Hawthorne Christian has begun to grasp the concept of six players working as one and the results have been striking.

The Defenders are 11-5 and riding an eight-game winning streak following their three-set victory over Passaic County foe Eastern Christian in a NJIC interdivisional volleyball match Monday.

“They finally understand what I mean by one unit,” said first-year coach Maritza Melendez, a Bergenfield graduate and Marine Corps veteran. “When one person moves, the entire team has to move.”

Hawthorne Christian is moving in an upward trajectory under the former St. Peter’s assistant coach, one year after a 4-16 campaign.

The Defenders set a goal of reaching 10 wins and achieved it with Friday’s comeback victory over Waldwick, 13-25, 25-15, 27-25. The win demonstrated their improvement from last month, when they were swept by the Warriors, 25-20, 25-21.

“That was a great accomplishment for this team,” said Melendez, who played semi-pro volleyball in Puerto Rico, “because they never had beaten Waldwick.”

Hawthorne Christian’s streak also featured wins over two Passaic foes from the larger Big North Conference — Lakeland and Passaic Tech. The latter came in the first round of the Passaic County tournament, 25-20, 25-14, and pushed the seventh-seeded Defenders into Wednesday’s quarterfinals at No. 2 Passaic Valley.

Hawthorne Christian is led by seniors.

Giana Brucella is the “top hitter,” Melendez said, and Lindsay McDermott has done an “outstanding job” as setter.

Senior hitter Natalie Ranieri is “smart” and a “quick learner,” the coach said, and middle Elizabeth Dulin is the “most improved” senior. Junior hitter Anna Cingale is a future setter.

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