The East Brunswick High School boys volleyball team made sure that they wouldn’t be a three-time loser to St. Joseph this season.
From start to finish, the second-seeded Bears were dominant, rolling to a 2-0 (25-15, 25-18) victory over top-seeded St. Joseph (36-4) to win the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament title Saturday at J.P. Stevens High School. It is the seventh GMCT title for East Brunswick (27-3) in the last 12 seasons and its first since 2009.
On this day, it was all about exacting revenge from two regular-season defeats at the hands of the Falcons.
“When they beat us on our home court, we felt embarrassed,” setter Alec Weissman said. “We felt like we played well below our level and I think we really wanted this because it meant the most.”
Dan Leung, who starred on East Brunswick’s basketball team this winter, felt a reversal of fortunes personally. The Bears took both regular-season meetings from the St. Joseph basketball team and then lost in the GMCT final, so there was incentive to flip the script for him.
“We had a lot of motivation, since they beat us twice in the regular season, and it was pretty obvious that we had to come out here and make a statement,” Leung said. “From basketball season to now, everything just flip-flopped.”
East Brunswick jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first set, with Weissman serving, and never looked back. A front line of Jack Fredricks, Billy Fox and Owen Summerer helped stifle any St. Joseph efforts to get back into the contest, blocking multiple shots right onto the court.
“We work on blocking a lot and as a school, we’ve never been a great blocking team,” coach Greg Rutz said. “So we work on it and today it just connected. The guys closed blocks and pressed hard and a lot of work in the gym paid off. Our guys show up to big games and they really played well today.”
The Falcons held just four leads in the entire match, but none for more than one point at a time, and in the deciding second set, East Brunswick took the lead for good at 9-8. Consistent passing and good team communication helped key the Bears’ spurt in the second set, with Weissman, who finished with 29 assists in the contest, in the middle of things.
“It feels great. They beat us twice in the regular season and we knew that it would be a tough match, but we really came out pumped up,” Weissman said. “It’s like Coach Rutz said, ‘Save your best volleyball for today,’ and I think we did that. We jumped on them from the start and seized momentum.”
Rutz saw a level of confidence in his team that he hadn’t seen all season long and with the state tournament starting next week, he believes his squad is clicking at the right time.
“I think we came out the most confident weâve played all year,” Rutz said. “We’ve toyed around a little bit with different lineups and how weâre going to do things and I think we finally found our starting seven. With those guys on the floor, if they play like this, they shouldn’t be afraid of anyone.”