Old Tappan cools off Ramapo in two-set sweep

Gianna Sabatini's diving dig that fell for a point in the opening set gave NV/Old Tappan the lead for good on the way to a 25-15, 25-17 win over Ramapo on Monday.

OLD TAPPAN -- The Golden Knights used a combination of superb defense and balanced scoring to defeat Ramapo in straight sets, 25-15, 25-17, on Monday afternoon in a battle of two volleyball programs that were red hot coming into the match.

“I thought our defense was exceptionally strong today,” said Old Tappan coach Melissa Landeck. “I thought we moved really well, we read, communicated over little things - beside the physical act of getting a dig. That was something we talked about doing. We know who their strong hitters are so we tried to put a good ball up when they hit it at us.”

“Our team has gotten closer and gained more trust over the past couple of weeks,” added senior libero Gianna Fasano, who scooped 9 digs. “That’s really been helping our defense and our blockers have been doing a great job. We moved over a block to help our defense and I think it’s been working effectively.”

Knights senior defensive specialist Gianna Sabatini went to the service line with the score tied 6-6 in the first set. During the rally of her first serve she put Old Tappan ahead with a diving dig that sailed over the net and landed in an open spot on the Ramapo side of the court to give the Knights a 7-6 lead. Old Tappan would never trail again for the remainder of the match.

“I think we did a really good job of communicating,” Fasano said. “Everybody was talking to each other and it ended up working. I was really happy about that.”

Old Tappan also did an excellent job of serving in the match, losing only three points on errant serves.

“I really like serving - jump serving is my favorite,” Fasano said. “I do it a lot in practice. Earlier in the season the team wasn’t serving as well as we could. We haven’t been serving our best but I think lately we’ve really been going for it, taking more risks.”

In the first set Fasano earned four service winners, including an ace, to bring the Knights to within two points of winning the set, 23-12.

Old Tappan sophomore Jola Olutiola pounded a kill for game point No. 24 and after senior Sofia Varela scored the 15th point for Ramapo, Olutiola blasted the ball off a perfect set by junior setter Chrissy Chu for the game winner.

“[Passing] is one of the main things we focus on in practice,” said Chu. “With the good pass, comes the good set, comes the good swing. I always feel so good when I put up an amazing ball and the hitter puts it down. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

“She’s done a great job of distributing the ball either to the hot hitter or to the better matchup,” said Landeck. “She’s a smart setter.”

Chu has plenty of teammates who can score points and she dished the ball to a variety of hitters for 19 assists in the match.

“I’m constantly looking [for potential scorers] all the time,” said Chu. “As a setter you have to know who has the hot hand, who is doing really well, what the matchups are. If the middle is matched up with a big blocker I’m definitely going to avoid that until I have an idea where to put the ball.

“It’s super crucial to keep the ball moving around on the court because you want to keep the defense on the other side on their toes. For OT we have such a diverse offense I have a chance to set everyone and everyone can put the ball away, which keeps the defense on their toes.”

Olutiola led the way with 7 kills, while junior teammate Carly Powell added 6 kills and senior Nina Trent kicked in with 5 kills. In all eight different Golden Knights scored at least one point in the match. 

“It’s a credit to everyone buying in to that it’s a team effort,” said Landeck. “You don’t have to put it on one person’s back and it just makes us tougher to play because it’s less predictable.”

Chu even got onto the scoreboard, tallying a point with a well-placed kill midway through the first set.
“[It’s key to] keep the defense moving, second guessing themselves,” she said with a laugh. “It’s always  good to pop in a little ball.”

Old Tappan senior Isabella Wong contributed 10 digs, while junior Lily Nelson had 10 digs for Ramapo. Raiders senior setter Jess Zames had 10 assists and Varela added 5 kills.

The Golden Knights improved to 11-1, while the Raiders fell to 9-3.

“I think we’re getting more confident as the season goes on,” said Fasano. “Landeck always wants us to be getting better and better and to look at one game at a time. Chrissy did a good job of setting and everyone played the best they could. Our hitters did really well today and our defense was really good today, especially our serve-receive. 

“Ramapo is a fun game to play. They’re a good team and we know some of these girls from club. So we’re really excited to come out and play [them].”