Just like nearly every other volleyball team, Kinnelon mentally prepares for its upcoming match together in the locker room. But the Colts have a somewhat unusual ritual which they jokingly call “hair folding.” Junior outside hitter Isabella Tighe is usually at the center of the impromptu beauty salon.
Tighe’s multi-braid ponytail has become almost as much of a statement as her topspin serve, though the latter was considerably more effective in Kinnelon’s 25-16, 25-18 Morris County Tournament victory over Jefferson on Tuesday afternoon. Setter Sophia Tiajoloff and opposite Kristin Akin usually braid Tighe’s brunette mane, wrapping each one with a minature black rubber band. The final number of braids varies — nine on Tuesday, but anywhere from five to an all-time high of 16 — depending on how much time the team has, but Tighe said the Colts “all get into the game mindset as our hair gets braided.”
Jefferson coach Marc Gaydos was more focused on Tighe’s serve, which he said was “a totally different ballgame” from the team’s early-season competition. He called out descriptions of each Kinnelon server to his team; Tighe was first “jump-float” and then “jump-topspin.”
The Falcons hadn’t seen anything like that before, and Tighe took advantage with four aces in a six-point swing during the second game. When she stepped behind the service line, the Colts were down by three points, 14-12. By the time Jefferson got a sideout on a Kinnelon error, the home team led by four.
“We knew it was going to be a very tough game,” sophomore middle hitter Julia Murawinski said. “We gave it our all. We were very energetic and stayed positive.”
Murawinski led the visiting Falcons with four kills, five blodks and a dig. Sophomre Schyler White added two kills, three blocks and two digs.
Tighe finished with five aces, five digs and eight kills. Senior middle hitter Erin Higgins had six kills, two blocks and two aces. Tiajoloff added 16 assists for the Colts visit top-seeded Mendham for a quarterfinal on Friday. Both of the Falcons’ losses are against Kinnelon, a NJAC-Freedom regular-season match on Sept. 18 — the Colts’ only three-gamer — as well as Tuesday.
“When we first played Jefferson, we were not on our game,” Tighe said. “It was the second week of school, everyone’s distracted. We came in with the idea we were going to beat them, and we did. It makes me serve better, the intensity. The more we want to win, the better we play.”