IHA outlasts Old Tappan to win Bergen County volleyball title

OLD TAPPAN - Junior Julia Sobilo broke an 11-11 tie with a well-placed kill in the third set to propel Immaculate Heart Academy to a 2-1 (25-17, 20-5, 25-18) win over Old Tappan in the Bergen County Women Coaches Association Volleyball final. As a result IHA defended its county title.

IHA never trailed in the first set as no fewer than seven players tallied one point or more. The Blue Eagles closed out the set with an 11-5 run to clinch the 25-17 win.

“We know that teams have a hard time blocking Julia (Sobilo),” said senior setter Kalena Stavish, who distributed 30 assists and added 3 kills, 2 blocks and 11 service winners to the offense and 5 digs to the defense. “She’s a great hitter. But when they start cheating out to cover Julia then I’ll go to [junior] Eve [Roman] or I’ll go to [senior] Emily [Sabino] or [junior] Rachel [Paton]. But anyone I set - they got it.”

The second set was a real battle as the teams traded points and stayed within three points of each other throughout most of the set. The score was tied four times and Old Tappan took the lead for good when Immaculate Heart committed an uncharacteristic three consecutive attack errors.

The Giordano twins, seniors Layla and Maya, tallied the final three points of the 25-20 victory.

“We practice being in those heat of the moment [situations], being under pressure,” said IHA coach Michelle Yoo. “Losing in the second set wasn’t anything we haven’t dealt with in the past. Coming out with a composed mindset and confidence in the third set is the reason why they outshined.”

The Blue Eagles opened the third set by grabbing a 4-1 lead on back-to-back kills by Sobilo and later, after the teams exchanged several points, Sobilo broke the 11-11 tie and Immaculate Heart never trailed after that. She finished with 9 kills, a block and one dig.

“I love hitting line and I love hitting cross,” she said. “I just try to find open spots on the court and just swing there. Today line wasn’t working too well so I went cross a lot. It depends on what works.”

Roman came alive, pounding four of her team-high 11 kills. She also scooped 13 digs.

“I think we have a very strong offensive team this year, where everybody on the court is a very strong player,” Sobilo said. “Kalena (Stavish) does a great job of setting each girl the amount of times necessary. We spread out the offense very well and our girls know how to put it down.”

“It’s because everybody plays a vital role on this team,” said Yoo. “Anywhere, from being on the bench, our coaches, our manager and the six girls that are on the court. It takes the entire team, the entire village, to win games like this. It can’t just be one or two. It has to be everybody.”

The Blue Eagles also sparkled on defense against the hard-hitting Golden Knights. Senior Abby Romero led the way with 14 digs, while seniors Anastasia Pesantes and Bryana Saenz scooped 7 digs apiece. Romero also earned 17 service winners, including 2 aces and passed for 2 assists.

“Our defenders play with grit and passion,” said Yoo. “You can see it. These girls will run through walls for each other and that’s what shows.”

“We really were focused on the outside hitter (junior Brenna Delaney) who was hitting line,” added Stavish. “We studied the film and were really trying to block line. With the middle (Layla Giordano) we knew she was going to come out swinging and she’s a lefty. So we really wanted to take away her swing and she just started tipping and we adjusted there.”

With the win Immaculate Heart improved to 22-1 on the season as they won their sixth county tournament championship in the past 10 years. 

Old Tappan fell to 17-3 as Maya Giordano led all scorers with 12 kills, Delaney added 11 kills and Layla Giordano chipped in with 6 kills and a block.
“There was definitely panic (after the second set loss),” Sobilo said, “but we knew we’re a really strong team and we know how to come back from being down. I think we showed  tonight that we were able to come out of a hole, come out of a loss and make it a win.”