There are the fall traditions of Halloween and leaf raking.
There’s also the fall tradition of the Southern Regional High School girls volleyball team winning titles.
The third-seeded Rams kept their tradition intact Saturday, winning the eighth annual Shore Conference Tournament at the Georgian Court University Wellness Center. Southern fought off top-seeded Wall 25-20 and 26-24 in the championship match.
The Rams won the title for the sixth time. They came away as the champions for the second straight season. They are 6-2 in championship matches.
“This is special for all of our seniors,” Southern senior outside hitter Emily Miglin said. “It’s special for the rest of the team because they will come back next season as the returning champions. We did not feel any pressure to win.
“We play a hectic schedule against some of the best teams in the state. Most of our matches are big matches. We play big teams so that we are ready for big games.”
Largely because of their demanding schedule, the Rams started the season slowly.
“This title is awesome,” Southern senior outside hitter-middle blocker Cece Hodgson said. “At the start of the year, we struggled to jell. Now is the perfect time to jell.”
“We played seven teams ranked in the top 20,” said Southern coach Eric Maxwell, who has led the Rams to each title. “That’s what we always do. We lose, but we learn where our weaknesses are. We got out of the gate slow, but it paid off. Our schedule and work ethic come to fruition late in the year when it matters the most. We feel we will peak in late October and early November and that’s exactly what happens.”
The Class A South champion Rams (24-7) fought off a furious Wall charge in the second game. The Class A North champion Crimson Knights (18-3) went ahead 24-23 when senior outside hitter Veronica Portelli capped a 14-5 run with a kill.
Southern rallied for the final three points of the game. Senior outside hitter-middle blocker Cece Hodgson put the winners in front to stay 25-24 and senior setter-right side Carly DellaValle ended the match with a service point.
“Our girls did not quit,” Wall coach Jared Musolf said. “They played hard until the last whistle. They stuck together. As a coach, all you can ask for is that your girls play hard. When a match gets that close, it goes either way. One call here … one call there … one ball here … one ball there … One play here … one play there …”
The Rams went on one of their traditional Southern Regional runs in the first game, burying the Crimson Knights under a 16-8 avalanche to close the opener. Miglin keyed the spree with five kills and two aces. Hodgson contributed two kills.
“Well, I just went up as hard as I could and did not worry about how good their blocks were,” the 5-foot-10 Miglin said. “They blocked a couple, but I also found a way to hit around their blocks. I have worked on my kill shot all season and it’s good it worked today.”
“Emily is a tough outside hitter,” Maxwell said. “We need her to be effective and have big games against the good teams. We got the ball outside to her and she again did the job for us.”
Miglin said the Rams played as a team during the surge.
“We played as one unit,” she said after converting 13 of 30 kills in the match, including nine of 17 in the first game. “Nobody got down on themselves. We played amazing as a team. Everyone was confident. There was nobody out there who was not confident.”
“We think of our games as games to five,” the 5-foot-11 Hodgson said after putting up six kills, three blocks and eight digs in the match. “Once we get going, we don’t stop. We keep the momentum going. Everyone jelled. We had good passing and good serving. We played our sideout game. We got good swings and good sets.”
Maxwell said he was not surprised to see his Rams go on a run.
“I have said it over and over,” he said. “We keep it close and go on a run. We plug away. We know if we’re within five points a run is coming (the streak began with Southern down 12-9). We kept it close and got on a run.”
Southern senior setter Alex Andriani notched 15 assists. DellaValle added seven assists. Senior libero-defensive specialist Marina Felmly contributed eight digs. Sophomore middle blocker Alexa Cacacie added four blocks. Senior defensive specialist Samantha Foster-Tiso contributed seven digs.
Portelli finished with seven kills. Junior setter Taylor Mitchell added 15 assists. Senior middle hitter Anna Litowinsky contributed five blocks.