Rebels down Cougars to repeat as champions

Volleyball team wins A North

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Although there’s nothing like winning a championship for the first time, the second time around can be even more rewarding.

ERIC SUCAR Colts Neck's Alex LeRoy tries to get a piece of the ball during the first set of the match at Howell High School on May 8. The Rebels defeated Colts Neck in two sets. ERIC SUCAR Colts Neck’s Alex LeRoy tries to get a piece of the ball during the first set of the match at Howell High School on May 8. The Rebels defeated Colts Neck in two sets. Just ask Howell High School’s boys volleyball team. The Rebels captured their second straight Shore ConferenceANorth Division crown Thursday, beating Colts Neck in straight sets, 25-15, 25-17.

Coach Jim Huebner believes that besides the validation that comes with a second championship, the title made the Rebels a marked team in ’08.

“We’re starting to get to a level of recognition in the Shore where teams get up to beat us,” he pointed out.

What was most pleasing about this season for Huebner was the way his club was able to meet every challenge, mentally as well as physically.

Thursday, the Rebels didn’t have to worry about an underdog trying to make it with a win over the champs. Across the net the Rebels were facing another Shore powerhouse in Colts Neck. The two teams arrived at Thursday’s showdown in Howell, the final match of the division schedule, with identical division records, 9-2. It was a winner-take-all match and the Rebels were more than up to the challenge dispatching the Cougars in straight sets.

Adam Feehan, Rob McClintock and Derek DiPasquale each had six kills and Feehan added three blocks as Howell owned the net. The Cougars showed great defensive skills in keeping the ball in play and extending points. However, they too often were battling to keep the ball in play while the Rebels were the aggressors finishing off the points.

“We worked on our blocking,” said Feehan. “Blocking and serving won it.”

Howell took control of the first set midway through building a 14-7 lead. The Rebels extended it behind kills by Feehan, McClintock and DiPasquale to 18-8. They closed it out at 15-15.

Colts Neck knew the stakes Thursday andwas not going to just roll over. Led byAlistar Matthews, who with Feehan, is one of the premier players in the Shore, the Cougars fought hard to force a third set.

After Howell jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead Colts Neck came back with three straight points of its own. The teams then went back and forth siding out until the score was 12-12. After a side out gave Howell a 13-12 lead, Steve Burgos picked up three straight points on serve and Howell had a 16-12 lead.

The Cougars would not recover from that four-point run. The lead went to 20- 14, and shortly thereafter Jimmy Bernot (19 assists) was serving for the match for Howell at 24-17.

“They were so up for this game,” said Huebner, whose team beat Colts Neck for the second time. “They were outstanding. They knew what we had to do. We played team volleyball.”

Feehan said that Howell had saved its best for its biggest game of the year.

“We had to win this game, it was huge for us,” he noted. “It was the best game we’ve played [this year].”

Feehan pointed out that everyone on the team shares a passion for the sport and it’s more than a two- or three-month sport for them.

“We love volleyball,” said Feehan.

Howell improved to 16-3 overall and 10-2 in the division. Next up are the state playoffs that begin May 20. The team will find out next week who it will play in the first round.

Colts Neck fell to 15-5 overall and 9-3 in the division. Matthews had nine kills and two blocks in the loss.

The Cougars are also looking ahead to the state tournament. This has been by far their best season. It includes the team’s firstever win over a state top 10-ranked team, Christian Brothers Academy.