’s probably the silliest team I’ve ever had. They really enjoy being silly. And that’s good. I really enjoy it. They’re having a real good time."
Of course, winning every single match helps that.
"They just do it," said Nolan, taking a page out of the famous sneaker advertisements. "They all wonder if they can do it again, be like the team before."
"It helps, but it puts a little pressure on us as well," Lunapiena said. "It’s my senior year and I don’t want to be known as the team that messed up and didn’t win. So we have a lot at stake."
Especially that dirty two-word phrase. Someday, it will come to an end. All good things do. But for now, the young women of the proud Secaucus winning volleyball tradition just keep doing what they do best, streak or no streak.
"It’s not really the [thought of the] loss of a streak that keeps us going," Aciz said. "We just don’t want to lose. Just knowing that we won again gives us satisfaction. But it’s kind of weird that we’ve never lost. I mean, we’ve never lost a game. That’s pretty cool."
And pretty amazing.
LEADING THE WAY – The Secaucus volleyball team has perhaps the most impressive consecutive winning streak in New Jersey, winning 64 straight matches, led by the play of senior Tiffany Aciz, shown here during a recent practice.