In boys’ volleyball, and in sports in general, there are three levels that lead to championship contention in a given season.
The first one is talent. A team must have talent, or it has no shot at anything.
Level two is chemistry. The talent must find ways to play together, and win together, or the team will just be a bunch of individuals.
Finally, the third level is the one that few teams reach: a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. If a squad reaches this level, it either wins the championship or falls just short.
Saint Joseph Regional High School has a talented boys’ volleyball team this spring.
The Metuchen school is 13-5, and it is widely acknowledged as one of the best teams in New Jersey.
The Falcons even have a decent amount of chemistry. When they can impose their will on an opponent through serving, setting and spiking the ball, they mop the floor with said opponent. Eleven of the club’s 13 victories have come via 2-0 sweep–New Jersey boys’ volleyball matches are best-of-three.
But when the Falcons meet a talented, cohesive adversary, like Old Bridge High School, the state power responsible for two of Saint Joseph’s five defeats, they crumble and lose.
On April 1 in Metuchen, Old Bridge beat Saint Joseph 2-0. On April 17, the host Knights again swept the Falcons, 2-0.
The Saint Joeph players will be the first to tell you that when a great rival takes control of a match, through serving, setting and spiking, they lose their energy and fade toward defeat.
“We have trouble playing our game against harder teams,” said Saint Joseph’s junior setter, Vaughn McConnell.
“We have to start keeping our head in the game and moving on to the next point,” added Saint Joseph’s junior outside hitter, Thomas Young.
The Falcons know what they need to do. They just aren’t quite sure how to do it.
“That’s the question of our season,” Young said.
“We’re a top five team in the state at our best,” added McConnell.
He’s probably not wrong. Saint Joseph has everything a volleyball team needs to evolve into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
It has four dynamic hitters who wreck points and intimidate opponents. John Kasztelan (112 kills), Christian Trevino (90), Young (86) and Robert Galbraith (56) all have more than 50 kills this spring.
It has two setters who float the ball up into perfect positions for the hitters to spike it down. McConnell (200 assists) and Christopher Esteban (175) both have a ton of assists in 2019.
It even has a libero who excels at finding the ball when it’s plummeting and keeping it in the air. Junior Justin Monahan has 147 digs this season.
“We’re solid all around and the guys are jelling,” said Saint Joseph coach Miguel Cabrita.
Cabrita’s team has reached two of the three levels to championship contention. There is only one left, and Saint Joseph will have to get there to win the NJSIAA Central Jersey championship.
Old Bridge is, after all, located in the Central Jersey section.
“I see us doing well,” Cabrita said.
“If we can bring that same intensity level to every game, we have a good shot at states,” Young added.