SADDLE BROOK — Barbara Colizza had to wait until her fourth season before getting to play in her first state tournament game for Hawthorne.
So when the senior libero finally made it, she made sure to make it count.
Colizza had a season-high 34 digs as Hawthorne (12-10) rallied for a three-set upset of Saddle Brook in the first round of the Group 1 girls volleyball tournament on Wednesday in a comeback she likely will remember for years to come.
The 24th seeded Bears lost the first set, 25-20, but won 25-18, 25-16 in the final two over the ninth-ranked Falcons.
It was Hawthorne’s first state win since 2012, when Colizza was a freshman reserve.
“It’s so much fun,” said Colizza on the win. “Being a senior and being a leader, it definitely makes it more personal to me. I’m playing on the court this time, so I really want to win it.”
The Bears play at No. 8 Cedar Grove in a second-round game Friday. Hawthorne coach Daniella Salemo said that win or lose, she’s already proud of what her team’s been able to accomplish.
“Knowing we came out and won states my first year coaching is really great,” Salemo said. “It really shows how great the girls are, how dedicated they are and how much they listen.”
Colizza led the relentless Bears’ defense Wednesday, while hitters Hannah Frascella (35 kills) and Marianna Stas (52 sets) both set season highs with their offensive contributions.
Frascella, a junior outside hitter, mixed in a variety of power and finesse kills to keep Hawthorne competitive in a first set otherwise dominated by Saddle Brook.
“Hannah is an unbelievable player,” Salemo said. “She can be so tough on herself, but this was her best game by far the whole season.”
Saddle Brook managed to win the first set, and jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the second set. But the Falcons weren’t able to sustain the lead and seal the game.
The score was tied eight times in the second set, and the Bears finally pulled away by scoring the last four points.
“Our teamwork throughout the whole game helped us,” Colizza said. “I know we came out slow the first set but especially during the second and third set, we worked together as a team instead of six individuals on the court.”
The Bears coasted throughout the third set until reaching set point at 24-11. Hawthorne earned the set point when the referees reversed an out-of-bounds call by saying that a Falcon player deflected the ball.
The reversal riled up the Saddle Brook crowd and energized the Falcons, who won the next five points with the game on the line.
But Frascella ended any drama with another blistering kill just moments after a Hawthorne timeout.
“We were kind of frustrated, because we knew we could do it but the execution just wasn’t there,” Frascella said. “So we just had to regroup and make sure we were playing as a team.”
It capped a resilient win for the Bears and Colizza, who was happy to play a leading role this time in Hawthorne’s big win.
It may have taken until her fourth season, but the senior captain said it was worth the wait.
“This is one of the best games we’ve ever played as a team,” said Colizza.