2023 Shore Sports Network Girls Volleyball Coach of the Year: Southern’s Eric Maxwell
“Volleyball” and “Maxwell” have become synonymous terms with success.
From Coach Maxwell’s kids Matthew, Olivia and Emily who were exceptional players to Liam Maxwell, his nephew who was recently inducted into the Southern Regional Hall of Fame, volleyball at Southern has become a dynasty with Coach Eric Maxwell at the helm.
Even before Southern Regional volleyball played in the Shore Conference, they competed in the Olympic Conference with a brief overlap of being in both conferences where Coach Maxwell led his teams to Olympic Conference Championships and Shore Conference Championships in the same season.
Now, it’s been known throughout the Shore Conference that what's been built down at Southern Regional is nothing short of a remarkable. Whether it's taking home the SCT or 30 plus win seasons, Coach Maxwell is constantly rewriting the history books.
2023 had a different feel to it for Maxwell and the Rams. Knowing that perennial superstars Jordyn Hamlin and Molly Regulski were entering their senior season, it became a must win endeavor to hang the NJ Group IV banner.
The Rams had 13 game win streak to start the season; with all but one being secured in straight sets. It was the electric start that became the standard expectation, however competing against the best teams in the state helped set the stage for the impending playoff run.
While Coach Maxwell had Hamlin and Regulski to depend on, he found two more counterparts in juniors Emily Brunatti and Jessica Smart holding down leads for the Rams. Brunatti ended 2023 with 270 digs while Smart ended the season rounding out with 263 kills. Two more forces discovered early on by Maxwell, the consistent rotation gave Southern exactly what the needed in terms of depth.
The Rams saw another win streak compile together, winning eight straight matches in consecutive sets.
Entering the Shore Conference Tournament as the number one overall seed, the Rams looked to defend the title and make themselves back-to-back champions. In all four rounds, the Rams took care of business in straight sets, reigning in as the champion of the Shore Conference once again. It was a remarkable performance by all contributors on the Rams, but possibly not one bigger than Coach Maxwell. At any time necessary, Maxwell called timeouts at the smartest and most crucial times. Maxwell also kept his rotation fresh and continued to keep everyone of significance ready to go.
Coach Maxwell told his roster all year long that the goal at the end of the day was to win a group title. Entering the South Jersey Group IV tournament, expectations were at an all-time high for the best team in the conference.
After taking down their fellow Shore Conference rival in Toms River North in the opening round, the Rams followed it up with back-to-back dominating performances over Cherokee and Lenape to find themselves back into the group final.
Knowing that Williamstown was all that separated the Rams from a sectional title, Maxwell knew that every point would matter and that all of his players would need to put their bodies on the line to ultimately garner the victory.
After dominating the opening set, Southern found themselves all knotted up at a set a piece after Williamstown changed gears. Williamstown continued to dominate the early going of the third set, taking a commanding 9-2 lead. Coach Maxwell called a timeout and the Rams settled in. After chipping away and eventually gaining the lead back, Southern found themselves down 21-19 late. The Rams went on a 6-0 run and sealed the sectional final.
Monroe was the next victim for Southern, as the Rams found themselves into the group final. Once again, it was a "backs against the wall" mentality for the program, down a set early and having to gut out the victory.
All players that saw themselves with significant action in the year found themselves on the biggest stage of them all with the group finals. Taking on Morristown, the Rams knew that this would be no walk in the park ultimately to achieve coveted status as group champions.
Immediately, the Rams knew that they belonged. The Rams were dominating out on the court against an undefeated program, making the group title even more sweeter. Southern took the victory in straight sets and won their first group title in 15 years.
"Coach Maxwell is very deserving of this honor," Athletic Director Chuck Donohue said. "He is a terrific motivator and committed coach in the sport of volleyball. Coach Maxwell is an advocate of the sport and will continue to drive himself, his coaches and player to be the best in the state."
Maxwell is now approaching 800 career wins in his tenure as the head coach of the Rams. Maxwell will have a strong cast returning in '24 and the expectations will once again be right where they were entering this year.
For the campaign that he led and for setting the standard as one of the states finest head coaches, Eric Maxwell has been named the 2023 Shore Sports Network Girls Volleyball Coach of the Year.