Flyin’ High: Eagles Continue Magical Season With First SCT Win in Program History
Middletown, NJ- Chemistry. That's been the name of the game for the 2023 Middletown South Eagles.
After, more or less, a rebuild last season with a strong mixture of juniors and seniors returning to the lineup, there was the sense of creating something special this season.
This year marks the Eagles first appearance in the Shore Conference Tournament and secured the No. 8 seed and a home court advantage.
Middletown South competes in a highly competitive Class A North, which helped prepare them for this tournament.
"You can just see how much this group wants it," Head Coach Lisa Thorne said. "They've been able to come together so well all season and it all shows in every match played."
The first set against Raritan proved to be a physical and mental challenge for the Eagles. The Rockets came out to play, and put the pressure on from the start.
The Rockets secured the opening point and kept the Eagles contained largely throughout the first set.
What seemed to be a back-and-forth affair to start turned into the edge for the Eagles, as they catapulted to a five-point 11-6 lead.
"It doesn't matter who we have to face, we're all ready for the challenge and we all believe in ourselves," noted senior Karolyna Bojko. "You see how we fight on the court. We don't carry over previous matches into current ones and we stay focused on the task at hand."
After having a 16-12 lead later in the first, Raritan clawed back as they have all season long, tying and eventually taking the lead in the second set.
The situation started to look a little hectic for the Eagles, being down 20-17 and calling a crucial timeout. That's when leaders Karolyna Bojko and Cameron Kapler both stepped in and took over.
As Bojko and Kapler talked and rallied the group, the Eagles refocused. They went on a 6-0 run before the Rockets called a timeout, being one point away from the set at 24-22.
Set point was not acquired, making it 26-26, and the Eagles were able to get a point and take over for the final stretch of the first set, winning 29-27.
The second set had the feeling that this would be "a game of runs." 3-1 South to 5-3 Raritan back to 7-5 Midd South had the makings of another thriller.
The tide shifted in favor of Middletown South when Cameron Kapler took the serving position. Up 11-9, Kapler delivered eight straight service points, four in which were aces, to lift them to 10 point lead late in the second.
The Eagles were able to close out the second set without any late-game theatrics, taking the set 25-15 and taking the match 2-0.
This marks the first SCT win in Middletown South Girl’s Volleyball history since their start in 2019. In Coach Thorne’s second year she now has 21 wins and has the program in a situation they've never been in before; the SCT quarterfinals.
Bojko, who leads the Eagles in assists, had a game-high 18 for the program. Shannon Crosby, who has blossomed in the Eagles defense, led the match with 14 digs.
"The strongest asset this team has this year is chemistry," Thorne said. "The girls all play so strong together and it's been a huge reason on why we're in the position we're in today."
Middletown South will travel to No. 1 seeded and defending SCT champions Southern Regional for a spot into the semi-finals.
While the next task may seem to be the largest challenge, the way that the Eagles are playing may have the program on the right side of history once again. With 13 wins and a SCT victory under the belt, there's no telling in how high the Eagles can fly in 2023. As the magic continues to unfold, one thing can be certain. Everybody in the state should be afraid to face this program late in the season.
Midd. South (13-4)
Middletown South Notables:
-Karolyna Bojko: 18 Assists, 8 Digs, 4 Kills, 2 Blocks
-Shannon Crosby: 14 Digs, 4 Assists
-Cameron Kapler: 11 Digs, 6 Kills
-Regan Murphy: 8 Kills, 4 Digs
-Alexis Amoedo: 10 Assists, 4 Digs
-Sophie Papagiannakis: 9 Digs, 4 Assists
-Scarlett O'Hea: 8 Digs, 3 Kills