After a heated five-set matchup, Oyster River Volleyball took home their first championship title since 2010.
Oyster River High School (ORHS) (15-1) Varsity Volleyball defeated Coe Brown Northwood Academy (CBNA) (15-1), reigning Division II champions and their arch-rivals, 3-2 at Pinkerton Academy last Saturday, November 5th, 2022.
ORHS and CBNA had played each other twice during the regular season, with each team winning at home. Those respective losses were the only losses for either team. Playing 14 sets total this season against each other, each team winning seven of them, the matchup was head-to-head. “Even though they were reigning champs, we felt like it was gonna be a good match. We knew that both of us deserved to be there,” said #16 Chloe Hawkes (’23).
Heading into the championship, ORHS knew they needed to be aggressive. With a goal of scrappy defense and planned attacks on offense, ORHS wanted to “just make sure that every ball that we touched made it harder for [CBNA],” said Hawkes.
The team had been working on mental toughness and discipline to “maximize our strengths and make them make mistakes,” said #1 Emilia Cavicchi (’24). “Coe Brown is obviously a really good team, and we can’t really change that, so we just had to focus on ourselves and really improve what we had.”
The team was confident in their abilities as the game started. According to #8 Emma Hampton (’23), the team knew that they “were capable of beating [CBNA]. It was just whether we could get our mental game strong enough to power through.”
With a strong offensive start, ORHS won the first set 25-15, giving the team a quick boost of momentum to open the night.
However, the team knew that the first set didn’t guarantee anything. “Just because we won the first set does not mean the game is over […], but we were excited,” said Cavicchi. The ten point win in the first set contrasted ORHS’ matchup with CBNA during the semifinals last year, where CBNA took the first set and subsequently the entire game.
That momentum was not enough, however. CBNA would come back to win the second set 25-23, and the third 25-17, despite defensive efforts from ORHS.
ORHS knew they could come back since they had before. During their last encounter with CBNA, ORHS had come back from 2-0 to win the game in five sets. But, for that to happen again, “we needed everyone to pull it off, and every [play] on that court mattered,” said #10 Maeve Amarosa (’23).
With ORHS now down one set heading into the fourth, the team needed to adjust. In the last two sets, the team was playing too safe to avoid costly mistakes. Without risks and lacking focus, the team could’ve lost right then. “[We all knew] ‘This could be it. This could be the end,’” said Hawkes.
But the team prevailed. “We had faith in everything we’ve been working so hard for […] It was less about feeling confident and more about trusting each other and trusting in our abilities,” said #17 Annabelle Svenson (’24).
Aggressive defense from players like #3 Aubrey Young (’26) and #9 Kylin Ayotte (’25), and serves from #13 Gracy Spirito (’26), were instrumental in ORHS’ win of the fourth set. “I think all of us were committed to leaving it all on the court, so we went for every ball that we could,” said Hawkes.
With the game tied 2-2 heading into the fifth set, the team was ready. “We had a lot of momentum, and we just needed to stay aggressive and keep that momentum going,” said Hampton.
With help from the entire team, that momentum pushed ORHS to a 15-10 win in the fifth set, with CBNA’s fate sealed after a final serve from Cavicchi. “[It] felt amazing. Everything we had worked so hard for in our season felt completed.”
The rest of the team shared that feeling. “I was just really happy we were able to do that for our seniors. They worked so hard, and I know this meant a lot for everyone, but especially for them,” said Svenson. “It was overwhelming, but in the best way possible.”
“It was the last game of volleyball that I’ll play for my entire high school career, and it was against our rivals, who we’ve been rivals with since before I was born. Just having that be the end of everything, just—it felt fake. Like that was how it was supposed to end,” said Hawkes.
In that surreal moment, as the sun set over Pinkerton Academy, Oyster River Volleyball was champion again.
– Justin Partis
Photo from @oysterriverhighschool on Instagram