Tenafly starts fast in a win over Cresskill

CRESSKILL – Tenafly’s volleyball team crept over the .500 mark with a powerful straight set, 25-15, 25-13, win on the road in Cresskill on Wednesday.

“That was our best game from start to finish,” said Tenafly coach Jeff Koehler. “We had a slow start against Bergenfield (on Tuesday) and then we came on.”

The Tigers jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the first set thanks to impressive serving by senior co-captain Madison Pinnel and junior setter Bridgette Chandler.

“Our coach always stresses, ‘live another play,”’ said Pinnel. “You don’t have to go for aces all the time – just make sure you get it in.”

“Serving is a really big part of our practices,” added senior co-captain Susan Wie. “We think it’s the most fundamental thing. It starts every play. We practice it a lot and Koehler puts a lot of pressure on us but we need it.”

The defense played a big part in the match. The Tigers hustled to get to nearly every ball and blocked a ton of shots to keep the Cougars in check.

“We expected them to come out hard,” said Cresskill coach Catherine Durakis. “We scrimmaged Tenafly earlier this year. They’re a great team, a great program. I have so much respect for Jeff (Koehler). They definitely stepped it up. Their blocking really shut down our offense.”

“I was impressed with our blocking,” said Koehler. “[Cougars junior Courtney Madison] can take you. She almost singlehandedly beat us in the scrimmage. If you block their best hitter it takes something away from them a little bit. We have to do it again against other teams, but the blocking was awesome.”

In addition to strong defense no fewer than six Tigers scored at least one point in the match.

“It’s really good [to have balanced scoring], Pinnel said. “We have a lot of great hitters on our team so it gives the setter an easy choice. She can go wherever she wants.”

“It’s not just important for the scoring [of points],” added Wie, who smacked four kills. “It also brings up our energy and our morale, so I really think it helps the team.”

Koehler is utilizing an expanded varsity roster with a lot of talent.

“I never had 16, 17 or 18 girls where I could put any one of them in,” he said.” Last year I had the same number and I was not ready to put some of those girls in. This year there are three or four girls that had significant roles [today] that didn’t play yesterday. In that way it’s kind of good.

“[Junior] Brittany [Amtam] is coming on – you want to get her in the game. Angelina [Tapia], a sophomore middle, could be an All-County player in a couple of years.”

The Cougars fought off four game points before the Tigers closed out the first set. But any momentum they earned disappeared when Tenafly went on a 15-7 run to close out the second set and the match.
The Cougars fell to 3-1 but Durakis thinks this first loss might be useful to the team down the road.

“Between their blocking, their hustle on defense and their hitting it was impressive,” she said.” I think it’s also a learning experience to play a team from a bigger school we don’t normally see to get us ready for the rest of the season.”

“I think we struggled running the offense to begin with. We had 23 hitting errors. That’s almost a whole set. It’s about keeping calm, thinking about what we’re doing – not just going up and waling things if it’s not there. It just didn’t happen for us today but they played really well. You have to give credit where credit due.”
Tenafly improved to 2-1 but they have work to do as their next games include matches against Old Tappan and Rutherford.

“It’s still the beginning of the season,” said Pinnel, “but I think each game we’re getting better and better and learning more about each other as a team. Hopefully we keep getting better but I think we played really well today.”

“We played Cresskill in a scrimmage and they put up a good fight,” added Wie.” As a team we regrouped – we know how to play as a unit now - and so we came back strong.”