Old Tappan earns its spot in sectional semis

Addison Gioffre finished with 18 assists for NV/Old Tappan, which advanced to the North 1, Group 2 state sectional semifinals with a two-set sweep of Pascack Valley.

OLD TAPPAN – Northern Valley/Old Tappan overcame an early 7-0 deficit in the first set to topple the Pascack Valley, 2-0 (25-19, 25-21), in the second round of the North 1, Group 2 state sectional volleyball playoffs on Wednesday afternoon.

“Playing a team of their talent is never easy,” said Old Tappan junior outside hitter Brenna Delaney. “Everyone gets better and they definitely got better from the first game. Give credit where credit is due. We came out a little slow - a little bit underwhelmed. We thought it was going to be easier from the start and I think we were quickly humbled in that sense.”

“I think we came out with a slower start than we typically do but you can’t take anything away from Pascack Valley,” added Knights coach Melissa Landeck. “I thought they came out strong and did some things well that prevented us from scoring. There is always a sense of urgency this time of year. When you’re the lower seed on the road you’re coming out with that urgency, especially since it’s the third time we’ve played each other.”

Pascack Valley was able to jump out to that early lead thanks to six straight service winners by sophomore setter Celia Torres, who also had 16 assists and 3 digs in the match. Senior middle blocker Mia Hachadourian had two key blocks in the 7-0 run.

But back-to-back kills by Knights senior middle blocker Layla Giordano (5 kills, 2 blocks), an attack error and a serve into the net allowed Old Tappan to close the gap to 9-5. The teams traded points and OT junior setter Addison Gioffre stepped to the service line with her team trailing, 12-7.

Gioffre proceeded to connect on eight straight service winners, including two aces, to put Old Tappan ahead for good, 15-12.

“You would think it would be a lot of nerves in that moment but I was really excited,” Gioffre said. “When you’re down, serving is so relieving because it is in your hands. You can just go for it and get back to where we need to be.”

“Add (Gioffre) went on a nice run - she held her serve and we defended well and found scoring opportunities,” said Landeck. “That’s something you have to do especially when you’re playing from behind.”

Delaney hammered 7 of her team-high 9 kills, including a thunderous kill that gave Old Tappan set-point. An attack error by Valley ended the first set, 25-19, on the following rally.

“I’ve been working a lot on seeing the blocker and hitting away from them,” Delaney said. “Credit to my setter (Gioffre) for always giving me great balls and serve-receive and the defense for setting her up. I just try to find an open court by either cutting it or going sharp down the lines. I never try to put it on a person and I never try to swing into the big hand in front of me.”

“She had a lot of nice swings,” Landeck said of Delaney. “She mixed her shots really well. She’s a smart player and has a high volleyball IQ. She sees the court well.”

Delaney is not the only scorer on the team. The Giordano twins,  Layla and outside hitter Maya (4 kills) and sophomore setter/opposite Eva Curko (4 kills) also contributed points. And missing from the lineup was injured junior outside hitter Samantha Kranzler, who was a reliable scorer all season. 

Gioffre relishes the depth of scorers when she distributes the ball for kills.

“At the beginning of the first set,” Gioffre said, “they were cheating on Maya [Giordano] a lot so I knew I had to mix it up working Eva [Curko], working [sophomore middle] Julia [Whaley]. It’s really about who’s on and where we are trying to attack and who we are trying to attack on the other court.”  

The second set went back and forth with 7 ties, Old Tappan took a three-point lead early and the Panthers led by as many as four points late in the set. Valley junior outside hitter Jillian Feeley was pounding away, blasting 5 of her game-high 10 kills to propel the Panthers to a 21-17 lead. But four straight attack errors and a service ace by Curko gave OT the lead for good. Two more attack errors and a kill by Old Tappan senior outside hitter Maya Giordano ended the match 25-21. Curko served the final seven points.

“We do a lot of serving in practice,” Gioffre said. “At the end of practice every day we have a serving challenge. We all have to serve one to a spot in a row. We’ll serve from 30 minutes to an hour sometimes.”

Feeley had a block and 8 digs in addition to her kills for Valley. Hachadourian finished with 6 kills, 3 blocks and 5 digs. Senior outside hitter Tegan Feeley belted 4 kills, had a block and scooped 7 digs. Sophomore libero Maddy Romero also scooped 7 digs, senior libero Lucy Gallina added 6 digs, while senior setter Josie Gallina distributed 7 assists and had 3 digs.

Gioffre finished with 18 assists and senior libero Grayson Housely scooped 6 digs. In addition to all her kills Delaney also had 2 blocks and 4 digs. Junior libero Jamie Kim contributed 7 digs.

Pascack Valley’s season ended with the loss and it finished 15-8, 6-4 against tough league competition.

“I’ve had some of these girls since eighth grade,” said Valley coach Katlin Mac Iver. “So it was really special to coach them through their senior year. When I think back to my senior year [at Valley] I was the only senior that played and the only captain. We needed to be  a family. We were this really peanut sized group and I took that into my coaching all my years. Back in June we established that we’re a team, we’re a unit, we’re a family. The morale has been phenomenal - they’re just a great  bunch of young athletes and I’m proud of all of them. It’s disappointing but they played a great match.

“We’ve had some very tough competition - we have a very tough league. I have nothing but respect for OT and coach Landeck. They’re a very hard team to play against. But if we’re going to lose we might as well lose to the potential champions. We have some great underclassmen so next year will be exciting too. It’s bittersweet. It hurts right now but it will get better.”

Old Tappan (20-3) moves on to the semifinal round to play Demarest, 2-0 winners over Jefferson, Friday afternoon in Old Tappan.

“We have to play our best no matter what and no matter who is on the other side of the net,” Delaney said. “I think that was a good wakeup call now rather than Friday.”

“This was a pretty good wakeup call,” added Gioffre, “because if we want to win this kind of match and the tougher matches going forward especially on Friday and into next week we know we’re going to have to give 100 percent and put our all into it. Breezing through it is not going to be enough anymore.”