by Andrew Garda
When the Montclair High School girls volleyball team took the second set 25-17, completing a 2-0 sweep of Newark Academy on Tuesday, they took a little more relish in the victory than they usually did when finishing off an opponent.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” head coach Pam Reilly said after the win.
Reilly and her squad had circled this game since the two met on Sept. 9, a game the Mounties still feel they let get away. On that occasion, the Mounties had decisively won the first game, 25-14 and looked like they were ready to sweep through the second.
It didn’t turn out that way.
“We went up there [to Newark] and we had a 9-0 lead,” Reilly recalled. “They took a time out, and we started to implode. [Newark] began to get confidence.”
That confidence turned 25-17 and 25-16 wins for Newark and a “what could have been” for the Mounties.
Reilly knew her team could have taken that match, and wanted to leave no doubt by the end of the second meeting between the two teams.
“We wanted to come in here and beat them in two,” Reilly said. “Absolutely beat them in two.”
While the Minutemen were able make some noise in both games Tuesday, each time they closed on the Mounties, Reilly’s team kicked their efforts into overdrive and pulled away.
Preparation was the key, and Reilly made sure the Mounties had learned from their mistakes.
“I told them some things I was anticipating [Newark] would do a lot of [based on] our first contest,” Reilly said. “We made some adjustments defensively, but we were kind of feeling a little bit more confident in [ourselves].”
That confidence translated to success on the court and that allowed Reilly to play with the lineup a little more.
“We can just do so many things with the lineup, which is a blessing,” she explained. “There’s a lot of people who play multiple positions. And [the team is] finally buying in. There’s a lot of people here but if we do what we’re supposed to, everyone can get in [games].”
Now that the team is well into the second half of their season, they have finally caught their rhythm. With tournament play just around the corner, they seem to be peaking, and the timing is perfect.
That’s not to say their play is, though, at least as far as their coach is concerned. For Reilly, there is always room to improve.
“I’d like us to make a huge defensive adjustment,” Reilly said. “We’re moving in that direction, but I want us to be enthused about playing better defense. I’m a firm believer that your offense is generated through the way you played defense. In any sport.”
Reilly says that while they have a tremendous amount of offensive talent, it’s defense that really tilts the balance in games.
“Because you have to keep hitting over a player who is 6-foot-2-inch, 6-foot-2 ½ or whatever, it gets frustrating. It gets in your head after a while. Then you have to alter your hitting process — try to tip [the ball] or hit around [blockers] or whatever. Defense wins championships. It’s trite but true.”
Thursday afternoon brings another opportunity for revenge when Bloomfield, who beat the Mounties last month, visits MHS on Thursday.