Stifling defense, late surge lift Verona into N2, Gr. 1 final

Author : LavadaCrooks
Publish Date : 2021-04-19 11:09:09
Stifling defense, late surge lift Verona into N2, Gr. 1 final

Top-seeded Verona used a stifling defense and an offensive surge late in the second set to dispatch fourth-seeded Cedar Grove 2-0 (25-5, 25-18) in the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 Tournament on Saturday in Verona.

Verona (12-2) will square off with third-seeded Lyndhurst in the finals on Tuesday in Verona after Lyndhurst dropped second-seeded Hasbrouck Heights 2-0 on Saturday.

The Hillbillies seized control of the first set immediately, forcing the Panthers (10-5) to call timeout down 6-1. Verona pushed the score to 11-1 coming out of the stoppage. Megan Meehan’s serving handcuffed Cedar Grove early in their returns, often forcing the Panthers to settle for harmless bumps to Verona instead of forceful attacks from the net. Verona had answers almost every time Cedar Grove could put together a strong hit.

“They pick up everything pretty much,” Cedar Grove coach Jessica Schomaker said of Verona’s defense. “So some of our spikes I guess in the past that would have been kills weren’t today, so we had to play longer rallies I think.”

No rally lasted longer than the marathon exchange of hits that pushed Cedar Grove to within two points early in the second set. Panthers libero Samantha Cunniff and outside hitter Jenna Vega both came away with multiple digs on the play before Verona finally hit the ball out of bounds. Verona led 6-4 after that battle and then rattled off four straight points.

The Panthers fought to a 17-15 deficit, but Verona closed by scoring all but three of the final 11 points of the match. Sophomore Patricia Rakova buried three kills for the Hillbillies over the course of those last eight points.

“They don’t have a lot of quit in them, that’s for sure, and kudos to them for being able to come back,” Verona coach Ryan Brown said. “Because that’s a tough deficit; after 25-5, that’s a hard one. But (Cedar Grove) showed a lot of heart, they came out and played extra hard in that second set, and it showed. Definitely a tough opponent, so it’s good to get a win against them.”

Schomaker credited her team for persevering in game-style conditions the Panthers hadn’t often dealt with this year.

“This program to be in the semifinals is huge for us,” Schomaker said. “And to go up against teams like this, we just gotta continue to get better. We played extremely well with those long rallies, which we didn’t have that many long rallies this season, so to do that here in a game like this against a good team like that, I’m very proud of them and their effort.”

In the midst of a match often characterized by back-and-forth volleys and defensive battles of attrition, Rakova sparkled on offense when Verona called her number. The sophomore buried 12 kills. She hammed a point home that gave Verona a 9-4 lead in the second and forced a Cedar Grove timeout. On the first play coming out of the stoppage, Rakova drove another ball to the court.

Rakova is making the most of her first state tournament experience after suffering a devastating injury in the semifinals of last year’s Essex County Tournament against Millburn.

“The other team was blocking me, and I was hitting, and it was a really tight set, and they stepped over the line and I landed on their feet,” Rakova recalled. “And then my leg just twisted. And then I fell and I tore my ACL.”

Rakova missed the rest of her freshman year, including all four matches of a Verona postseason run that ended in the semifinals of the Group 1 tournament.

“At first I wasn’t taking it well,” Rakova said. “But then I just realized that everything’s going to be okay, and I’m gonna get over it, and then I’m gonna get back to volleyball, which I did.”

She returned to the court in time for Verona’s first match this year after the whole team had an extended offseason due to COVID-19. She collected 11 kills in a season-opening 2-1 loss to Caldwell.

“She’s definitely progressed as the season’s went along,” Brown said. “Last year she had a knee injury in our semifinal game (of the county tournament). We didn’t know what it was going to be coming back into this year. But she’s worked hard to get back, and she’s peaking at the right time for sure.”

It took a lot of rehabilitation and individual work with Brown on hitting, serving and defense for Rakova to return to the level of effectiveness she displayed Saturday. Returning to normal on the mental aspects of volleyball mattered just as much.

“After my ACL surgery, I didn’t feel confident at first, and then my coach helped me gain my confidence back,” Rakova said. “And now I feel a lot better after the game that I played.”

The difference between Rakova’s play Saturday and at the beginning of the season is clear to Brown. At the beginning of the season, she looked “a little bit more timid,” he said.

“After a knee injury like she had, it was pretty bad, so it definitely can get into their head,” Brown said. “They’re teenagers, so it can get into their heads for sure, and I know it would get into my head if I had an injury like that. But she’s been fighting, she’s been working really, really hard rehabbing to get back to where she is. Definitely a little bit more timid, but she’s gotten past that I think.”

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Top-seeded Verona used a stifling defense and an offensive surge late in the second set to dispatch fourth-seeded Cedar Grove 2-0 (25-5, 25-18) in the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 Tournament on Saturday in Verona.

Verona (12-2) will square off with third-seeded Lyndhurst in the finals on Tuesday in Verona after Lyndhurst dropped second-seeded Hasbrouck Heights 2-0 on Saturday.

The Hillbillies seized control of the first set immediately, forcing the Panthers (10-5) to call timeout down 6-1. Verona pushed the score to 11-1 coming out of the stoppage. Megan Meehan’s serving handcuffed Cedar Grove early in their returns, often forcing the Panthers to settle for harmless bumps to Verona instead of forceful attacks from the net. Verona had answers almost every time Cedar Grove could put together a strong hit.

“They pick up everything pretty much,” Cedar Grove coach Jessica Schomaker said of Verona’s defense. “So some of our spikes I guess in the past that would have been kills weren’t today, so we had to play longer rallies I think.”

No rally lasted longer than the marathon exchange of hits that pushed Cedar Grove to within two points early in the second set. Panthers libero Samantha Cunniff and outside hitter Jenna Vega both came away with multiple digs on the play before Verona finally hit the ball out of bounds. Verona led 6-4 after that battle and then rattled off four straight points.

The Panthers fought to a 17-15 deficit, but Verona closed by scoring all but three of the final 11 points of the match. Sophomore Patricia Rakova buried three kills for the Hillbillies over the course of those last eight points.

“They don’t have a lot of quit in them, that’s for sure, and kudos to them for being able to come back,” Verona coach Ryan Brown said. “Because that’s a tough deficit; after 25-5, that’s a hard one. But (Cedar Grove) showed a lot of heart, they came out and played extra hard in that second set, and it showed. Definitely a tough opponent, so it’s good to get a win against them.”

Schomaker credited her team for persevering in game-style conditions the Panthers hadn’t often dealt with this year.

“This program to be in the semifinals is huge for us,” Schomaker said. “And to go up against teams like this, we just gotta continue to get better. We played extremely well with those long rallies, which we didn’t have that many long rallies this season, so to do that here in a game like this against a good team like that, I’m very proud of them and their effort.”

In the midst of a match often characterized by back-and-forth volleys and defensive battles of attrition, Rakova sparkled on offense when Verona called her number. The sophomore buried 12 kills. She hammed a point home that gave Verona a 9-4 lead in the second and forced a Cedar Grove timeout. On the first play coming out of the stoppage, Rakova drove another ball to the court.

Rakova is making the most of her first state tournament experience after suffering a devastating injury in the semifinals of last year’s Essex County Tournament against Millburn.

“The other team was blocking me, and I was hitting, and it was a really tight set, and they stepped over the line and I landed on their feet,” Rakova recalled. “And then my leg just twisted. And then I fell and I tore my ACL.”

Rakova missed the rest of her freshman year, including all four matches of a Verona postseason run that ended in the semifinals of the Group 1 tournament.

“At first I wasn’t taking it well,” Rakova said. “But then I just realized that everything’s going to be okay, and I’m gonna get over it, and then I’m gonna get back to volleyball, which I did.”

She returned to the court in time for Verona’s first match this year after the whole team had an extended offseason due to COVID-19. She collected 11 kills in a season-opening 2-1 loss to Caldwell.

“She’s definitely progressed as the season’s went along,” Brown said. “Last year she had a knee injury in our semifinal game (of the county tournament). We didn’t know what it was going to be coming back into this year. But she’s worked hard to get back, and she’s peaking at the right time for sure.”

It took a lot of rehabilitation and individual work with Brown on hitting, serving and defense for Rakova to return to the level of effectiveness she displayed Saturday. Returning to normal on the mental aspects of volleyball mattered just as much.

“After my ACL surgery, I didn’t feel confident at first, and then my coach helped me gain my confidence back,” Rakova said. “And now I feel a lot better after the game that I played.”

The difference between Rakova’s play Saturday and at the beginning of the season is clear to Brown. At the beginning of the season, she looked “a little bit more timid,” he said.

“After a knee injury like she had, it was pretty bad, so it definitely can get into their head,” Brown said. “They’re teenagers, so it can get into

Top-seeded Verona used a stifling defense and an offensive surge late in the second set to dispatch fourth-seeded Cedar Grove 2-0 (25-5, 25-18) in the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 Tournament on Saturday in Verona.

Verona (12-2) will square off with third-seeded Lyndhurst in the finals on Tuesday in Verona after Lyndhurst dropped second-seeded Hasbrouck Heights 2-0 on Saturday.

The Hillbillies seized control of the first set immediately, forcing the Panthers (10-5) to call timeout down 6-1. Verona pushed the score to 11-1 coming out of the stoppage. Megan Meehan’s serving handcuffed Cedar Grove early in their returns, often forcing the Panthers to settle for harmless bumps to Verona instead of forceful attacks from the net. Verona had answers almost every time Cedar Grove could put together a strong hit.

“They pick up everything pretty much,” Cedar Grove coach Jessica Schomaker said of Verona’s defense. “So some of our spikes I guess in the past that would have been kills weren’t today, so we had to play longer rallies I think.”

No rally lasted longer than the marathon exchange of hits that pushed Cedar Grove to within two points early in the second set. Panthers libero Samantha Cunniff and outside hitter Jenna Vega both came away with multiple digs on the play before Verona finally hit the ball out of bounds. Verona led 6-4 after that battle and then rattled off four straight points.

The Panthers fought to a 17-15 deficit, but Verona closed by scoring all but three of the final 11 points of the match. Sophomore Patricia Rakova buried three kills for the Hillbillies over the course of those last eight points.

“They don’t have a lot of quit in them, that’s for sure, and kudos to them for being able to come back,” Verona coach Ryan Brown said. “Because that’s a tough deficit; after 25-5, that’s a hard one. But (Cedar Grove) showed a lot of heart, they came out and played extra hard in that second set, and it showed. Definitely a tough opponent, so it’s good to get a win against them.”

Schomaker credited her team for persevering in game-style conditions the Panthers hadn’t often dealt with this year.

“This program to be in the semifinals is huge for us,” Schomaker said. “And to go up against teams like this, we just gotta continue to get better. We played extremely well with those long rallies, which we didn’t have that many long rallies this season, so to do that here in a game like this against a good team like that, I’m very proud of them and their effort.”

In the midst of a match often characterized by back-and-forth volleys and defensive battles of attrition, Rakova sparkled on offense when Verona called her number. The sophomore buried 12 kills. She hammed a point home that gave Verona a 9-4 lead in the second and forced a Cedar Grove timeout. On the first play coming out of the stoppage, Rakova drove another ball to the court.

Rakova is making the most of her first state tournament experience after suffering a devastating injury in the semifinals of last year’s Essex County Tournament against Millburn.

“The other team was blocking me, and I was hitting, and it was a really tight set, and they stepped over the line and I landed on their feet,” Rakova recalled. “And then my leg just twisted. And then I fell and I tore my ACL.”

Rakova missed the rest of her freshman year, including all four matches of a Verona postseason run that ended in the semifinals of the Group 1 tournament.

“At first I wasn’t taking it well,” Rakova said. “But then I just realized that everything’s going to be okay, and I’m gonna get over it, and then I’m gonna get back to volleyball, which I did.”

She returned to the court in time for Verona’s first match this year after the whole team had an extended offseason due to COVID-19. She collected 11 kills in a season-opening 2-1 loss to Caldwell.

“She’s definitely progressed as the season’s went along,” Brown said. “Last year she had a knee injury in our semifinal game (of the county tournament). We didn’t know what it was going to be coming back into this year. But she’s worked hard to get back, and she’s peaking at the right time for sure.”

It took a lot of rehabilitation and individual work with Brown on hitting, serving and defense for Rakova to return to the level of effectiveness she displayed Saturday. Returning to normal on the mental aspects of volleyball mattered just as much.

“After my ACL surgery, I didn’t feel confident at first, and then my coach helped me gain my confidence back,” Rakova said. “And now I feel a lot better after the game that I played.”

The difference between Rakova’s play Saturday and at the beginning of the season is clear to Brown. At the beginning of the season, she looked “a little bit more timid,” he said.

“After a knee injury like she had, it was pretty bad, so it definitely can get into their head,” Brown said. “They’re teenagers, so it can get into their heads f

Top-seeded Verona used a stifling defense and an offensive surge late in the second set to dispatch fourth-seeded Cedar Grove 2-0 (25-5, 25-18) in the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 Tournament on Saturday in Verona.

Verona (12-2) will square off with third-seeded Lyndhurst in the finals on Tuesday in Verona after Lyndhurst dropped second-seeded Hasbrouck Heights 2-0 on Saturday.

The Hillbillies seized control of the first set immediately, forcing the Panthers (10-5) to call timeout down 6-1. Verona pushed the score to 11-1 coming out of the stoppage. Megan Meehan’s serving handcuffed Cedar Grove early in their returns, often forcing the Panthers to settle for harmless bumps to Verona instead of forceful attacks from the net. Verona had answers almost every time Cedar Grove could put together a strong hit.

“They pick up everything pretty much,” Cedar Grove coach Jessica Schomaker said of Verona’s defense. “So some of our spikes I guess in the past that would have been kills weren’t today, so we had to play longer rallies I think.”

No rally lasted longer than the marathon exchange of hits that pushed Cedar Grove to within two points early in the second set. Panthers libero Samantha Cunniff and outside hitter Jenna Vega both came away with multiple digs on the play before Verona finally hit the ball out of bounds. Verona led 6-4 after that battle and then rattled off four straight points.

The Panthers fought to a 17-15 deficit, but Verona closed by scoring all but three of the final 11 points of the match. Sophomore Patricia Rakova buried three kills for the Hillbillies over the course of those last eight points.

“They don’t have a lot of quit in them, that’s for sure, and kudos to them for being able to come back,” Verona coach Ryan Brown said. “Because that’s a tough deficit; after 25-5, that’s a hard one. But (Cedar Grove) showed a lot of heart, they came out and played extra hard in that second set, and it showed. Definitely a tough opponent, so it’s good to get a win against them.”

Schomaker credited her team for persevering in game-style conditions the Panthers hadn’t often dealt with this year.

“This program to be in the semifinals is huge for us,” Schomaker said. “And to go up against teams like this, we just gotta continue to get better. We played extremely well with those long rallies, which we didn’t have that many long rallies this season, so to do that here in a game like this against a good team like that, I’m very proud of them and their effort.”

In the midst of a match often characterized by back-and-forth volleys and defensive battles of attrition, Rakova sparkled on offense when Verona called her number. The sophomore buried 12 kills. She hammed a point home that gave Verona a 9-4 lead in the second and forced a Cedar Grove timeout. On the first play coming out of the stoppage, Rakova drove another ball to the court.

Rakova is making the most of her first state tournament experience after suffering a devastating injury in the semifinals of last year’s Essex County Tournament against Millburn.

“The other team was blocking me, and I was hitting, and it was a really tight set, and they stepped over the line and I landed on their feet,” Rakova recalled. “And then my leg just twisted. And then I fell and I tore my ACL.”

Rakova missed the rest of her freshman year, including all four matches of a Verona postseason run that ended in the semifinals of the Group 1 tournament.

“At first I wasn’t taking it well,” Rakova said. “But then I just realized that everything’s going to be okay, and I’m gonna get over it, and then I’m gonna get back to volleyball, which I did.”

She returned to the court in time for Verona’s first match this year after the whole team had an extended offseason due to COVID-19. She collected 11 kills in a season-opening 2-1 loss to Caldwell.

“She’s definitely progressed as the season’s went along,” Brown said. “Last year she had a knee injury in our semifinal game (of the county tournament). We didn’t know what it was going to be coming back into this year. But she’s worked hard to get back, and she’s peaking at the right time for sure.”

It took a lot of rehabilitation and individual work with Brown on hitting, serving and defense for Rakova to return to the level of effectiveness she displayed Saturday. Returning to normal on the mental aspects of volleyball mattered just as much.

“After my ACL surgery, I didn’t feel confident at first, and then my coach helped me gain my confidence back,” Rakova said. “And now I feel a lot better after the game that I played.”

The difference between Rakova’s play Saturday and at the beginning of the season is clear to Brown. At the beginning of the season, she looked “a little bit more timid,” he said.

“After a knee injury like she had, it was pretty bad, so it definitely can get into their head,” Brown said. “They’re teenagers, so it can get into their heads for sure, and I know it would get into my head if

Top-seeded Verona used a stifling defense and an offensive surge late in the second set to dispatch fourth-seeded Cedar Grove 2-0 (25-5, 25-18) in the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 Tournament on Saturday in Verona.

Verona (12-2) will square off with third-seeded Lyndhurst in the finals on Tuesday in Verona after Lyndhurst dropped second-seeded Hasbrouck Heights 2-0 on Saturday.

The Hillbillies seized control of the first set immediately, forcing the Panthers (10-5) to call timeout down 6-1. Verona pushed the score to 11-1 coming out of the stoppage. Megan Meehan’s serving handcuffed Cedar Grove early in their returns, often forcing the Panthers to settle for harmless bumps to Verona instead of forceful attacks from the net. Verona had answers almost every time Cedar Grove could put together a strong hit.

“They pick up everything pretty much,” Cedar Grove coach Jessica Schomaker said of Verona’s defense. “So some of our spikes I guess in the past that would have been kills weren’t today, so we had to play longer rallies I think.”

No rally lasted longer than the marathon exchange of hits that pushed Cedar Grove to within two points early in the second set. Panthers libero Samantha Cunniff and outside hitter Jenna Vega both came away with multiple digs on the play before Verona finally hit the ball out of bounds. Verona led 6-4 after that battle and then rattled off four straight points.

The Panthers fought to a 17-15 deficit, but Verona closed by scoring all but three of the final 11 points of the match. Sophomore Patricia Rakova buried three kills for the Hillbillies over the course of those last eight points.

“They don’t have a lot of quit in them, that’s for sure, and kudos to them for being able to come back,” Verona coach Ryan Brown said. “Because that’s a tough deficit; after 25-5, that’s a hard one. But (Cedar Grove) showed a lot of heart, they came out and played extra hard in that second set, and it showed. Definitely a tough opponent, so it’s good to get a win against them.”

Schomaker credited her team for persevering in game-style conditions the Panthers hadn’t often dealt with this year.

“This program to be in the semifinals is huge for us,” Schomaker said. “And to go up against teams like this, we just gotta continue to get better. We played extremely well with those long rallies, which we didn’t have that many long rallies this season, so to do that here in a game like this against a good team like that, I’m very proud of them and their effort.”

In the midst of a match often characterized by back-and-forth volleys and defensive battles of attrition, Rakova sparkled on offense when Verona called her number. The sophomore buried 12 kills. She hammed a point home that gave Verona a 9-4 lead in the second and forced a Cedar Grove timeout. On the first play coming out of the stoppage, Rakova drove another ball to the court.

Rakova is making the most of her first state tournament experience after suffering a devastating injury in the semifinals of last year’s Essex County Tournament against Millburn.

“The other team was blocking me, and I was hitting, and it was a really tight set, and they stepped over the line and I landed on their feet,” Rakova recalled. “And then my leg just twisted. And then I fell and I tore my ACL.”

Rakova missed the rest of her freshman year, including all four matches of a Verona postseason run that ended in the semifinals of the Group 1 tournament.

“At first I wasn’t taking it well,” Rakova said. “But then I just realized that everything’s going to be okay, and I’m gonna get over it, and then I’m gonna get back to volleyball, which I did.”

She returned to the court in time for Verona’s first match this year after the whole team had an extended offseason due to COVID-19. She collected 11 kills in a season-opening 2-1 loss to Caldwell.

“She’s definitely progressed as the season’s went along,” Brown said. “Last year she had a knee injury in our semifinal game (of the county tournament). We didn’t know what it was going to be coming back into this year. But she’s worked hard to get back, and she’s peaking at the right time for sure.”

It took a lot of rehabilitation and individual work with Brown on hitting, serving and defense for Rakova to return to the level of effectiveness she displayed Saturday. Returning to normal on the mental aspects of volleyball mattered just as much.

“After my ACL surgery, I didn’t feel confident at first, and then my coach helped me gain my confidence back,” Rakova said. “And now I feel a lot better after the game that I played.”

The difference between Rakova’s play Saturday and at the beginning of the season is clear to Brown. At the beginning of the season, she looked “a little bit more timid,” he said.

“After a knee injury like she had, it wa

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s pretty bad, so it definitely can get into their head,” Brown said. “They’re teenagers, so it can get into their heads for sure, and I know it would get into my head if I had an injury like that. But she’s been fighting, she’s been working really, really hard rehabbing to get back to where she is. Definitely a little bit more timid, but she’s gotten past that I think.”

Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.

I had an injury like that. But she’s been fighting, she’s been working really, really hard rehabbing to get back to where she is. Definitely a little bit more timid, but she’s gotten past that I think.”

Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.

or sure, and I know it would get into my head if I had an injury like that. But she’s been fighting, she’s been working really, really hard rehabbing to get back to where she is. Definitely a little bit more timid, but she’s gotten past that I think.”

Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.

their heads for sure, and I know it would get into my head if I had an injury like that. But she’s been fighting, she’s been working really, really hard rehabbing to get back to where she is. Definitely a little bit more timid, but she’s gotten past that I think.”

Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.

you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.



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