After – for at least one game – not playing its best in the semifinals, top-seeded Union had to take a deep breath and increase its focus in order to take home the trophy.
In the championship match, the top-seeded Farmers lost the first game to second-seeded Elizabeth.
“We had to match their level of play,” Union coach Cesar Vega said. “Then we had to take it one point at a time.”
That strategy ultimately worked for Union, with the Farmers coming back to win the final two games en route to capturing the inaugural boys’ volleyball Union County Tournament championship.
The event was held in one day at Johnson High School in Clark Friday, featuring six schools.
Union improved to 12-1 with its two wins, while Elizabeth moved to 14-3 with a win and then a loss.
Union lost the first game to Elizabeth 25-16 and then won the next two by the identical score of 25-20.
Union, which split regular season matches with Elizabeth, trailed the entire third game until tying it at 20-20. From that point on senior Arren Naguit served the final five points.
“After we went ahead 22-20, Elizabeth called a timeout,” Vega said. “Our boys had to calm down and focus on one thing at a time.”
Naguit served an ace to give Union the lead for good at 21-20.
“Arren, who is our setter and No. 1 server, was very consistent,” Vega said.
Sophomore Olare Oladipo followed with a kill to make it 22-20.
Junior Jonathan Surpris came up with a kill to put Union in front 23-20 and then he was instrumental in making it 24-20 with a block and hit.
Trophies and medals were presented to both teams.
A very good atmosphere was reported, with spectators so enthusiastic.
“We had a good crowd, with many from Union High School, including parents and administrators,” Vega said. “We appreciate the support.”
Vega said there was some speculation about possibly having the first tournament last year.
“There weren’t enough teams,” Vega said. “This year through our AD (Union Athletic Director Linda Ionta) and the desire of several coaches we were able to put it together, with six teams involved.”
Vega has been the girls’ volleyball coach at Union for nine years and the boys’ for all three of the program’s, with the first season being the spring of 2015.
“This was an absolute success,” Vega said. “The teams that were expected to get to the final got there. It was very competitive.”
Third-seeded Summit defeated sixth-seeded Roselle Catholic in two games and fourth-seeded Linden downed fifth-seeded Plainfield in three games in the day’s first two matches.
Then in the semifinals it was Elizabeth defeating Summit in two games and Union ousting Linden in three.
Union won the first game against Linden 25-16, lost the second 25-21 and then produced a decisive 25-9 victory in the third.
“We dominated the first game and then our boys lowered their play and lost the second game,” Vega said. “Linden served much better.
“We came back very strong in the third game.
“Then against Elizabeth we had to raise our level of play. Elizabeth is well-coached with a lot of talented players. They were a very worthy opponent.”
INAUGURAL BOYS’ VOLLEYBALL
UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT
Friday, May 5
At Johnson High School in Clark
SEEDS: 1-Union. 2-Elizabeth. 3-Summit.
4-Plainfield. 5-Linden. 6-Roselle Catholic.
FIRST 2 MATCHES:
Summit 2, Roselle Catholic 0
Linden 2, Plainfield 1
Elizabeth 2, Summt 0
Union 2, Linden 1
Union 25, Linden 16
Linden 25, Union 21
Union 25, Linden 9
Union 2, Elizabeth 1
Elizabeth 25, Union 16
Union 25, Elizabeth 20
Union 25, Elizabeth 20
15-Arren Naguit, senior
3-Olare Oladipo, sophomore
18-Jonathan Surpris, junior
14-Kyhori Adams, sophomore
9-Jalani Massicot, senior
13-Jabri Lateef, junior
17-Tyrone Bowens, junior
1- & 8-Daniel Esteva, junior
10-Islam Elhoussainy, senior
11-Bryson Mabalat, junior
2- & 4-David Sanchez, sophomore
12-Lensiou Exuma, junior
7-Marcos Vargas, junior
16-Miguel Almoza, junior
5-Jafeth Fallas, sophomore
Coach: Cesar Vega
UNION REMAINING SCHEDULE:
Farmers 12-2 as of Tuesday, May 9
May 10 at Woodbridge, 4 p.m.
May 11 Hunterdon Central, 4 p.m.
May 13 at Harrison, 9 a.m.
May 15 at Summit, 4 p.m.
May 16 Roselle Catholic, 4 p.m.
May 18 Westfield, 4 p.m.
May 19 Linden, 4 p.m.
May 24 at Plainfield, 4 p.m.
States commence May 24.
Union is situated in North Jersey, Group 3.