For the 5th year in a row the UCT girls’ volleyball final will be Westfield vs. Union Catholic; Both triumph in Oct. 24 semifinals at Johnson High

PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Union Catholic, with head coach Nancy Saggio in the middle, is seeking its 11th UCT championship since 2000 and first since 2016.
PHOTO BY JR PARACHINI – Defending champion and top-seeded Westfield is in the UCT final for the seventh straight season.

CLARK – The very last hope to prevent the same two girls’ volleyball teams from reaching another county championship match rested on the shoulders of the small parochial school from Summit known as Kent Place.
The Dragons almost pulled it off.
In dramatic fashion fourth-seeded Kent Place produced a wild comeback to steal Game 1. The Dragons then led top-seeded Westfield by three exactly nine points into Game 2.
The defending champion Blue Devils weren’t in trouble yet. However, they had to figure out how to get back in the game if they were to force a third one and have any thoughts of reaching a seventh straight final.
“We let our guard down a bit there,” Westfield head coach Beverly Took said. “Kent Place is a good team. We had to make some adjustments.”
Torok talked specifically about moving the ball more effectively.
“We passed much better,” Torok said. “We had to mix our attack.”
With juniors Stephanie Margolies (No. 15), Lydia Nisita (No. 7) and Uzezi Ijoma (No. 6) leading the way Westfield rallied to win the second game 25-16 after dropping the first game late by two points.
Westfield led the first game 22-14 before Kent Place, behind the outstanding play of freshman Sabrina Skyers (No. 8) and her five kills and the six consecutive serving points by junior Maddie Hagar (No. 4), outscored the Blue Devils 11-1 for an improbable 25-23 victory.
Kent Place kept its momentum going for the beginning of the second game, getting out to a 6-3 lead. Kent Place answered the first four ties with the point after.
However, after the fifth tie at 8-8 Westfield took the lead for good. Senior libero Ann Friel (No. 20) then produced seven service points before Kent Place scored again to pull to within 16-9.
Westfield’s most dominant effort came in Game 3 as the Blue Devils led the rest of the way after a 1-1 tie. Senior Jenna Miller served eight straight points to get the score to 24-12. A kill by Nisita for Game 3’s final point sent Westfield back to the final.
“We were running a bit faster in the middle and Lydia was catching them off the block,” Torok said. “Stephanie always has a variety of the way she attacks for us.”
Ijoma had six kills for Westfield in Game 2 and Nisita five in Game 3.
Westfield won its second straight to improve to 14-4, while Kent Place fell to 17-4.
Second-seeded Union Catholic trailed Union 2-0 to start the first game and 3-0 to start the second before coming back to oust third-seeded Union 25-12 and 25-11.
Union Catholic, now 21-3 and winners of five straight, captured the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division championship by one game over Westfield, finishing 9-1 in league play. Westfield closed at 8-2.
So for the fifth straight year we have Westfield vs. Union Catholic in the final. Westfield won in 2014 and 2017 and Union Catholic in between in 2015 and 2016.
The final is Friday night at 7:30 at Kean University’s Harwood Arena in Union. This will be the ninth straight year that Kean is hosting the final.
The teams split Watchung Division matches, with Westfield winning at Union Catholic 25-16, 25-22 on Sept. 25.
For the Blue Devils, Grace Gruters had three aces, six service points, three kills, one block and two digs; Miller produced nine service points, five kills and eight digs and Margolies had four service points, four kills, four assists and seven digs.
Union Catholic won at Westfield 25-21, 21-25, 25-16 on Oct. 13.
For the Vikings, Alexandra Kwasnik had three aces, 10 service points, seven kills, four blocks and three digs; Katelyn Salvador produced three aces, eight service points, 20 assists and five digs and Liv Szyszkiewicz had six aces, 11 service points, three kills, one block and nine digs.
“Union Catholic is always a force,” Torok said.
The Vikings, guided by longtime head coach Nancy Saggio, have captured the UCT championship 10 times since 2000.
“Union Catholic is well-coached and they have desire,” Torok said. “We know what we’re facing.
“We’ll have to have our ‘A’ game and be able to counter them when necessary.”

1-WESTFIELD BLUE DEVILS (14-4)
1-Julia Becker, sophomore
20-Anne Friel, senior
3-Katherine Abdala, junior
4-Maria Biegler, senior
5-Abbey Zidel, junior
6-Uzezi Ijoma, junior
7-Lydia Nisita, junior
8-Sintra Rumpeters, junior
9-Giana Mangiamele, sophomore
10-Jenna Miller, senior
11-Giavanna Schifando, junior
12-Samantha Colucci, senior
13-Nora Brindle, senior
15-Stephanie Margolies, junior
Head coach: Beverly Torok

2-UNION CATHOLIC VIKINGS (21-3)
20-Chole John, senior
15-Charlize Colon, senior
24-Prima Ngumah, senior
14-Karen Degnan, senior
18-Liv Szyszkiewicz, junior
11-Abbey Ortiz, junior
25-Alexandra Kwasnik, junior
10/5-Najlaa Williams, junior
1-Shyla Williams, senior
32-Tori Pastore, senior
38-Gabby Hernandez, junior
9-Grace Kane, junior
36-Adrienne Caceda, sophomore
4-Katelyn Salvadore, sophomore
13-Brianna Lamberty, freshman
Head coach: Nancy Saggio

2018 GIRLS’ VOLLEYBALL
UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT:

FIRST ROUND:
Tuesday, Oct. 16
1-Westfield, bye
9-Benedictine at 8-Gov. Livingston
GL 2, Benedictine 0 – 25-12, 25-15
12-Roselle at 5-Scotch Plains
Scotch Plains 2, Roselle 0 – 25-12, 25-8
13-Elizabeth at 4-Kent Place
Kent Place 2, Elizabeth 0 – 25-23, 25-18
10-Summit at 7-Linden
Linden 2, Summit – 25-17, 25-25
2-Union Catholic, bye
11-Rahway at 6-New Providence
New Providence 2, Rahway 0 – 25-14, 25-20
3-Union, bye

QUARTERFINALS:
Friday, Oct. 19
8-Gov. Livingston at 1-Westfield
Westfield 25-12, 25-22
7-Linden at 2-Union Catholic
Union Catholic 25-5, 25-10
6-New Providence at 3-Union
Union 25-22, 25-22
Tuesday, Oct. 23
5-Scotch Plains at 4-Kent Place
Kent Place 25-13. 20-25, 25-20

SEMIFINALS:
Wednesday, Oct. 24
At Johnson High School
3-Union vs. 2-Union Catholic
Union Catholic 25-12, 25-11
4-Kent Place vs. 1-Westfield
Westfield 23-25, 25-16, 25-12

FINAL:
Friday, Oct. 26
At Kean University
2-Union Catholic vs. 1-Westfield, 7:30 p.m.

* * *

UCT GIRLS’ VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONS
SINCE 2000:

2017: Westfield def. Union Catholic – at Kean
29-27, 25-13 in the final

2016: Union Catholic def. Westfield – at Kean
25-19, 25-22 in the final

2015: Union Catholic def. Westfield – at Kean
25-23, 25-20 in the final

2014: Westfield def. Union Catholic – at Kean
25-11, 26-24 in the final.

2013: Roselle Catholic def. Westfield – at Kean
27-25, 15-25, 25-23 in the final.

2012: Roselle Catholic def. Westfield – at Kean
19-25, 25-22, 25-14 in the final.

2011: Union Catholic def. Summit – at Kean
25-17, 25-20 in the final.

2010: Union Catholic def. Cranford – at Kean
26-28, 25-22, 25-16 in the final.

2009: Union Catholic def. Cranford – at Union Catholic
25-18, 25-21 in the final.

2008: Union Catholic def. Cranford – at Union Catholic
26-24, 17-25, 25-22 in the final.

2007: Cranford def. Westfield – at Westfield
25-18, 25-22 in the final.

2006: Westfield def. Union Catholic – at Westfield
25-19, 25-21 in the final.

2005: Union Catholic def. Rahway
25-22, 25-22 in the final.

2004: Rahway def. New Providence
25-21, 25-11 in the final.

2003: Elizabeth def. Union Catholic
25-21, 16-25, 25-18, 25-20 in the final.

2002: Union Catholic

2001: Union Catholic

2000: Union Catholic

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