Harrison eliminates Golda Och to open NJSIAA Group 2 volleyball tournament
Harrison’s Anthony Williams (15) leaps up to send the ball over the net in a NJSIAA North 2 first round game against Golda Och at Harrison High School (Molly J. Smith/Journal Photo

By  The Jersey Journal

May 20, 2014 8:37 p.m.

For Harrison’s volleyball team, this senior day was particularly meaningful.

Today, the sixth-seeded Blue Tide sent off their graduating class in style, defeating 11th-seeded Golda Och in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22, in the opening round of the NJSIAA North 2 state tournament.

Harrison now moves on to the second round, where they’ll visit Ridge, who had no trouble handling Bloomfield Tech today in straight sets, 25-14, 25-5.

“We knew this team was going to be tough, so it feels good to advance,” said Harrison head coach Nick Landry. “In the beginning, we were nervous about (our seniors), because they weren’t as good as some of our past senior classes. But they’ve still had their moments and they’ve still gotten the job done.

“Today, we hoped that the seniors would step up and some of them did.”

Despite the positive feelings following their victory, things were not always looking so good for the Blue Tide. In the first game, Harrison (18-6) got off to an incredibly slow start, making a number of errors that put Golda Ocha (12-8) up 10-9 early on.

Eventually, the Blue Tide were able to get it together, as senior Ramon Madeira led the way during a 16-6 run to end the first game.

As one of the team’s younger contributors, sophomore Piotr Namiotko was thankful that his elders were able come up big when it meant the most.

“It feels really great to see all of the seniors smile, especially after they make a great play,” said Namiotko, who finished with six kills and four blocks. “When things get tough, we just all try to come together, calm down and play as hard as we can.

“It feels good to win this one today – we’re trying to keep going and exceed what we did last year.”

Things did not get any easier in the second set, as it was more of the same for Harrison. Once again, Golda Ocha was able to jump out to a lead, putting Harrison down 22-20 late, threatening to force a decisive final game.

But this time it was Namiotko who picked up his seniors, guiding Harrison to a 5-0 run to end the game, registering two kills and a pair of blocks.

While the Blue Tide were able to escape today, Landry knows that instead of having to scramble at the finish, his team needs to learn how to build an early lead.

“We always tell them that they have to finish, especially now during playoffs games,” said Landry. “It’s something that we push all of the time, because sometimes we give away too much with our mistakes and we have to climb out of the holes we dig ourselves.

“Today, we finally did (finish), but going forward, we need to build leads.”

Madeira finished with 10 kills for the Blue Tide. Senior Piero Martinez added 15 assists, six digs, and two kills, while junior David Penaherrera added four assists, four digs, and a pair of kills.

Aaron Rakib led Golda Och with eight kills and eight digs.

Harrison now looks forward to taking on Ridge (18-7), the bracket’s third overall seed. After facing the Red Devils in an early season scrimmage, the Blue Tide already knows what to expect on Thursday, as they will travel to Somerset County, hoping to pull off the upset.

“Ridge is a tough team,” said Landry. “They’re much bigger than (Golda Och) and they have a different type of game: a string offensive game.

“We just have to take each game one at a time, concentrate on the team that’s in front of us, and we’ll see what happens next.”