by Andrew Garda
Montclair High School boys volleyball team continued to improve even though it lost to East Orange High School in straight sets, 2-0.

The Mounties fought hard and led at times during both matches, only to see the Jaguars fight back and win in close games. The team also fought hard on Monday in a loss to Millburn as well.

Despite the losses, the team is improving. Communication still falters at times, but the players have found ways to work as a unit more often and took several long volleys which they might not have won a few weeks ago.

Several players stepped up with great shots or good serves as well. Senior Eric Field had a few hard hits while junior Antwain Hutchinson had a streak of five points off serves in the second set, as well as some very nice returns.

For Mountie coach Pam Reilly, those are good to build on, but she still needs the team to take care of the little things.

“We are still entirely too error prone. We make too many unforced errors,” she said last Thursday after the match.

“You can’t go back, side-out and serve the ball into the net or serve it out. You can’t do that. It just kills your momentum.”

Reilly knows this team has talent and feels they can compete with good teams. They just need to believe it themselves.

“They fought as hard as I have ever seen them fight in that last set,” she said. “So my message to them is, look what you just did. Look how you fought to get back in this match. This is how you can do this.”

That’s one of the team’s biggest challenges right now, and spills a bit into practice as well.

“I’m an old-school coach,” she said. “What you believe and how you prepare for games is very crucial to whether you win games or not.”

Another thing the coach would like to see is a little savvier play. At times, when the Jaguars would deliver a hard spike, the Mounties would attempt to respond in kind, almost as a sort of one-upmanship.

Reilly needs them to avoid getting caught up in responding to a situation like that and play smarter. Don’t worry about proving you can hit the ball as hard as your opponent can. Read the situation and if it looks like they expect that spike, deliver a softer hit and drop the ball where they can’t easily reach it.

The team will keep trying to improve on the road against Bloomfield Tech on Wednesday and Newark East Side on Thursday.