Story By: Garrett Rasko-Martinis – The Jersey Journal 

The season the Harrison boys volleyball team has put together this year elicited just one word from head coach Nick Landy: unbelievable.

A campaign that has seen the Blue Tide win 27 games and clinch their first-ever Hudson County title  kept on rolling today in the NJSIAA North 2 semifinals.

Top-seeded Harrison, No. 10 in the Top 20, knocked out fourth-seeded St. Peter’s Prep, No. 17 in the Top 20, after three electrifying sets, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19.

Now the Blue Tide are one victory away from another milestone: their first sectional title in program history.

“I’ve been calling it history-making, I have no words for it,” Landy said. “We set a bunch of goals at the beginning of the season, and we’ve just been knocking them down one at a time. One match at a time, one game at a time, one goal at a time.”

After an exciting second set saw Prep (19-7) tie the match and force a tie-breaker, Harrison (27-2) took care of business in the third.

Paolo Samin cut Harrison’s lead to 7-6 with a kill, but the Blue Tide took control from there. A 12-6 run gave them a 19-12 lead that was too much for Prep to overcome. The Marauders tried to rally late, but Harrison big man Piotr Namiotko eventually put the match away with a thunderous spike.

Namiotko was a force up front all game long, tallying game-highs in kills and blocks with 17 and four, respectively. David Penaherrera tallied a game-high 11 service points to go along with eight kills and eight digs, and Jimmy Vega set up the offense with a team-high 28 assists.

The second set was fiercely contested from start to finish as neither team ever led by more than three. After trailing for most of the set, the Marauders rallied late as both teams played great down the stretch.

Prep used a pair of Harrison errors and a Sean Johnson ace to take a 21-20 lead, and both teams exchanged points from there. A big kill by Harrison’s Penaherrera tied it at 23-23, but Prep regained the serve after Alex Donaleski set up Adam Chester for the kill.

Prep later clinched the 25-23 victory thanks to a Harrison error.

Keillor Beckwith led the way for Prep with a team-high 12 kills and Donaleski collected five service points, two aces and a game-high 33 assists. Bradley Switala chipped in with a game-high 24 digs.

One year after the Marauders graduated three all-state seniors who led them to the the 2014 NJSIAA state championship game, head coach Maurice Washington was proud to see what his team accomplished this season.

“My guys work hard and I push them to the limit,” he said. “But the future looks great. I had a freshman starter, a sophomore starter – so the future is bright for the next couple of years.”

Harrison will host second-seeded Livingston, No. 12 in the Top 20, on Friday. The Lancers swept third-seeded Bayonne in the other semifinal today.

“We’ve been stopped by Livingston on multiple occasions – they’ve stopped us in the playoffs twice already (2011, 2012),” Landy said. “We want to get one. We’re up for that match.”