Girls Volleyball- Southern Sings Success For Second Consecutive Year in SCT
Lakewood-- Over the last two seasons for Southern Regional volleyball, the standard has always been at the top. Whether it's number one in shore or state rankings, the standard has never changed and is a major reason why the success has come so easily to the program.
For Coach Eric Maxwell, this is what it's all about; building up throughout the regular season to be made for these situations.
"Everybody has worked so hard over the last season to be here today," Coach Maxwell said. "Jordyn and Molly are perfect examples of that. Being able to lead by example while putting ourselves in situations where others may be uncomfortable is another reason why we're here."
Southern's first task of the night was making it through the semi-finals, taking up No. 5 Barnegat. While the Rams entered this matchup facing the Bengals for the first time all year, it was back to the basics for the program.
After winning the first set 25-16, the Rams went on a 7-0 run to start off the second set and never looked back. For the second consecutive season, the Rams were back into the SCT finals.
While this was the second year in a row making it to the finals, it was also the second straight year that the program would be going up against No. 2 Donovan Catholic, a program that's battled back and forth with Southern for the top spot in the shore and even in the state.
"We have a great deal of respect for Donovan," Coach Maxwell said. "They're a really strong program top to bottom and we knew that this wasn't going to be easy. It shows how well-coached they are to be back in the finals again."
One of the main reasons to the successes brought to Southern's 2023 team has been senior Molly Regulski. Coming into the finals, Regulski led the team and the entire state of New Jersey in assists with 555. There hasn't been one match this season that Regulski posted under double-digit totals in assists.
While she's the perennial setter for the team, she also came in as one of the best servers in the state as well. Entering the finals, Regulski led all on Southern with 155 service points and 61 aces. That trend only continued into the finals.
Donovan Catholic got out to the early lead in the first set before senior Jordyn Hamlin smashed an olympic-esque kill over the net, tying the set up at two.
The early exchanges between the Griffins and Rams were some of the most high-quality volleyball plays someone could witness on the court. Kill attempts being blocked, the digs on the court, the serves throughout proved that these two teams deserved to be in the finals.
"Donovan's a really good program," Regulski said. "I mean we knew how strong they are and we came into the match with that thought, so it definitely gave us a little bit of an edge."
After the Griffins held a 5-4 lead in the first set, the Rams went on an 8-2 run to put the score at 12-7 and having Donovan calling their first timeout.
The Griffins were able to get a point on defense, which came prior to Macayla Lindner getting a service point and cutting the lead back to three. The Griffins were able to drop the lead down to two before Jordyn Hamlin came on with another massive kill, one of her nine on the day, and putting the Rams up 14-11.
Regulski hopped back on serve, getting back-to-back service points which included a dastardly ace.
The Griffins were able to get back within four from a strong Elizabeth Kavanaugh service point, making the score 17-13.
While being up four, Coach Maxwell took a timeout to regroup and discuss to take the first set. As Southern has been doing all season long, the Rams took over and closed out the first set on another 8-2 run, taking the set 25-15.
While the Rams were one set away from being back-to-back Shore Conference champions, they knew they couldn't let up and had to continue the pace of play they'd been providing the entire way.
After the Griffins struck first off another Lindner serve, the Rams got their first point on defense and handed the ball back to Hamlin.
Hamlin was able to get back-to-back service points, continuing the devastating serves while Southern played strong at the front of the net.
The Griffins had a stretch of strong kills and keeping the second set close once again, bringing the lead down to two at 7-5.
After another exchange of points between the two, Regulski hopped back onto serve and delivered another clean ace, leading 9-6. Southern was able to extend the lead to five after an errant service, leading 12-7 when Donovan called timeout to regroup in the second set.
The tandem of Jordyn Hamlin and Molly Regulski continued to provide an absolute masterclass at Georgian Court University, causing heads to spin left and right. After holding their largest lead of the set at six, the Griffins were able to get two back and make it a 14-10 set.
Coach Maxwell knew exactly what he was doing, calling another timeout up in the set, but before things could really get interesting. The Rams went on a 4-1 run, making the score 18-11 and giving them their highest lead of the second set, forcing the Griffins to call a timeout.
The lead continued to extend for the Rams, holding a 20-12 lead late into the second set. The Griffins didn't go down without a fight, coming back with a 4-2 run to make it a six-point set.
The Rams didn't take the run by the Griffins as a threat, closing out the final three points and winning the set 25-16.
The celebration commenced and the realization for the Rams finally set in; back-to-back Shore Conference champions.
"This is right up there for best wins ever for me," Regulski said. "I mean it's just really special. We worked so hard throughout the year, we knew that this would be a challenge and I'm incredibly proud of my team right now."
After an entire season on debating back-and-forth on who's number one and who's number two, the Rams ultimately proved that the top spot has been theirs all season long and for rightful reasons.
A season that has seen the team go undefeated in their division, undefeated in the conference and now taking down Donovan Catholic not once but twice throughout 2023 only shows why the Rams are the best team in the shore.
When talking about what's next for the Rams, Regulski has high aspirations but also knows everything now is a day-by-day situation.
"It's one game at a time for us," Regulski said. "We want to win a sectional title. We want to win the group. In order for that to happen, we have to stay focused on one opponent at a time to get there. We know our ceiling, but we can't get ahead of ourselves."
The Rams are projected to open up as the No. 2 overall seed in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV state tournament, which would mean home-court advantage up until the finals if they make it.
With the Shore Conference wrapped up and becoming the undisputed champion, the Rams dream season continues to run rampant through 2023. With the title locked up for the program, there's only so much the program can do now to continue their successes they've seen all season. It'll be back to the day-by-day mindset for the Rams, with a dream season seemingly not close to ending.
Donovan Catholic (25-3)
Southern Regional Notables:
Molly Regulski: 21 Assists, 7 Service Points, 4 Digs, 3 Aces, 1 Kill, 1 Block
Emily Brunatti: 12 Digs, 4 Service Points
Jordyn Hamlin: 9 Kills, 9 Digs, 6 Service Points
Ava Pirrello: 8 Service Points, 4 Digs
Donovan Catholic Notables:
Elizabeth Kavanaugh: 10 Assists, 3 Digs
Shantel Starling: 9 Kills, 9 Digs
Daniella Tischio: 7 Digs, 2 Assists
Macayla Lindner: 6 Kills, 3 Digs