The Southern Regional girls volleyball team got its revenge the hard way Saturday.
One year ago, the Rams watched in frustration as Marlboro accepted the championship plaque from Shore Conference Tournament director Chuck Donohue Jr., Southern’s athletic director, in their gym.
On Saturday, Donohue presented the plaque to senior defensive specialist Devin Beattie and her teammates after the top-seeded Rams rallied for a 2-1 victory over the third-ranked Mustangs in the final.
“It’s really cool,” Beattie said. “We wanted to kill ’em. They took it from us last year. It’s real good to beat them.”
Earlier this year, the Mustangs bested the Rams in the regular-season opener for both teams.
“We wanted to win so bad,” junior outside hitter Emily Miglin said. “I am so glad we won. We redeemed ourselves from last year.”
“We wanted it more than anything,” middle blocker Kelsie Blue said. “This was the rematch and it meant more. We wanted the rematch. We stuck together as a team and took care of it.”
The Mustangs closed the first game with a 6-2 run en route to a 25-20 win. A Blue block attempt sailed out of bounds, giving Marlboro (19-4) the victory. The Rams fought off the Mustangs, 25-22, in the second game and captured the third, 25-16. Junior right side-setter Carly Della Valle knocked the ball into an open space for a clean winner, setting off a celebration among the Rams and their fans.
Southern (22-9) led from start to finish in the third game. They led by as many as 12 points on Blue’s second straight block. Blue performed a brief dance at the net after the second point.
“None of us gave up,” Blue said. “We kept shaking off every bad play and stuck together. We worked harder and stayed focused. We thought of the next play.”
Beattie said the Rams executed the basics in their comeback.
“We just went out and did not let anything drop,” she said. “We knew it was going to three games. We came out real hard and played with a lot more fire in the second game.”
Miglin, whose teams plays one of the state’s toughest schedules, said the Rams were not about to fold in the face of adversity.
“We have played a million and one three-game matches,” she said. “We knew we would come back in the second game. We knew we would win the third game. We played with our hearts. We played to win.”
Winning coach Eric Maxwell said his Rams’ demanding schedule pushed his club over the hump.
“We play a tough schedule,” he said after Southern’s fifth title in the event’s seven-year history. “We have had several three-game matches. We drew off that history. Our girls could not have played any better than when they had to.”
Maxwell said he threw down the gauntlet to his Rams after the first game.
“I challenged them,” he said, “and they responded real well. I told them, ‘Just go out and have fun. Play the game aggressively. We let them take it to us. We’re a better team than that.’ “
Marlboro coach Margie McNamara said her team frittered away the title.
“We gave it away, gave it away,” she said. “We did not stick to our game. We gave them a lot of points and they capitalized on it. I truly feel the better team did not win today. You know you can beat a team and to come back and play the way we did is frustrating. Congratulations to Southern Regional.”
Miglin notched 10 kills and three aces. Junior middle blocker Cece Hodgson added 10 kills. Blue contributed four kills and eight blocks. For Marlboro, senior outside hitter Jet Manzi notched 16 kills and two digs. Junior outside hitter Haley Unger added eight kills.