The Southern Regional boys volleyball team showed Williamstown why it was seeded first in the NJSIAA South Jersey Tournament.
The Rams bested the third-seeded Braves 25-11 and 25-10 to win their fourth straight championship Friday. Southern will meet Fair Lawn, a 2-0 winner over Vernon, in the NJSIAA state semifinals 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at South Brunswick High School. Fair Lawn (34-6) won the North Jersey I title.
Outside hitter Kyle Ficken paced the Rams in the first game, converting six kills in six attempts. Ficken, 8-for-11 on kills in the match, was the beneficiary of passes from senior setter Luke King, who notched his 2,000th career assist Friday. Ficken received the championship plaque from Southern athletic director Chuck Donohue Jr.
“I loved receiving it,” Ficken said. “It feels good to get something. It’s just like winning the state championship, but it’s not the state championship yet.”
Ficken and senior outside hitter Brandon Lee teamed to blast home 10 kills in 11 attempts in the first game.
“Luke set the ball spot on,” Ficken said. “When he sets spot on, everyone puts the ball away. He put it up there as perfect as can be. Once we start passing well and he is setting, I am putting it (the ball) away everytime.”
“As a senior, Kyle waited for his turn,” said Southern coach Eric Maxwell, whose Rams are 35-10 all-time, including 27-0 at home, in state tournament play in his 14 seasons as Southern’s lone mentor. “He has had a phenomenal season. He does not tip it. He does not roll it. He’s only swinging away. He’s deadly.
“He is on fire right now. He is on a mission. You can see it in his jump and swing. When he gets blocked, he will pound again.”
It was the Rams’ final home match of the season.
“I don’t like to think about that,” said Ficken, who will attend the Universal Technical Institute. “I loved being in this gym each day. I love volleyball. It’s a rush. It gets me so amped. There’s nothing like putting the ball away and hearing everybody just screaming from the stands.”
The Rams led each game from start to finish. They closed the first game with a 19-7 run. They capped the second with a 10-1 spree. Senior Jake Necamp keyed the surge with three aces in the second game.
“I think they applied a lot of good and consistent pressure with their service game,” losing coach Robert Cooper said. “Some of our guys possibly had some nerves. We never got into a rhythm. They ran what they wanted to run.
“We got stuck in a tempo they wanted to play. They got the ball to the right hitters and won a one of one-on-one battles. When they set their blocks, they were able to execute.”
Game scores: 25-11, 25-10; Highlights: (W) Rose 6 kills; Bernardino 13 assists; Matreale 7 digs; (S) Ficken 8 kills; Lee 10 kills; Gesicki 3 kills, 6 blocks; King 20 assists; Lewis 2 kills; Necamp 2 aces; Records: Williamstown (18-7); Southern Regional (34-4)