2023 Girls Volleyball SCT- Breaking Down the Field
Tomorrow, 19 teams across the Shore Conference will embark on a chase to hoist up the coveted trophy for the Shore Conference Tournament. Within all rounds, the field of play will be whittled down to two teams set to take the stage on Monday, October 23rd at Georgian Court University.
The brackets were released last night on October 16th, 2023 after much deliberation by the Shore Volleyball Coaches Association.
A Part of the Party
Keyport is a late entry after qualifying for the Shore Conference Tournament with a must win match versus Burlington City on the road. Abigail Reiber and Isabella Nani have been the main role-players for the Red Raiders, with Allison Ahmed and Kayla Aumack balancing out the roster. They'll be given the challenge of facing Class A South’s No. 14 Central Regional who have won three of their last four.
18. St. Rose
The Purple Roses will be facing a familiar foe in No. 15 Point Beach, a Class B Central rival. They have split in their divisional matches this season with the Garnet Gulls. Freshman Ali Lubach has been proving to be the future of the program, leading with 229 assists. If the Purple Roses can get past Point Beach, they'll have a daunting task of heading to No. 3 St. John Vianney.
Long Road Ahead
17. Toms River North
About three weeks ago, the Shore Conference Tournament was an afterthought for the Mariners. After a 3-5 start, the program was able to rattle off four straight victories and sneak themselves into the dance. They'll be given the opportunity to face off against No. 16 Rumson-Fair Haven, which seems to set up as a three-set thriller. Riley Budenas has been the anchor for the Mariners, and with a win versus the Bulldogs, a date with No. 1 Southern awaits.
16. Rumson-Fair Haven
The Bulldogs started off in the preseason top ten rankings, with high aspirations all around. After a rocky 0-3 start, the program has turned their season around being lead by Cayla Kuo. Class B North is no cake walk, as they face talented programs all season. It'll be a different atmosphere for RFH as they visit Class A South’s Toms River North looking to advance on to No. 1 Southern Regional.
15. Point Beach
The Garnet Gulls have played really strong volleyball as of late, facing ranked opponents out of their division as well as claiming the Class B Central divisional title. They'll have to play St. Rose once again, who has also been playing well as of late. If Molly Huvane and the Garnet Gulls can win round one, they will visit No. 2 Donovan Catholic.
Kate O'Blek has been the heart and soul of the Golden Eagles, leading the team with 319 assists. Keyport should be an opening round matchup for the Golden Eagles that puts them as favorites. The problem is, No. 3 St. John Vianney awaits the winner. While stranger things have happened, it's going to be a tough battle against a team that their only shore losses are to the one and two seeds.
12. Toms River East
The Raiders have played streaky volleyball this season, but can use the Shore Conference Tournament as a chance to find themselves. They were 9-6 a week ago and just yesterday, had to win outright to clinch a spot into the dance. That doesn't take away the talent this program has, as well as the capabilities of playing solid volleyball. The Raiders travel to No. 5 Barnegat as their opening round opponent.
Marlboro has the benefit coming into the tournament by playing within the grueling Class A North schedule. They have lost twice to No. 4 Howell in two highly competitive matches, and it’s always difficult to beat a team that third time. While the Mustangs have played inconsistent after their 4-0 start, there's a major opportunity for the program to somewhat reset their 2023 and take the shore by surprise.
10. Brick Memorial
One of the most intriguing matchups of the entire tournament is the 7 versus 10 matchup between Pinelands and Brick Memorial. The Mustangs started off galloping through the shore at 9-2 before a three-game losing streak brought them back to life. A victory versus the seven seed is the exact statement the Mustangs need to set the tone of the rest of their season.
Catch Heat, Stay Tuned
11. Red Bank Catholic
The Caseys have a 12-7 record, swept the ninth-seed Raritan but got swept by the sixteen-seed Rumson-Fair Haven. There are no losses on their schedule that stick out like a sore thumb. It's an intriguing setup for the Caseys. They'll travel to No. 6 Jackson Liberty on Thursday and Jackson Liberty is known for two things; high scoring and having games go deep. The winner will go onto play the winner of SJV v Central/Keyport winner, as the Caseys are quite familiar with the Lancers already.
With an 11-5 record and the talent that circulates the program, there's no reason why the Rockets shouldn't feel good about their position entering the tournament. The Rockets travel to No. 8 Middletown South for their matchup in the round of 16, a rematch of their early-season date in which Raritan won in three sets. Raritan has something that a lot of programs aren't lucky to have and that's a breakout freshman that can help set the tone for the future. Sophie Papagiannakis has been an asset for the Rockets, second in assists (58) and digs (105). If the Rockets can get past Middletown South, they have an opportunity to play the winner of the No. 1 Southern versus Rumson-Fair Haven/ Toms River North.
8. Middletown South
The Eagles were mere points away from disrupting Class A North division race, taking No. 4 Howell to three sets. The Eagles have playmakers all across the court led by Karolyna Bojko. They're an incredibly deep team and they're very well-coached. The Eagles have played a tough schedule and have competed strongly with every team. They are a team with a compelling case for a higher seed, but know they can handle business from any seed they are handed. While they lost to Raritan earlier this season, this is a rejuvenated and motivated group of girls. We must keep a watchful eye on the likes of the Middletown South Eagles during tournament play.
Junior Olivia Shertenlieb may very well be making a case for Player of the Year as she has been absolutely ruthless leading the Wildcats with 389 assists. Pinelands has a rough schedule, so don't let eight losses along the way fool you as they are the number one team in their group for power points. This team is deep and this team has potential to cause serious chaos inside the tournament. The Wildcats will take on No. 10 Brick Memorial to open up the tournament. While the Mustangs have the chance to be this years "Cinderella," the Wildcats have a chance to be this year's force out of nowhere. The Wildcats play up to their competition and play at a high level at all times.
6. Jackson Liberty
There's a trending pattern with Jackson Liberty. They'll rattle off three or four wins and then lose one to someone who sees them eye-to-eye. What perfect time to continue that trend without a loss then inside a tournament. Rattle off some wins against tough competition and make some history. Four of their five losses have come off the hands of No. 5 Barnegat and No. 2 Donovan Catholic. The Lions are built for postseason volleyball and have been a surprise all season long with a strong core in Stella Harzold and Steph Ramos. They have home-court advantage against No. 11 Red Bank Catholic, which seems to be a strong fit for the Lions.
Coming into the season, everybody knew that the Bengals would be playing postseason volleyball in some sort of capacity. The greater unknown was what their future truly meant for them. With a new head coach, the Bengals have roared across the shore, making their mark all throughout the regular season. While their first matchup against No. 12 Toms River East will be no walk-in-the-park, the Bengals match up incredibly well against them. If the Bengals find themselves in the quarterfinals, they could potentially line up against No. 4 Howell, a matchup in which Barnegat could make a statement. The odds are in their favor to open up. How in favor will the championship odds line up for the Bengals?
The Rebels have done what true contenders do all season long; take care of business. Howell is led by Junior Savannah Torres, who leads the team with 284 assists. Another team that's deep and versatile, Howell poses a problem for anybody in their way. The bracket may not fall completely in their favor, as a pathway to the semi-finals could include No. 13 Marlboro and No. 5 Barnegat. What falls in their favor is the depth and resiliency that the Rebels have. While the bracket may seem to be a challenge for the Rebels, challenges have come their way all year. What's another one in their way stopping them from making history?
3) St. John Vianney
It was touched upon earlier with another team about traits that most programs don't have, but if you do, the program is set up. That's having a freshman on your program who plays everyday. What the Lancers have goes above and beyond that. Freshman Ayana Warren has just surpassed 400 assists on the season and makes a strong case for Freshman of the Year. The Lancers also won the Class B North by going undefeated and also have faced both No. 1 Southern and No. 2 Donovan Catholic this year. The Lancers have been third in this triad of powerhouse programs, and they want nothing more than to assert themselves as the number one team at the Shore. Well, as the saying goes, there’s no better time than now. Look for the Lady Lancers in the Finals.
2) Donovan Catholic
The Griffins have played the most games out of anybody in the Shore Conference this season and the Griffins love to play against strong competition. That right there will make you an automatic favorite inside the tournament, especially after going 22-2 in 24 games. Their only losses have come to Monroe and No. 1 Southern. The Griffins captured Class B South with an undefeated divisional record. They're built to win…now. Caleigh Austin, Elizabeth Kavanaugh, Macayla Lindner, Shantel Starling and Daniella Tischio are all seniors who put up electric numbers day in and day out. The pathway to a rematch against Southern in the finals seems plausible, but there will be challenges along the way for this incredibly talented Griffins program.
It's been astounding to watch this program unfold all throughout 2023. Their only loss was to arguably the best team in the state when not talking about Southern in Immaculate Heart Academy. The Rams have done everything that's needed to be done prior to the tournament taking place. They won the Cclass A South with a 14-0 record. They took down No. 2 Donovan Catholic in straight sets earlier this month. The Rams continue to be the Shore Conference's most consistent and dominant team in quite some time. On top of the program being so well-rounded, the Rams have some the best players in the state in Molly Regulski and Jordyn Hamlin. It seems as though the only thing that can stop machine at Southern is themselves, which is an unlikely path.