St. Joseph’s overcame jitters and a veteran Branchville team Saturday to win its third consecutive Class A state volleyball title.
The Knights defeated the Yellow Jackets 25-17, 24-26, 25-19, 25-12 at White Knoll High School. St. Joseph’s has beaten Branchville in the final in each of the past three years.
St. Joseph’s, however, had to get back to what it does before it could beat a Yellow Jackets team that included seven seniors.
“It was evident with us that we had some jitters,” St. Joseph’s coach Jan Carino said. “Once we settled down, we were OK.”
Though the Knights (37-8) won game one 25-17, Branchville (38-7) had gained momentum. The Yellow Jackets led the second game 23-17 when St. Joseph’s rallied to take a 24-23 on a block by Caitlin Moon. Branchville won the game, however, 26-24.
At that point, Branchville’s 5-foot-10 seniors Alexis Bryant and Micaela Ecklar were causing problems for the Knights. Carino said she told her team, which trailed 15-13 in the third, to get back to swinging on offense to create opportunities for Moon and Jamila Johnson.
“We started to block a little, pick tips up a little bit better,” Carino said. “I told them, ‘You have to keep swinging.’ That is how we win our points.”
The Knights won game three 25-19 and then used a nine-point run early in the fourth game to spark the clinching 25-12 win.
“We needed to get it in our heads that we weren’t going to lose, and once we got that in we took it and ran with it,” said Moon, who made 11 kills.
Johnson, who led the team with 14 kills, said, “It feels just as good the third time around. It’s been a great experience this whole season.”
Carino said because the Knights lost eight regulars from the 2012 team, the success this season is pretty special.
“This state championship game means so much,” she said. “I’m just really proud of the girls for getting the job done.”