Southern Region men’s volleyball fails in state final at Old Bridge | High school

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MONMOUTH JUNCTION — Despite losing a dozen seniors at graduation last year and failing in the state finals, there was no doubt the volleyball team boys from Southern Regional High School would be as dominant as ever.

The mission (like every season) was simple – return to the National Finals for the ninth time in 10 seasons and try to win the title for the first time since 2017.

The Rams achieved the first, but came away disappointed.

In a rematch from last season’s final, junior Lucas Kean finished with 14 kills and senior Finn Olcott added 10 digs, but the top seed Southern lost 2-1 to the third seed. Old Bridge series at South Brunswick High School.

The Knights won by scores of 20-25, 25-23, 25-16.

“We’ve worked hard all season,” said Kean, who along with Olcott were the team’s only two returning starters from last season. “It (stinks) to go down like that. That’s how it goes. Just keep working for next season.

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The Knights beat Southern 25-21, 27-29, 25-21 to win the state title last season. Old Bridge also won the championship in 2018, when the Knights also beat the Rams in the final, and in 2019.

The Rams (33-1) are the highest-ranked team in The Press Elite 11. Southern has won six state titles since 2009.

“Last year I didn’t contribute much to the game,” said Olcott, who finished with 232 digs this season and was a leader on a young team. “But, we did what we could. We lost again. I still love these guys. It’s like that. It stinks).”

Southern won the Shore Conference Tournament, Shore Conference South A Division and South Jersey titles. The Rams have won the division title for the past 12 seasons. Going into Thursday, Southern was undefeated and dangerous all spring.

But their ultimate goal was not achieved.

“No consolation for us at the moment,” South coach Eric Maxwell said. “We have a goal at the start of every season, and that’s to win everything. If we don’t do that, we feel like we haven’t done the job. We’ve had a great season, but not enough. Not good enough in the end.

Southern and Old Bridge played a close first and second set.

In the first set, the Rams led 10-9 before taking a 19-15, 23-19 lead. Southern took the win 25-20 and built a quick momentum. Kean had nine assists in the opening set. Sophomore setter Angelo Addiego had 14 assists and four digs. He had 31 assists and 11 digs in the three-set match. Senior Drew McNellis added nine kills.

The second set is when the match started to slip away, Maxwell said. The Rams took a 12-7 lead, but let the Knights take a 17-16 lead. The set was tied at 19-19, but Old Bridge took a 21-19 lead en route to a 25-23 victory.

“Too many service errors,” Maxwell said. “I don’t even want to look at the stats on this. It killed us. We rely on our defence, but we were serving balls and didn’t have the chance to play in defence. It caught up with us a lot in the second set.

Southern led 5-4 to start the third set, but Old Bridge quickly took control and came back 17-10. The Knights would never give up the lead. As Old Bridge ran onto the pitch and partied, the Southern players could only watch and wonder what could have been.

The Rams have beaten Old Bridge 2-0 twice this season – 25-20, 25-17 on April 12 and 27-25, 25-17 on May 19. Over the years, the two programs have developed a strong rivalry. The stands were filled with fans from each school.

“It was great to win all those games (in the regular season), but the section (title), it really didn’t mean anything to us,” Olcott said. “We try to stay humble all season. Then we lose in the final and have nothing to show.

Southern are a very young team and will bring back a lot of players, including Kean and Addiego. The Rams should return to the national final in 2023. The young players just have to learn from this defeat.

“Hard to say anything (their) right now that’s going to help. Just let it sink in,” Maxwell said. next.

“They say what doesn’t kill makes you stronger. So they really have no choice but to get over it. The goal will be the same next year.

Kean added four digs and four blocks on Thursday. Gavin Bates added seven kills.

“Just keep working,” said Kean, 17, of the Manahawkin section of Stafford Township. “We will have it next year.”

Contact Patrick Mulranen: 609-272-7217

[email protected]

Twitter @ACPressMulranen

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