State Champs: Volleyball Wins Group 1 Title

By on November 12, 2017

VHS volleyball champsFirst. State. Volleyball. Title. Ever.

Let that sink in for a moment. Then say “Wow”, which is what Coach Jeff Stiefbold said to his team several times in quick succession after the Verona High School girls volleyball team defeated Bogota High School two games to one to take the NJSIAA/Wilson Sporting Goods Group 1 title on Saturday. “It’s everybody going hard,” Stiefbold told the teary-eyed team after the win. “It’s everybody believing in each other.”

“Everybody served great, everybody passed great,” he added. “You hung together. This is what it is all about. We’re super proud of you.” Stiefbold has coached at VHS since 2013 with his identical twin brother, Scott, as his assistant.

The state championship capped a season of milestones: The 2017 VHS volleyball team has a 30-0 record, losing only three individual sets along the way, including the first of yesterday’s championship. (The scores Saturday were 20-25, 25-21, 25-18). The team won its second Essex County Tournament championship in a row, and its second Section A Group 1 title.

“We’ve been working hard all season,” said Nicolette Marino, a junior. “We’ve been working hard in every set. It just feels amazing.”

“It was really incredible. The fans and we were so passionate about what was going on out there,” added Brooke Cooney, another junior. “We came ready to play our hearts out. This game meant a lot to us since we came last year and didn’t go home with the title. We knew that if we were going to do it, this would be the year.” Bogota, which came into the championship with a record of 26-2, beat Verona in last year’s title game.

Stiefbold had strong words of praise for Cooney, who had several key kills in Verona’s third-game rally after being blocked from getting any in the first two. “Brooke, you picked an awesome game to turn it on,” Stiefbold said. “Way to go. You really smacked down in game three for us. I couldn’t be any prouder of you.”

Cooney is one of several players who will be returning to the team next season, along with Hunter Coppola, who led the squad yesterday with 19 kills. But the rest of the squad will have big shoes to fill: Senior Carly Waterman had 250 kills this year for a career total of 1,322. She also had 702 service points and 158 service aces. When she debuted on the team in 2013, the fans often marked her slams by chanting, “she’s a freshman”. Cameron Fuentez, also a four-year starter, had 720 career digs. Senior Madisyn Matthews totalled up 458 service points and 87 aces in her four years. Also moving on are Julianna Chanley, Francesca Cortese and Caitlin Klose.

As his team packed their bags yesterday, Stiefbold paused for a brief apology to his father, legendary VHS soccer coach George Stiefbold, who passed away in 2016. “My dad had seven group state championships with Verona, one of them with me playing, and this is our seventh group state championship,” he said, referring to the Caldwell High School volleyball teams he coached with his brother before coming the Verona. “So dad I’m sorry, this is my eighth.”

“I know how proud he is of us and the team,” Stiefbold said. “We are proud of our girls.”

The Verona volleyball team will be returning to William Paterson University’s Recreation Center next Saturday, November 18 at 2 p.m. for the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, squaring off against Old Tappan High School.

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