There were six kills. There were three aces. There were five digs. There was inspirational leadership.
It was the Southern Regional boys volleyball team’s biggest match of the season, and Brandon Lee came up big, leading the top-seeded Rams past Cherry Hill East 25-13 and 25-18 in the semifinals of the NJSIAA South Jersey Tournament on Wednesday.
“He brings a lot to the table,” said Southern coach Eric Maxwell, whose Rams (33-4) will host Williamstown, a 2-0 winner over Sterling, in the championship match 5 p.m. Friday. “He is a key outside hitter and a key passer. He serves well. He’s experienced and a leader. You saw a little bit of that today. You need guys like that in the big matches.”
The Rams closed the first game with a 7-0 run. Lee keyed the spree with one kill, two aces and two service points, turning to his jump float serve. He capped the game with an ace.
“I got into a good rhythm,” he said. “I pointed out a player and put it on him. He couldn’t do anything about it. I’ve been using this serve for four years. I have increased its speed and accuracy of placement. I can put it on anyone on any spot on the court. I have a lot of confidence in it. I know if I mess up my serve it will only be for that game. It will never happen again.”
Lee said he feels comfortable serving.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “I am real good at making sure we get either a nice long run or a couple of aces when we need them. When I am serving well, it puts us on track. We show we are the better team.”
Lee’s serve acts similar to a pitch in baseball.
“It has a lot of movement,” Maxwell said. “It does a lot of dancing and knuckling. He hits it from way behind the end line. The ball moves three, four and five times like a knuckler. It’s tough to read. We get a lot of mileage out of it.”
In the second game, the fourth-seeded Cougars (15-6) of Camden County ripped off five straight points to pull to within 22-18. Maxwell called a timeout. Jake Logue and Lee put home kills. Southern captured the game when an East kill attempt sailed long.
“We knew we would be victorious,” Lee said. “We wanted to end it right there. We wanted to show we could put the ball away right away.”
For Southern, Kyle Ficken converted seven kills in nine attempts. Mike Gesicki notched three kills and four blocks. Logue had three blocks and one kill. Luke King added 17 assists and six digs. Jake Necamp contributed five digs.
Southern is 34-10 overall in state tournament play, including 26-0 at home, in 14 seasons, all under Maxwell.
“We have a great crowd that has a lot of enthusiasm,” Lee said. “We know we won’t lose if we’re playing at home. We sacrifice and put in everything we have.”