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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Devils fall in playoffs

Hammonton’s Matt Moles (23) and Frank Angelastro (18) leap to block a shot from Toms River South’s Jimmy Brierly (4) during last week’s playoff match.  Toms River South won the match. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Playing for the first time in the postseason, Hammonton High School’s boys volleyball team fell short of a victory, dropping a close match 2-1 against Toms River South on May 24.

Hammonton head coach Brian Reed sat three starters for the opening game of the match, and Toms River South was able to take advantage of the Blue Devils’ weakened lineup, cruising to a 25-8 win.

With their full lineup back on the court for the second game, the Devils rallied, taking an early lead before holding on to tie the match with a 25-23 win in the second game.

In the deciding third game, neither team could build a significant advantage, trading the lead throughout the game. In the end, Toms River South scored the final three points of the game to take home the win, 25-22.

“We had three starters who didn’t play the first game because they missed practice. Once we had our starters in, you could see the difference. They played really well in the second game, showed a lot of character, and even in the third game when the going got tough, they played hard,” Reed said.

This is Hammonton’s first season of varsity volleyball. The team was supposed to debut last spring, but the season was canceled due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Blue Devils had posted just one win this season, but still earned a berth in the South Jersey Group 3 tournament, and last week’s game was considered a “play-in” match to determine who would advance to meet the bracket’s top seed, Southern Regional.

While entering the match without a win, Toms River South is a much more experienced program, and the Raiders were able to rely on that experience to eliminate Hammonton.

“I saw our team that’s only played this sport for a month and a half, doing everything right. Unfortunately, you kind of run the length of your rope and we missed a couple of passes and that’s to be expected from an inexperienced team,” Reed said.

Francesco Angelastro had 10 assists in the match for the Blue Devils, adding four kills, a block, one dig, five service points and an ace. Justin Lang added one block, two digs, eight assists, five service points and an ace, while Andrew Gollihur finished with five kills, one dig and two service points.

Also for Hammonton, Aiden Nicholls recorded seven kills, four blocks, one dig, four service points and two aces, Emmanuel Waugh had one kill, one block, two digs, one assist and two service points, and Daniel Sulzner chipped in with two kills, one block, three digs and six service points.

Despite falling short in the postseason, Reed has been impressed with the way the Blue Devils have worked this season and how far the program has come in a short period of time.

“When we have guys who have been out there for three or four years, we’re going to be really competitive The way we played in that second and third game, we could have gotten a couple of more wins this season,” Reed said.

“That’s what’s so hard with these guys, because they feel like they should be winning these game and I try to tell them ,’think back a month ago when we were running a drill and we couldn’t pass the ball back and forth more than three times.’ Now look at us. We’re in this match. We’re passing well, we’re setting well, we’re hitting well. [We don’t play well] all the time, and it won’t be until we have a few more years’ experience” Reed said.

The Devils wrapped up the week with a 2-1 loss to Atlantic County Institute of Technology (ACIT). Hammonton won the first game 25-17, but was unable to carry the momentum, losing the second 25-14 and the third 26-24.

Nicholls had 13 kills and seven service points in the match, while Lang added 19 assists and two aces and Gollihur had eight kills.

Earlier this week, Hammonton played at Collingswood and St. Augustine Prep, but results were too late for this edition.

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