The pressure of winning can dismantle a team, and high expectations can often lead to heartbreak.
For the North Hunterdon High School girls volleyball team, the emotional ride ended in elation as they beat Ridge 2-1 to capture the NJSIAA Group IV title on Saturday at William Paterson University.
“It’s overwhelming at first,” said North Hunterdon’s Katie Primatic, “then it’s just pure happiness and it’s a great experience.”
Primatic was a big reason for the Lions’ win, as she finished the match with 9 kills, 4 blocks and an ace. While she performed well personally, she refused to take any credit.
“I thought that everyone’s hitting was really good,” said Primatic. “…I’m proud of myself as well as proud of my team.”
Game one set the tone for what would be an exciting matchup. North Hunterdon fired out to a 5-1 lead, but Ridge refused to give up. The game went back and forth, and the game was eventually tied at 29.
The teams would trade leads until Ridge was able to salvage a 32-30 advantage and take the first game.
North Hunterdon took care of game two, winning in relatively easy fashion. The Lions were up by seven points at one point, and eventually won the game 25-19.
In game three, the Lions built a hefty 20-10 lead, but Ridge rallied back to tie the game at 23.
North Hunterdon would end up taking care of business, as Brianna Watkins sealed the match with her most important kill of the game.
Despite the loss, Ridge head coach Joanna Milot showed nothing but pride for her team, as they finish the season with a 21-7 record.
“I’m so proud of them,” said Milot. “It’s all about having the fight and I know this team has the fight and we’ll be back next year.”
Stephanie Occhiogrosso was a bright spot for Ridge, finishing the match with 21 kills, four blocks, one assist and an ace.
Occhiogrosso reflected on her team’s season, which had major accomplishments after starting the campaign with a 7-6 record.
“It’s the farthest we’ve ever gotten as a team,” said Occhiogrosso. “It feels amazing. We did not expect to beat Central and we did, and we came here today and fought out hardest and it was one of the closest game we’ve had all year.”
“We’re state champs,” said North Hunterdon head coach Kirk Hissner. “The last two years we lost in the state sections so it’s a strong program and we want to keep coming back here, this place is nice!”