The Southern Regional boys volleyball team got its revenge against Fair Lawn on Tuesday night.
The Rams, who lost to the Cutters in the NJSIAA Tournament state championship match the last two seasons, beat the Bergen County team 25-21 and 25-14 in the state semifinals at South Brunswick High School.
“I’ve been waiting for this for the last two years,” said Southern senior outside hitter Brandon Lee, whose Rams will meet St. Joseph of Metuchen (41-4), a 26-24 and 25-16 winner over Livingston, in the state championship match 5 p.m. Thursday at South Brunswick. “I sat on the bench last year and watched us lose when we should have won (Southern lost in three games).”
There was no loss Tuesday night as when there was a kill to be converted the Rams often blasted it home. They connected on 29 of 48 kills as their fans roared their approval. Southern converted 16 of 22 kills in the second game.
Lee was 8-for-14 on the night. Senior outside hitter Kyle Ficken was 7-for-11. Junior middle blocker Mike Gesicki was 11-for-18. Sophomore middle blocker-outside hitter Jake Logue was 3-for-5. Senior setter Luke King set up the majority of the kills with 24 assists.
“Luke gave me every good set I wanted,” Lee said. “Our passing was great. Our serves were tough. We brought it to ’em. I believe we are the strongest hitting team and the most talented team in every way. In the second game, they should have come back, but we held strong.”
“We work on our passing and sideouts in practice,” said Southern coach Eric Maxwell, whose Rams won the state title in 2009 and 2010. “We bring our alumni — Rob Kraft, Ryan Fredrickson (a Southern assistant coach) and Drew Maxwell (Maxwell’s nephew) — to practice so that our guys have big blocks to hit against. They make us practice at a different level. Our guys are more confident in game situations.”
Losing coach Pete Zisa said he was impressed with the Rams’ play.
“Their offense got rolling,” he said, “and we were unable to change their momentum. They were quite comfortable and it showed in the score. Gesicki hit around some of our tallest blockers. We were prepared for their offense, but we were unable to stop it. I wish them all the best in the world in the final.”
The Rams won the first game when Penn State University-bound senior outside hitter Chris Nugent sailed a kill attempt long. Southern closed the second game with a 14-6 run, winning on a Lee kill.
“It rolled for us,” said coach Maxwell, whose team is went 3-1 against Fair Lawn this year, winning the final three matches. “We were in the zone. We ran with it for as long as we could. Our defense was on at the net. Our back row picked up everything that came through the block.”
Southern 2, Fair Lawn 0
Game scores: 25-21, 25-14; Highlights: (SR) Ficken 7 kills; Gesicki 11 kills, 3 blocks; Lee 8 kills, 3 digs; King 24 assists, 6 digs; Necamp 11 digs; Logue 3 kills, 2 blocks; (FL) Nugent 10 kills, 7 digs; Stoyko 11 kills; Small 3 kills, 3 digs; Records: Southern Regional (35-4); Fair Lawn (34-7)