By: Yueh Ho – The Jersey Journal

Top-seeded Secaucus started the final round of the Hudson County Tournament red hot, as they cruised to a easy win in the first set and a quick start to the second set. The second-seeded Bees were completely outmatched and their frustration was evident on their faces. Several players had their hands on their hips, with eyes downcast. The Bees sluggishly lined up in their defensive formations, appearing ready to accept the inevitable. But Bayonne head coach Pat Longo called a timeout. She stressed to the Bees that they had to calm down, play less cautiously and that there was no reason they could not contend with the Patriots.

“I told them that they had to stay focused,” Longo said. “We were there and we were just hesitating, we had to relax a little bit. And once we started to hit we knew could stay with them. It’s just believing in themselves and they came together.”

The talk from Longo appeared to spark the Bees and soon after, Bayonne spikes after spikes finally began to land. With every kill, the Bees’ confidence rose. They went on a 13-7 run to tie the game at 14-14, forcing a Secaucus timeout in the process. In the end, however, the Patriots hitters, led by Julia McClure, proved to be too much for the Bees, as they fell in the second set to clinch a Secaucus 25-6, 25-20 victory at Union City High School.

Emelin Flore was crucial to Bayonne’s late run, as she led the Bees with five kills. For the Patriots, Kendall Caruso had a strong performance, as she recorded 17 assists, 17 digs and 15 service points in the win. The bulk of the Patriots offense, however, flowed through McClure, whom Secaucus tried to feed the ball as often as possible for resounding spikes. She finished the game with 15 kills.

“I just thought their outside hitter (Julia McClure), she really had an awesome first set,” Longo said. “We had no answer for her, we couldn’t stop her, she was just the difference. She set the tone for them and really did a great job.”

The game saw a large turnout. Fans from both teams traveled to Union City to pack the bleachers and cheer their team on. No matter how bleak the situation appeared for Bayonne in the first and early second set, its fans continued to cheer loudly. Their support seemed to will the Bees back into contention.

“The fans, they’re like the seventh player here in volleyball,” Longo said. “I think they inspire them on the court, they motivate them. They get them going just with their cheering and it’s very helpful.”

Secaucus head coach Sheil Rivera was also pleased with the turnout. And while she is ecstatic to have won the county tournament, she was equally excited about what she feels is a growing support for volleyball in Hudson County.

“I’m thrilled with the girls the way they played. Also very happy to see (that) there’s a lot of competitive teams in Hudson County now. It’s not like years and years ago, I’m very happy. Hudson Catholic gave us a great game. Union City gave us a great game,” Rivera said. “Tonight is our senior masquerade and our principal pushed back the start time of the masquerade so that a lot of the kids could come to the game today. It just shows how much support we have from our principal and our vice principal.”