by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School girls volleyball team came away with a clean sweep of Passaic Valley during their annual “Friday Night Spikes” event, as all three levels — freshmen, junior varsity and varsity — beat the visiting Hornets.
The main event was, naturally, the varsity squad.
Seniors make up the bulk of the team. They’ve been with coach Pam Reilly for four years and are aiming high this season. They know that in order to do that, they have to come out strong every match.
At times during the first game, the Mounties didn’t seem as tightly set up as they had worked to be over the summer and during preseason. Communication got crossed up a few times and the Hornets took advantage, hanging around for much of the game and closing to a score of 12-8.
“We had a couple of plays [in the first match],” Reilly said, “where we were looking at each other like ‘I thought you had it,’ so they made a concerted effort to not let balls hit the floor.”
The squad readjusted itself and finally pushed ahead, and every time Passaic Valley gained a point after closing to 12-8, the Mounties added another score of their own and the Hornets were never able to really chip away at the lead.
The Mounties were ahead 18-10 when Ciarah Minnig stepped up to serve and ripped off four points to lengthen MHS’ lead to 22-10. Though the Hornets got the serve back, they immediately faulted and the Mounties made short work of them to finish the game with a 25-11 win.
Reilly made a few substitutions for the second game, though fewer than she might have if the first game had gone differently.
“Who we’re playing and how we’re doing dictates that a lot,” she explained. “If we’re dominating, my hope is to get everybody in. We didn’t today, [but] we have in the past. But [the kids] dictate that. If the first score had been 25-6, then I might have said, ‘OK, let’s go with a completely different lineup to start.’”
Reilly didn’t make wholesale changes, but shifted some players around, something she is able to do because of the enormous depth the team has.
That depth is the coach tries to stress to all of the girls on the team, whether they are on the court or on the bench.
“I tell the team, even if I have four outside hitters, we need you guys to be right on top of each other on the depth chart, so if at any point in time you’re having a bad game then anyone can step in and there’s no difference [on the court],” she said. “That’s how we’re going to win and be successful. Just because you don’t start doesn’t mean you don’t make a contribution. Everybody is very important to this whole piece.”
The slightly revamped lineup worked. The Mounties came out hot in the second set, going on an early 9-1 run and never looking back, winning 25-6. On the surface, neither score seems to indicate any real problem for MHS in this match. What’s the difference, one might think, between 25-11 and 25-6? Both seem equally lopsided.
While on the surface they are, for Reilly, they aren’t enough.
“When you’re ahead and you’re really the dominant team — I keep trying to preach that to them, [that their opponent] needs to leave here knowing we were the dominant team, with no questions in their mind about that.”
The Mounties need to dominate when they can, because in this division the margin for error is slim, as they found out Monday night in a 2-0 loss to Mount St. Dominic where after losing a close first set 25-24, they let The Mount bully them in a 25-13 set.
Next up MHS is on the road against Bloomfield at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14.