Bears inching closer to another state title

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

EAST BRUNSWICK — 26-0. Can’t get more impressive than that. And today the East Brunswick High School volleyball team will try to keep that perfect ledger going against the winner of the Clifton-Middlesex match in round three of the state tournament.

Coach Greg Rutz, who led the Bears to a 28-2 mark last year, sees marked improvement this spring.

"We have a more complete team," he said. "Last year we had two go-to players and this year it’s more like four or five."

The two big guns back from last year are all-state picks Greg Huston and Tony Yates, both seniors.

"I think Greg is the best center in the state," said Rutz, whose team defeated Don Bosco Prep in the second round of the states. "He’s smart and confident and can set any play at any time. And I think Tony’s the best hitter in the state. He knows what’s open, he’s a good, hard passer, and with his very good jumping ability he’s a great blocker."

Not only are the Bears undefeated in matches, they’ve lost only two games all year (in volleyball, whoever wins three of five games takes the match). Those losses came in a 3-2 win over St. Joseph’s. Otherwise, every match has been a 3-0 shutout, including Monday’s GMC Tournament championship match against the same St. Joseph’s Falcons. The Bears cruised in this one, posting wins of 25-22, 25-22 and 26-26 en route to the title.

It marked the third time the Bears knocked off St. Joe’s (21-5) this year, and the EB squad realizes it could very well meet the Falcons in the NJSIAA championship match next week, in a rematch of last year’s state final.

Certainly the team balance is a major reason for those eye-popping numbers. Beyond Huston and Yates, senior middleman Brian Johnson is averaging about five kills a match, while junior Tom Koehler is an extremely hard hitter and all-arounder, averaging six kills.

On the outside, senior Eric Nowicki has improved significantly, playing solid defense, while junior Dan Sempkowski is "one of the best defensive players in the state," according to Rutz.

Senior Marc Mondry is another defensive specialist and excellent server with an average of about an ace a game.

"Senior Dan Temkin is my all-purpose player, while another senior, Saif Kayash, has been a big part of the team in the middle," said Rutz, who is assisted by Charlie Ginex. "He’s a good blocker and a real hustler."

With a win today, the Bears will advance to the state semifinals, which are set for Wednesday at South Brunswick High School. The Bears are the heavy favorite to defend their championship, and with the level of play they’ve exhibited thus far, it’s easy to see why.