High School Boys Volleyball: Harrison vs. Kearny, Hudson County Championship

Harrison had over a year to think about its loss to Kearny during the 2022 Hudson County Tournament.

The Blue Tide entered last year’s final as the top seed and was taken down in straight sets by Kearny. Just two weeks later, the Kardinals eliminated Harrison once again in the semifinal round of the NJSIAA North 2 tournament.

This year, Harrison had this matchup circled on the calendar.

“I wasn’t going to let it happen again,” senior Jose De La Cruz said. “This is my last year of playing with this great team. I didn’t want to give them sour memories of this year. I wanted to make sure we had the best memories of this season before I left.”

On Saturday afternoon, third-seeded Harrison, No. 4 in NJ.com’s Top 20, defeated top-seeded and No. 14 Kearny 25-21, 25-19 at County Prep in Jersey City.

“This is all we’ve been thinking about since we lost last year,” Harrison head coach Nick Landy said. “We know each other well. It’s just incredible. I’m never at a loss for words but I am here.”

This marks the first county title for the Blue Tide since 2016. Since then, Harrison has been back to the title game three times but was unable to get over the hump. With this group of seniors, it was able to get the job done.

“We have a coach that was alumni and having him coach us and hearing about the experience, it changed everything,” senior Guilherme Queiroz said. “When he explained the whole experience, it made us work even harder. We worked on our weaknesses to get stronger and get to where we are now.”

The energy was there from the opening moments of the game. A boisterous crowd filled the gym with cheers for their team while the players on the floor fed into it right away.

Harrison and Kearny went back-and-forth in the first set. After being tied at 13, they would alternate points until hitting 18. From there, Harrison was able to take control and win the first set 25-21.

“We’ve struggled to get leads in the beginning of the game,” Queiroz. “We try to be our best at all times but we’re not perfect. They were beating us with the tips and some hits that we weren’t covering. We had to go though that in the first set to know what we had to change in the second set.”

The second set began the exact same way. Tied at 10, Harrison went on a run to take a 13-10 lead before opening it up further.

The Blue Tide went up 24-16 but Kearny would not go down without a fight. The Kardinals would score the next three points, sparking a timeout from Harrison.

“We tell them that we have to eliminate mistakes,” Landy said. “Even if a mistake is made, you have to do two good things after it. We just really pulled it though. Even at the end, it’s still stressful. We gave them three points before the win. I had to call a timeout at 24 points just to settle down.”

Queiroz led the way with 10 kills and five kills while Adrian Vivanco added 10 kills. De La Cruz has been one of the top setters in the state this season and added 26 more assists. He is currently third in the state with 588.

Harrison had this game circled on the schedule and will use it as a spark moving forward. After accomplishing one goal, the Blue Tide will continue to work toward others in the postseason.

“We’ve had a great season,” Landy said. “We work really hard and have done what we needed to do. This is a special group of kids and I’m glad they were able to bring it back. Now, we got some work to do in the states.”

“We’ve been working so hard this season and over the last three years,” De La Cruz said.” Just living in this moment gives us so much energy. This is not over for us. This isn’t it. We still have to go to states and that’s our next goal. That is our next and final goal for the Blue Tide.”

You can reach Greg Patuto at gpatuto@njadvancemedia.com Follow him on Twitter @GregPatuto.