Young Montclair High School boys volleyball stands tall this spring, gains experience
It was a roller coaster Montclair High School boys volleyball season this past spring.
The Mounties finished with a 9-8 overall record, 8-5 in the Super Essex Conference Liberty Division.
"While we could have and should have won more matches, the team did well in lieu of our inexperience," said Montclair head coach Pam Reilly. "I was OK with the record and encouraged with our outlook for the future."
For Reilly and the Mounties, it was necessary for some of the younger players to hit the courts earlier than expected, and the Mounties coach believes that should portend a better 2023 season.
"With only junior varsity and varsity teams, our freshmen were forced to play one level up whether they were ready to or not," Reilly said. "With several open spots on varsity, a few were charged with playing at the highest level with virtually no previous experience. They met the challenges head on, and this should be most beneficial to our program next season."
Reilly pointed out the three-set victory over Nutley on May 12, less than a week after losing in two straight sets to the Raiders on May 5. In the three-set win, Montclair lost the first set, 25-23, but won the next two. The third game went into extra points, and the Mounties won, 27-25. The match went back and forth before Montclair pulled it out.
Reilly said that the Nutley players gave them the incentive to win.
"Our guys were highly motivated by the fact that one of our pre-game warm-up tops was destroyed by a couple of Nutley players and posted on social media," she said.
The Mounties head coach also pointed to two straight-set losses, to Payne Tech (April 22) and Bloomfield (May 20), the two squads that made it to the Essex County Tournament finals, as key learning experiences.
Leading the way on the floor this spring was senior outside hitter Ty Hillman, who collected All SEC Liberty Division first-team honors.
Another hole to fill in 2023 will come from the graduation of senior outside hitter/middle blocker Matthew Abate, who was pegged for the All Liberty second team.
But Reilly will have sophomore outside hitter Samuel Korenbaum and junior Matthew Sefjack, who were named to the All Liberty second team, back next spring.
In addition to Hillman and Abate, Montclair will have to replace senior opposite Mark McGoey, who was named to the All Liberty honorable mention list. Also on the honorable mention list was freshman libero Logan Martinez.
Hillman led the team on offense in kills with 243 and aces with 16, but did more than that.
"He was our mainstay guy who never really left the court," Reilly said. "When his offensive game was off, he would give us great defense. He was a crafty attacker who had a variety of shots to throw off opposing defenders."
"Matt Abate was a tremendous hustler," the coach continued. "Sam Korenbaum was a fearless competitor who wasn't afraid to go for it. Matt Sefjack completely accepted the responsibilities of his position with no compunction.
"Mark McGoey was a phenomenal leader on and off the court and turned in some timely clutch performances."
Martinez was the team’s defensive specialist and leader in digs with 160. "His volleyball IQ and floor leadership were special," the coach said.
Besides Korenbaum, Sefjack and Martinez, the Mounties have several other players who they hope will step up in 2023, including sophomores Christopher Borden and Sean Manning and freshmen Olufemi Anthony and Nnamdi Emehelu.
There is also freshman Nicolas Carrillo, who played a big part in the victory over Nutley. Carillo was a force with his serving, as he helped Montclair go from losing by six to winning by three points in the second set.
"I subbed him in midway through the second set to give us a different look at outside hitter, and he never looked back," Reilly said.