Immaculate Heart returns to mountaintop of New Jersey girls volleyball by Greg Tartaglia of The Record
WAYNE – Catherine Fazio and the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions trophy were popular searches at the William Paterson Rec Center on Sunday.
The former wound up holding the latter after Immaculate Heart defeated River Dell, 25-21, 25-15, in the final for its eighth TOC title all-time and first in three years.
Then the cameras found them. Teammates sought them out for photos, followed by classmates, family members and eventually coaches.
Coach Maria Nolan revealed afterward that Fazio has the most state championships of any IHA athlete with seven, four for volleyball and three (so far) for swimming. Although the Washington Township resident was with the Blue Eagles’ varsity for the 2014 TOC win, this was a bona fide first.
“I’d never really won this on the court,” Fazio said, hardware in hand. “Last year, everyone remembers the third set [a 29-27 loss in the final], it was like point for point. That really was a tough game for us to lose.”
The No. 1 seed Blue Eagles (40-1) have played in the last seven finals and prevailed after falling to NV/Old Tappan in 2015 and 2016.
No. 2 River Dell (24-2) made its debut in the TOC title match and pushed IHA throughout the first set, taking a 21-20 lead.
Immaculate Heart then ended on a 5-0 run that included two aces from Fazio, one for set point.
“We played [River Dell] last year in the county final and lost to them, and then we hadn’t played them since,” Fazio said. “So we said, we want to beat them in the TOC final.”
Fazio and middle Anna Morris had eight kills apiece. Morris had three in a row to help IHA rally from a 16-12 deficit in the first set.
“In our last three state matches, Anna was the force that came through,” coach Maria Nolan said, pointing out that the Blue Eagles employ several MVP types.
“In the [Non-Public final], it was Sydney [Taylor] and Anna. Yesterday [in the TOC semis], it was Anna and Catherine. And today, it was Anna, Sydney and Colette [Petric]. It changes all the time.”
Taylor, a junior, tallied a match-high nine kills, four of which came during a 9-2 spree that brought the Blue Eagles back from 6-3 down in the second set.
In the midst of that run, River Dell was called for an out-of-rotation violation when trailing by a point, 8-7.
“It was totally wrong,” Golden Hawks coach Dianne Furusawa said. She noted that the ref told her libero Sofia Poznansky – who had just served – should have lined up directly behind OH Samantha Grandich, despite the fact that Grandich was two spots ahead of Poznansky in the rotation, not one.
“You know how many times we’ve gone over that in practice to make sure it was right?” Furusawa said.
“But listen, my kids gave them a scare – it’s unbelievable that we’re able to compete with them at that level, when they haven’t even dropped a set [to a New Jersey team] all season.”
IHA finished 34-0 against in-state competition. All five of its seniors contributed in the final: Fazio and Petric (seven kills) aided the offense, while Erica Timpanaro (13 digs) and Kaela Wong each served an ace. Julia Morris put up 32 assists to finish with a state-leading 882 for the season.
Grandich led the Golden Hawks in kills (seven) and digs (eight), and fellow co-captain Jenna Karpowich added two kills and six digs.