Wednesday, June 6, 2018


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Friday, November 10, 2017




The Lady Hilltoppers closed out their season this past Monday agains cross-town rivals Oak Knoll.  Oak Knoll had beaten the Hilltoppers in 3 at Oak Knoll earlier in the season on the Varsity level and JV had swept the Royals on the JV level.

JV kicked it off with a dominant 2-0 win (25-14, 25-7) to notch their 16th win of the season, ending the campaign with 2 wins versus Cranford and Oak Knoll after a disappointing loss to Plainfield.  Summit controlled the match with their usual formula of tough serving and timely kills.  Abby Doyle led the way with 7 aces and the team hit for 8 kills (2 by Sarah Maldonado) to earn their 16th win for a final season record of 16W-6L, 2nd best in program history.

Meanwhile, Varsity couldn't muster the energy level and intensity of Friday's Senior Night and lost in 2 to Oak Knoll 25-12, 25-21.  Set 1 could not have started any worse as the team was down 9-1 after 1 rotation and was just unable to overcome that deficit despite the fact that they found themselves only down by 3 after rotation 7 by a 12-9 score.  But a couple of errors derailed the comeback and Oak Knoll closed out the set on a 13-3 run.

Set 2 was rather different as the team jumped out to a 6-2 lead early and seemed to indicate that SHS was on its way to a comeback.  But the Royals slowly chipped away at the Summit lead and closed out a 9-4 run that had Oak Knoll up 11-9 at its conclusion.  The run was fueled by 4 SHS errors, a sign of things to come.  The Maroon and White got the score tied up at 11 and both teams traded points over the next few rotations and found themselves again knotted up at 14.

But then the game turned as Summit scored 15 of the next 18 points in the match leading to a 25-21 loss.  Hilltoppers fans, you are not reading that wrong, Summit scored 15 of the last 18 points in the match, for both sides.  This was a run that, in essence, was a microcosm of the entire season and it deserves a closer look.

A serving error got it all started and gave the Royals a 15-14 lead.  A kill by Oak Knoll increased the lead to 16-14.  Two consecutive unforced errors by SHS had Oak Knoll up 18-14.  SHS stopped the run with a kill but a Royal kill and another Summit attack error dropped the Maroon and White into a 20-15 hole.  SHS did not give up and pounded a kill on serve receive but unfortunately followed it up with a crushing serving error which gave Oak Knoll a 21-16 lead.  SHS recovered and got another kill but yet again,  a service error killed any momentum gained and the Maroon and White trailed 22-17.  SHS fought off a Royal attack attempt and scored on a transition kill but the third consecutive service error all but doomed the Hilltoppers' chances trailing 23-18.  Oak Knoll hit an ace to all but wrap up the set but a game saving kill followed by 2 straight aces by its senior captain McDonnell had the Hilltoppers hoping for a miracle at 21-24.  The next serve and defensive play by the Hilltoppers yielded a free ball that the Maroon and White were hoping to put away but, appropriately enough for the match, another unforced attack error ended the run, the match and the season for the Lady Hilltoppers.

In the last 18 points, Oak Knoll generated 3 points with 2 kills and 1 ace.  Summit, on the other hand,  hit for 5 kills and 2 aces to outscore the Royals 7-3 but yet were outscored 11-7 due completely to the 8 unforced errors generated by the Hilltoppers, none more impactful than the 3 consecutive serving errors late in the match.

Errors at key moments have defined some of the heart-wrenching losses this season but so have the moments like the 7-3 run that showed that Summit could not only compete with but also best some of their talented competition.  This squad overcame devastating injuries,  illness and a series of crazy lineups to deliver some of the most exciting wins and some of the best volleyball this program has seen in the last 7 years.

This year was defined by the work of 4 seniors who set the tone and led by example every day of the season.  Samay, Della Piazza, Thompson and McDonnell each provided this team with the ingredients needed to succeed and established the culture that is now a staple of this team.  The 2017 team was a radically different team than in recent past with mainly 9th graders on JV and a mix of underclasswomen, with very few seniors, on Varsity.  The challenges to maintain good chemistry and teach team culture were great but the leadership of these seniors led the way at each and every juncture in 2017.

Congratulations to the Seniors on a great season and career,  a ginormous thanks to ALL the parents for their support and work and a great big hug to the JV Squad and Coach Ross who gave us all one of the greatest seasons of all time with the youngest squad we have ever fielded!  THANK YOU ALL!

Sunday, November 5, 2017


Cranford Highlights:


The Maroon and White used a lethal service attack spearheaded by seniors Alisha McDonnell and Camille Della Piazza to quiet the Cougar roar in its tracks by a 25-9, 23-25, 25-12 result, the first win by Summit over Cranford in 6 years.

Summit dominated set 1 and set the tone early on their Senior Night as all 4 seniors (McDonnell, Thompson, Della Piazza and Samay) feasted on the Cranford serve receive, hitting for 8 of the team's 10 aces in the set to give the Hilltoppers complete control of the set through the first 6 rotations.  Summit also pounded out 7 kills with a .357 hitting efficiency and a .500 kill % to snuff out any Cranford momentum during the set.  The set was essentially over by rotation 6 as the Maroon and White led the Cougars 16-7 after a Katie Samay ace. 

Set 2 saw a number of changes for SHS as Olivia Skrobala spelled Lauren Trindell,  Katie Samay took over on the outside for Kate MacPherson and Sylvie Goudreau substituted in the middle for Carmel Barsh.  The defense also had some changes as Kiera Stocks took over on the weak side for Samay on the front row switch.  Although the team controlled most of the set, a rash of hitting and serving errors emblematic of many of this team's set losses this year reared their ugly head and cost the team the second set.

Summit jumped out to an 8-3 lead early and it looked like the large crowd was going to see another repeat of set 1.  By rotation 7,  a rare McDonnell service error had Cranford within 1 at 11-10 but the Hilltoppers got 2 quick points from Cougar errors and added a kill by Skrobala to seemingly gain control again at 14-10.  But Cranford responded with a couple of kills and a block to knot up the score at 14.  Goudreau got the Maroon and White even with the Cougars at 18 all but the good feeling was short lived soon thereafter as the Cougar ripped off 2 kills and an ace to get control at 22-19.  Summit crawled to within 1 at 23-22 forcing Cranford into 2 errors but that was as close as they got as Cranford closed it out on a left-side kill for a 25-23 win.  Although SHS hit for 7 kills again, the team also had 7 errors and managed only 3 aces (all by McDonnell in the first rotation) and served 4 errors to spot Cranford 11 points in that set.  How anemic was the Hilltoppers offense in this set?  McDonnell, the setter, was the leading scorer with 3 aces.

Coach Martins went back to set 1 lineup looking for that magic once again and the seniors again did not disappoint, coming through in the clutch and getting the Hilltoppers the 25-12 dominant set 3 win.  Summit nailed 8 kills but the 8 errors that accompanied that production had SHS at .000 efficiency again.  But the team got back to its service dominance, hitting for 7 aces with the seniors combining for 6 of them. 

By the time McDonnell was done in rotation 1, the Hilltoppers had a 5-1 lead thanks to kills by MacPherson, Trindell and Thompson.  Trindell nailed another kill to get SHS the ball back leading 6-1 and the team never looked back as Inggs rattled off a few more service points to get the Maroon and White a 9-1 lead, capped by an ace by the aforementioned Inggs.  Although Cranford broke serve, a MacPherson kill followed by 2 Thompson kills had all but sealed the deal that early in the set with Summit leading 12-2.

The Cougars went on a 3-0 run which had the team down 5-12 but again SHS used its service attack to squash any momentum thanks to 2 consecutive aces by Della Piazza,  giving the Hilltoppers a 15-5 lead.  Summit's intensity dropped and began to suffer unforced errors but Cranford only got as close as 20-12 before McDonnell came up again and slammed the door on Cranford's chances with a 5-0 run that saw the setter rip 2 aces and Inggs nail an overpass kill to give the team its first victory over Cranford in 6 years, 25-12.

Nine different players contributed to a 22 kill performance by SHS led by Thompson and Inggs who combined for 10 kills (5 apiece) but the offense was driven by middles Skrobala/Inggs/Goudreau/Trindell/Barsh who combined for 12 kills- 4 errors- 25 att for a .480 kill % and a .320 hitting efficiency for the match.  Tessa Pulgar and McDonnell were the defensive rocks for the squad,  digging up 15 balls, half of the team's total digs.  Pulgar was instrumental to the team's success on this day as she took on the Libero duties for an ill Ava Williamson and was a perfect 15/15 on serve receptions with a 2.0 pass rating and was 7/8 from dig opportunities.  But in a match dominated by serving,  McDonnell was brilliant, the setter serving at a 91% rate with an astounding ace % of 26% (6 aces) while the team scored 17 points on her 23 serves.  She also orchestrated an offense that hit for 22 kills and was the team leader in digs with 8. 


The JV Squad had perhaps its most impressive victory of the campaign with a 18-25, 25-21, 25-23 victory over the Cougars after a 2-0 loss in Cranford a mere week ago.  The difference of the 2 matches was the Maroon and White's serve receive which was solid in this match, preventing long runs from developing on the Cougar service attack. 

Summit nailed 6 aces in set 1 but only got 3 kills from Annabella Yorio to pace their 18-25 set loss.  But most impressive were the 7 digs that were point saving plays in the set and yielded swings in momentum in the match that just didn't translate into kills.

Set 2 was a much different affair as the Hilltoppers rattled off 8 kills and added another 6 aces to pace the team to a 25-21 win.  Summit was led offensively again by Yorio who hit for 4 kills but Isabel Berkeley and Megan Gregory had key kills and error free swings late in the set to seal the deal for the squad.  Not to be underestimated was the defensive effort of the team who notched 18 digs in the win.  Cassandra Hrehorovich was responsible for 5 of those herself facing Cranford's best offensive set.  The deciding point in the set occurred with Summit leading 12-9 and Abby Doyle serving.  Doyle served up 8 consecutive service points (5 aces) which blew the set open and gave the squad a 20-9 lead by the time it was over.  The only worrying thing was that Cranford outscored SHS 12-5 from that point on and the momentum, despite the set loss, was on the Cougars' side.

Looking at a deciding set 3, the Maroon and White knew it needed timely hitting, another high ace production from its servers and a mammoth defensive performance.  Summit and Cranford were locked in a great battle 6 rotations in with SHS holding on to a slim 13-11 lead through 6 rotations.  Cranford got a 7-2 run through the next few rotations and led 18-15 heading into the latter stages of the set but then Kasey Walsh stepped up and ran off 4 points (3 aces) to get the Maroon and White a lead late at 20-19 after her service rotation was over.  Summit broke serve on the next ball and rattled off another point to take what looked to be an unsurmountable 22-19 lead but the Cougars did not yield and using their serving power, Cranford crawled to within 1 at 22-23.

A Hilltopper hitter that had been kept quiet up to that point got her chance to shine and,  with the pressure of the moment on her shoulders, Sarah Maldonado delivered a key kill that got the team to 24-22. The Cougars scored 1 more point but the Hilltoppers closed the door on their comeback and earned a hard-fought set 3 win by a 25-23 tally, the first victory of this program at the JV level over the Cougars.

The Hilltoppers will try to end their 2017 campaign with a win over cross town rival Oak Knoll on Monday, November 6th.  Varsity will try to get its 9th victory of the season, a 4 year best if earned.  JV will try to get its 16th win which will be the 2nd best winning % and 2nd most wins in program history. 


Plainfield Highlights


The Hilltoppers traveled to Plainfield to take on the Cardinals but the squad was without the services of OH/DS Katie Samay, L Ava Williamson, DS Kiera Stocks and lost the other DS Cheryl Liu at game time, all with various illnesses.  This forced SHS to man the back line with a skeleton crew of defensive specialists (Tessa Pulgar and Camille Della Piazza) and force some front row players to take on serve receive and defensive responsabilities.  Under the stress of playing with a completely new lineup, the team was also welcoming back Georgia Inggs who was playing in her first game since early September due to a hand fracture.  The character of this team was in full display as the communication and support among the young ladies overcame all the obstacles in this game to get them their 6th win of the season. 

Coach Martins knew that the team had to rely on its serving production and could not yield errors on offense as the team defense was going to be less than reliable.  The team stuck to the game plan and delivered a 6 aces and 9 kills in set 1, but more importantly, the team served at an 88% clip with an ace % of 24% and scored 9 kills with a 38% kill % and a hitting efficiency of .208.  Alisha McDonnell set the tone early and led the serving barrage with 4 aces with an 11/11 serving performance and Taylor Thompson led the squad with 4 kills and a .250 hitting efficiency (.500 kill %) to lead Summit to a 25-14 set 1 win. 

The squad jumped out to a 13-5 lead after 6 rotations but a Cardinal 7-1 run shaved the lead down to 2 and the Hilltoppers had to rely on a Plainfield service error to turn the tide as Captain McDonnell then went on a service run that included 4 consecutive aces to blow the game open and give SHS a 21-12 lead that the Cardinals could not overcome as the Hilltoppers took set 1 25-14.

Set 2 was a much more stressful affair as the 25-21 eventual set and match score reflected.  Sylvie Goudreau was the catalyst for the win, hitting for 4 of the 10 team kills in the set with a .375 efficiency and a .500 kill %. 

Summit had taken hold of the set after 6 rotations at 12-8 but Plainfield had cut the lead down to 3 at 17-14 but could not get any closer as both teams basically traded points the rest of the way, SHS not being able to put the Cardinals away and Plainfield fighting all the way to the last point. 

The Maroon and White will look to earn its 7th win versus Cranford on Senior Night as the team will attempt to beat Cranford for the first time in 6 years and will try to avenge a tight 3 set loss a week ago.


After an easy victory over the Cardinals early in the season, the Hilltoppers were looking to duplicate the effort relying on its service and timely hitting.  However,  the team was only able to generate 3 aces for the match that featured the inaugural match for the members of the Practice Squad who fought hard versus the Cardinals,  hit for 2 of the team's total 3 aces and lost a heartbreaker 26-24.  The
JV Hilltoppers took over in set 2 but failed to capitalize on its serving opportunities, missing 8 serves in the set while only hitting for 1 ace, and committing numerous passing and hitting gaffes that allowed the Cardinals to close the set late and take the match 25-23. 

Annabella Yorio led the team with 4 kills and Abby Doyle and Megan Tarashuk combined for 7 digs but the entire team was not consistent enough and suffered its 6th loss of the season.  The squad will look to turn around its fortunes versus Cranford, a team they lost to 2-0 about a week ago.  SHS has yet to defeat Cranford at the JV level in its history.