Jeff King has been coaching the South Brunswick High School boys’ volleyball team for 10 years.
In that time, the Vikings have been solid.
Nothing special, just solid. They usually finish around .500 or slightly above.
But in 2019, behind nine seniors, the Vikings went up a level. They posted a 15-11 record and won an NJSIAA Central Jersey Tournament game for the first time ever, 2-0 over Saint John Vianney High School in Monmouth Junction on May 21.
Two days after that, though, South Brunswick did something even more monumental. The seventh-seeded Vikings traveled to Metuchen to play second-seeded Saint Joseph Regional High School in a state quarterfinal.
And on May 23, South Brunswick registered the biggest victory in school history, upsetting Saint Joseph Regional, 2-0. The Vikings did not even need extra points to close out their victories, winning 25-20 and 25-21, respectively.
South Brunswick would go on to lose in the state semifinals on May 29, 2-0 at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington. But the Saint Joseph Regional victory punctuated the best campaign in South Brunswick history.
“This was outside the usual zone for South Brunswick as far as volleyball goes,” King said. “So it was really cool and fun.”
The upset effort started the day before South Brunswick’s match up in Metuchen. At a team practice, King huddled his players and told them to just chill and enjoy themselves.
South Brunswick had already done what it was supposed to do, by beating a lower seed, Saint John Vianney, in the opening round. Now it was “playing with house money,” King said.
“He just told us to push it to the limit and leave everything on the court,” said John Bohrer, South Brunswick’s senior libero. “And we fed off each other’s energy.”
King’s team played mistake free volleyball against the Falcons. It also did what it has been doing all year: spread the ball around to multiple finishers at the net.
Senior setter Danny Sun racked up 21 assists in the victory. Seniors Connor Ferry and Dylan Herrera each recorded eight kills. Senior Siddarth Raizada added four kills.
“That game we spread the ball a lot. I tried to start inside out with the middles,” Sun said. “When the middles started getting stuck, I spread it out to the pins more.”
“Our passing was very good that day,” he added.
At one point during the first game, King called a timeout.
“I told the kids how much fun I was having watching them,” he said. “They were all playing with smiles.”
At one point during the second game, King looked up at the scoreboard. South Brunswick led 21-16, and was four points away from victory.
“I said, ‘This is actually going to happen,'” he said. “It was pretty cool.”
These Vikings were better than their predecessors because they were the consummate team.
“No one cared about stats,” King said. “That wasn’t true in the past.”
All nine seniors, Bohrer, Sun, Ferry, Herrera, Raizada, Brad Allen, Anirudh Menon, Colin Park and Dylan Poku, have probably played their last competitive volleyball game, both together and in general. None of them are playing in college next year, which made this run even more special.
“They relished it,” King said.
“Against Saint Joe’s we played as well as we could,” Sun concluded.