Girls Volleyball – As Championship Tuesday Approaches, Shore 16 Stays Intact
State playoffs have kicked off and have been in full throttle over the last week now. Five teams across the Shore Conference fight for a sectional final and look to make history for their programs.
Southern Regional is back in the sectional finals to face Williamstown. Donovan Catholic is well alive inside of Non-Public A. Barnegat looks to win their second title in three years. Pinelands looks for win number 19 at Mainland for a sectional title. Raritan has a voyage up to Berkeley Heights to try and win the programs first ever title against Governor Livingston. Point Beach also looks to write history with their first sectional title.
With many unknowns still present, a final Shore 16 will come at the conclusion of the season. As so many actions and circumstances are still present, a glimpse at a potential final form is here.
1) Southern Regional (29-2, 15-0) Last Week: 1
All season long, the Rams have been THE team across the Shore Conference. The strength of schedule is up there for hardest in the state. The dominance across the conference has been absolutely remarkable. The Rams are in a golden era for volleyball under Coach Maxwell, as this era seems to never leave the programs side. One more battle against Williamstown is all that separates the Rams from a sectional title in SJG4. Can the Rams be their dominant self once again?
2) Donovan Catholic (27-3, 13-0) Last Week: 2
Non-Public brackets are always a doozy no matter how you look at it. The Griffins have been able to ease the nerves and stay well alive for a sectional title. After a dominating first-round performance vs Mount St. Dominic, the Griffins had to fight through three sets to take down No. 7 Notre Dame at home. The Griffins enter the semifinals with an elite matchup against No. 3 Paul VI, as the Griffins have been victim to losses against the program their last three matchups. Can history be rewritten and can Donovan dance into the sectional finals?
3) Barnegat (21-4, 9-3) Last Week: 4
The Bengals are one of the most versatile teams in the entire conference. As their head coach said, they don't have somebody who's the tallest, but every athlete on their team has unique skills that make them incredibly strong. The Bengals earned the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout SJG2, which has proved to benefit the program strongly. The Bengals were able to handle No. 4 Collingswood with ease in the semifinals. A finals matchup between the Bengals and Pleasantville is the only thing in the way of a second sectional final in their last three years.
4) St. John Vianney (20-6, 13-0) Last Week: 3
An incredible season for the Lady Lancers came to a conclusion over the weekend after a tough loss to Union Catholic. 20 wins is something to be proud of. Not to mention, the SCT semifinal appearance, winning the B North and ending the season in the division undefeated. One of the deepest teams to return in 2024, the Lady Lancers should be fully geared towards their future. With Ayana Warren returning for the next three seasons, the Lady Lancers should be on everybody's radar next season.
5) Pinelands (18-10, 8-6) Last Week: 8
The Wildcats have looked like one of the more dominant teams across the conference over the last few weeks, gelling together and playing strong volleyball to make the SJG3 sectional finals. They have yet to drop a set in postseason play and look to continue that run against No. 1 Mainland. While it'll be a tall task to handle, the Wildcats look as strong as anybody at the moment. While Mainland is a challenge, the Wildcats will ultimately possess the same exact challenge for their opposition.
6) Raritan (14-7, 7-5) Last Week: 9
Coming into states, there were a lot of question marks surrounding Coach Shockley's Rockets and they've all been answered. The Rockets may have gotten a lucky draw when getting No. 11 Cranford in the semifinals, but it doesn't matter today. The Rockets will be travelling to No. 1 Governor Livingston to try and make school history, potentially winning their first sectional title ever. Another team with incredible versatility and a plethora of skill makers, two sets is all that's in front of the Rockets to hoist a championship banner.
7) Brick Memorial (17-8, 11-4) Last Week: 6
The Mustangs magical season came to an end after being taken down by No. 1 Princeton in the CJG3 sectional semifinals. A year removed from winning four games, the program took massive strides set up for the future. The Mustangs will be returning a strong cast come next year and will look to find themselves right where they left off in 2023.
8) Jackson Liberty (18-7, 7-5) Last Week: 5
It was a fantastic season for the Lions, with aspirations at a state title coming to a conclusion after being taken down by No. 2 Pleasantville in straight sets. The Lions won a matchup in the SCT, making a mark across the shore. The Lions meshed together to go on a strong run through SJG2, coming up just shy in the end. While an "all-shore" sectional final would've been a dream, it doesn't take away the success that came from the Lions in 2023. Look out for Coach Chesley's group to be right back into the thick of it come next year.
9) Middletown South (14-7, 10-2) Last Week: 7
It was a season of firsts and a season of new records for the Eagles. Most wins in a season, first time winning both SCT and state matchups and multiple school records broken over the course of the season proved how strong of a season it was for the Eagles. The Eagles will be right there at the top inside the A North come next season. While the division is a pure juggernaut, the future is bright for Midd. South as they'll be returning a strong cast with new prospects on the way in '24.
10) Howell (17-4, 12-1) Last Week: 10
The Rebels will return all but one starter next season, which gives the program a spot inside the top 10. One of the top threats throughout the conference had an early exit in the state sectionals. That's all in the rearview mirror now as the Rebels already have been working to defend their divisional title. It'll sting for a little bit, but the Rebels will be right back into the fold of everything come next season.
11) Red Bank Catholic (13-9, 8-5) Last Week: 11
The Caseys gave the Lady Lancers the toughest battle they've faced inside their division in the opening round of Non Public A. They showed that they were an under-seeded program who had an incredibly talented team. As the Caseys were able to take the Lady Lancers to three sets, they were unable to close the upset out. Another program returning a strong variety of the roster in 2024, there's no reason not to expect the Caseys to be right back in the hunt for the B North.
12) Point Beach (16-12, 10-2) Last Week: 15
The Garnet Gulls look to make school history with their first sectional title on the line against Delaware Valley. A rematch from last years sectional final, the Garnet Gulls look to get revenge against the program that crushed their chances a year ago. They've been playing some of their best volleyball at the perfect time, overwhelming their opponents all throughout the sectional playoffs. The Garnet Gulls look to stifle the opposition one last time, hoping to raise the banner of SJG1 champions.
13) Toms River East (12-11, 9-5) Last Week: 12
The Raiders became the 2023 "Cinderella Story" inside the state playoffs when it comes to teams across the Shore Conference. The Raiders made it to the SJG3 sectional semifinals, coming across No. 1 Mainland. The Raiders lost in two sets, but lost by three and five points, coming extremely close to another upset. The future is incredibly bright for Coach Maskale's Raiders, showing what they can ultimately do in the most crucial situations.
14) Rumson-Fair Haven (12-10, 6-6) Last Week: 13
The Bulldogs had the perfect opportunity to make a strong run, as they were given No. 11 Cranford in the CJG2 quarterfinals. After winning the first set, the Bulldogs were upset and saw their season come to an end. While it may have not been the storybook ending the program wanted, the Bulldogs will be returning a strong roster back in '24. After a rocky 0-4 start to this season, the Bulldogs were able to get back to their winning ways and finish two games above .500.
15) Marlboro (12-9, 8-5) Last Week: 14
The Mustangs were looking to carry the momentum from their Shore Conference Tournament run into states, but were upset by No. 11 Bridgewater-Raritan in straight sets. It was a streaky season for the Mustangs, but were able to show the conference who they truly were inside the SCT, winning against Howell. The Mustangs will return a strong cast next season, but will be losing their top threat in Cece Marino. With a strong group returning, look for the Mustangs to be right back into the rankings.
16) Central Regional (12-9, 8-6) Last Week: 16
The record of the Golden Eagles wouldn't indicate their first-round matchup against Cherry Hill East, as CHE looked under-seeded if anything. Coach Mangold did a fantastic job with this program all season long and will be returning superstar Kate O'Blek front and center for '24. After seeing what they could do all season, the aspirations for the future are incredibly high for Central Regional. It'll be interesting to see how it all comes together next year.