Volleyball teams across the state are setting up for tournament time and it promises to bring about highly contested, competitive matchups.
The Skyland Conference will begin its postseason tournament on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. at Hillsborough High School with three matchups — the two semifinals and the final.
Perennial conference power Hillsborough, Hunterdon Central, Watchung Hills and upstart Ridge make up the field for the semifinals.
“It should be a real competitive day of volleyball,” Hunterdon Central coach Steve Fenton said. “Outside of Hillsborough, the other three teams have beaten each other at least once this season. As the game of volleyball goes, anything can happen.”
Missing from this year’s tournament is Bridgewater-Raritan. Last year’s runner-up in the Skyland Tournament, the Panthers chose to forgo its conference tournament this year and instead take part in the Super Six, which will take place Saturday at St. Joseph (Metuchen) High School.
“It was a team decision,” Bridgewater-Raritan coach Corey Romanak said. “We love going to the Skyland Cup, but this year we felt we had a pretty unique opportunity in getting invited to the Super Six and we’re very excited about it. It’s unfortunate that they fall on the same weekend.”
This will be the second time since 2005 that the Panthers will take part in the Super Six.
Enjoying its finest season in eight years, Ridge looks the part of a team that could dethrone Hillsborough as the Skyland’s best.
Off to a 13-6 start, coach Mike Levy is confident his team can make a run.
“Our ability to mix it up throughout the season has led to the success that we have had,” Levy said. “I’m expecting all of these games to be pretty close this year.”
Awarded the second seed in the tournament, Ridge will take on Watchung Hills in one semifinal matchup.
As for the third-seeded Warriors, who have played only 13 matches this season, they were able to split two matches with Ridge earlier this season.
A rubber match between the two means the right to play for a title and the Warriors will look to lean on 6-foot-6 senior outside hitter Mike Idasiak to provide some punch.
“We’ve relied pretty heavily on him this year,” said Watchung Hills coach Jens Madsen of Idasiak. “He carries us. If we get into a tough situation, we throw the ball up high to him and hope that he puts it down. We’re going to rely on him to get some kills for us this weekend.”
A rematch of the 2012 final will take place in the other semifinal matchup.
Fourth-seeded Hunterdon Central will take on top-seeded — and reigning Skyland champion — Hillsborough.
Hunterdon Central has been beaten twice this year by the Raiders and has been swept on both occasions. However, Fenton is hopeful the third time will be the charm.
“We have been on a bit of a roller-coaster ride throughout the season,” he said. We have played some strong competitive ball. We’ve been hit with season-ending injuries to two of our players, who happen to be co-captains, but we’re starting a freshman in place of one. He’s playing outstanding. The boys have rallied around him.”