The Secaucus High School volleyball team, by far the most prolific girls’ volleyball program in New Jersey history, has done it again.
The Patriots captured the school’s record 19th New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association championship, winning the NJSIAA’s Group I title by defeating Midland Park in straight games, 25-13, 25-12, Saturday at William Paterson University in Wayne.
By garnering their 19th state championship, a total that is 10 more than any other school in New Jersey, Secaucus now only trails Stafford High School of Arizona nationally in terms of state titles won. Stafford has captured 21 Arizona state titles.
It was also the second straight Group I state crown for the Patriots under fourth-year head coach Sheila Ulrich Rivera, who was a former player at Secaucus and won four state crowns during her playing career.
The latest in the litany of state titles came fairly easy to the Patriots, who are now undefeated at 27-0. They rolled through Midland Park, a team that they had defeated in a tougher match earlier in the season when both teams were undefeated, in just 40 minutes to add another state championship trophy to the already cluttered school trophy case.
While the Patriots seemed to breeze through Midland Park to the title, Rivera wasn’t pleased with the way the team performed.
“I think they were so pumped and prepared to face Bogota (in the state semifinals Thursday) that they just floated over to Saturday,” Rivera said. “I can’t say they were relaxed, but there really wasn’t any drama. I had to almost remind them that it was a state championship.”
“We just played harder against Bogota for some reason,” said Kristen Bronowich, one of three seniors on the team. “It still doesn’t feel like we won. Maybe it will later on, but it happened so fast.”
“I think we might have relaxed a little too much,” said senior Cory Roesing. “We didn’t play our best and we know it.”
The first game was close for a little while, but then the Patriots rolled off seven straight points to take a commanding 14-7 lead and coasted from there.
Secaucus led from the start in the second game, with the closest Midland Park coming was at 5-4. But Roesing, the All-State standout middle hitter, set the tone with a ferocious kill and the Patriots then scored an amazing 10 straight points for a 16-4 lead. Jenna Totaro held the service during the 10-point run.
Even the final point of the match was almost anti-climatic. It came on a service fault by Midland Park.
“It ended on a service out of bounds,” Rivera said. “You never want it to end like that. You want to win it on a nice kill or a service ace, not because they made a mistake. Let’s just say that we played well, but we could have played better. It was almost like we won the championship on Thursday. Not taking anything away from Midland Park, but we are a better team.”
Roesing had 12 kills and three blocks for the Patriots and Totaro collected 15 service points and 12 assists.
The Patriots now move on to the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, where they were slated to face Roselle Catholic in the first round. The state’s six state champions participate in the tournament.
A year ago, the Patriots advanced to the T of C championship round, falling just three points shy to champion Paramus. It was the furthest any Group I school had advanced in a T of C in any sport, boys or girls, since 1989.
“I’m very glad we have at least one more match,” Rivera said. “I’m expecting us to do well.”
Rivera is also expecting _ she’s pregnant and will give birth to her first child in January.
“Let’s just say the assistant coaches (Linda Diemer and Jamie Juliano) helped tremendously this year,” Rivera said.
However, the idea that this team just captured their second straight state title didn’t go unnoticed by the participants.
“It’s what we work hard for,” said Roesing, who is the niece of the head coach. “It just gets better every time.”
“It’s awesome and a little unreal,” said Bronowich, whose older sister, Jen, won three state titles during her playing days. “I still can’t believe it.”
NOTE: To see more about the Secaucus volleyball state championship, go to the Scoreboard sports section inside the Secaucus Reporter.