HACKENSACK – Carlos Gutierrez sounds as if he belongs at quarterback. Harrison is happier he looks and plays as though he belongs on the volleyball court.
The senior outside hitter led the Blue Tide to their second consecutive Hackensack Tournament championship Saturday. In eight games on the day, Gutierrez tallied team-highs in kills (13) and aces (five), but those were not the numbers that got him noticed.
Every time Harrison prepared to receive a serve, Gutierrez performed his own Peyton Manning act, barking out opponents’ jersey numbers and giving the impression that he was calling some sort of audible.
Though the calls themselves had no meaning, they served a purpose.
“In one game last year, another team did it to us and got into our heads,” Gutierrez explained. “So I figured if winning the battle of the mind helped them win the game, it could help us.
“I tried it one time [earlier this season], and it worked, so I’ve kept doing it ever since,” he said.
In the Gold bracket final against Kearny, Gutierrez’s energy was one of the factors that helped the Blue Tide overcome an early deficit and prevail, 25-22. He spiked four kills during a 9-1 run that put his team up, 10-6, and later served an ace to tie the title game at 19.
Senior middle Varinder Singh accounted for three of Harrison’s final five points, putting away the game-winner off a set by Piero Martinez.
For the tournament, Martinez had 27 assists and fellow junior Vinny Yoshimoto added 26. Senior outside hitter Tijani Rezki chipped in 13 kills, including three versus Kearny.
The Blue Tide came in having won five straight dual matches, four of which went a full three sets. In three of those victories, they had to rally after dropping the first set.
“We hadn’t played a good first set all week, and here, you can’t have a [bad] first set, because you’re just playing one,” Harrison coach Nick Landy said. “But things ended up working out for the best.”
Harrison won Pool 1 with a 5-1 record and reached the Gold final by topping Jefferson in the semifinals, 25-21. Kearny went 6-0 in Pool 2 and knocked off Hackensack in the Gold semis, 25-22.