HILLSBOROUGH – Winning a county championship can be checked off the Bridgewater-Raritan girls volleyball team’s to-do list.
Top-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan disposed of second-seeded Ridge in straight sets, 25-16, 25-16, in the Somerset County Tournament’s final match on Thursday night at Hillsborough High School.
“It feels good to set a goal, like winning counties, at the beginning of the season and see it just come to fruition,” Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Corey Romanak said. “We talked about this as a team, and there was no way we were prepared to win counties at the beginning of the season. It’s been a work in progress, and just to see it culminate today and to play our best so far this season really means a lot to me as a coach.”
In both games, Bridgewater-Raritan (22-3) started out looking unsettled. Its early set play was riddled with miscommunication and errors, but once the Panthers settled in they played like a brand-new team.
In the first game, Ridge (10-9) managed four points before Bridgewater-Raritan had an answer. Slowly but surely the Panthers chipped away at the score until it was tied 6-6.
At that point the Panthers clearly started to gain momentum, then stole the lead. However, the Red Devils didn’t give it up easily. They came back to tie the score 11-11 before Bridgewater-Raritan rallied and took the set.
The second set started almost identically to the first. The Panthers found themselves in a deficit but managed to settle in and close the gap until the score was tied.
The game went back and forth with both teams rallying and tying. But Bridgewater-Raritan managed to gain the advantage and, again, run away with the win.
“I give full credit to Ridge,” Romanak said about his team’s early set performances. “They served better than we passed. They just played better than we did, but then we got into a couple rotations where we took advantage and we really minimized mistakes, and I think that was the difference today.”
To face the Red Devils in the final, Bridgewater-Raritan first had to get through Watchung Hills, which it defeated 2-0 in the first semifinal match of the night. Ridge then bested Hillsborough in straight sets to close out the semifinal round.
“Ridge always plays great,” Romanak said. “They’re defending county champs, so I think whether or not we play two matches in a night really doesn’t matter because they still look great. They gave us a fight today.”
Talea Farrell and Kasey Higgins led Bridgewater-Raritan in kills with six, and they each had two aces. Higgins had eight digs. Emily Sullivan contributed to the Panthers’ victory with 17 assists, 12 digs and one kill.
“We always find a way to get back,” Higgins said. “We have this thing where we don’t look at the score. We just try to focus on our game. From here we want to win state sectionals and then the Tournament of Champions.”
Staff Writer Alyssa Davis: email@example.com