Volleyball: Tenafly advances to Group 3 championship in straight-set win over North Hunterdon

Volleyball: Tenafly advances to Group 3 championship in straight-set win over North Hunterdon

The train keeps on rolling for Tenafly. Facing a red-hot North Hunterdon squad at home, the Tigers surged to a 25-21, 25-18 victory in the NJSIAA/JAG-ONE Physical Therapy Group 3 semifinals on Thursday.

Champions of the North 1 Group 3 section, Tenafly – ranked No. 16 in the NJ.com Top 20 – advances to the Group 3 finals on Sunday against the winner of Pinelands and Colts Neck.

“I’m so proud of these girls, they’re always ready now. These past two or three weeks, they’ve been so zoned in on what we have to do,” Tenafly head coach Jeff Koehler said.

The No. 14 Lions (18-10) brought the energy early on, fending off plenty of Tenafly’s spikes with solid blocking on the defensive end while finding openings on offense. Emma Murry, who finished with eight kills, registered a few of those to give North Hunterdon a 14-10 lead in the opening set.

But after that point, the momentum shifted. Tenafly’s Rylie Theuerkauf notched a savvy tip kill to kickstart a 12-4 run.

Junior middle blocker Sophia Tapia was then fed pass-after-pass to slide Tenafly’s deficit to just a couple of points. Her final kill in the frame gave the Tigers a 20-18 lead.

“I think we all felt the pressure and had to step up as a family. We found ourselves to be a bit stuck, so I think we just started setting up our plays smarter,” Tapia said.

“She was definitely the difference-maker this year,” Koehler added.

Theuerkauf’s overall performance could not be overlooked as the senior sizzled four kills to close out the set, including the game-winner.

“Their defense is excellent. We switched things up about halfway through the first set to try and get around their defense and it was working out,” Theuerkauf said.

In the closing frame, Tenafly (21-2) jumped out to a 12-4 lead behind kills from Sofia Bell and Anna Taufield. North Hunterdon hung in there, clawing their way back to a 17-16 deficit, but Tenafly eventually pulled away to win it 25-18.

“It was a great season. We were a little dysfunctional this year but we got ourselves together before the county tournament. Making it this far is a great accomplishment,” North Hunterdon head coach Kirk Hissner said.

The Lions won the North 2 Group 3 championship and the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament. They defeated Chatham, Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Millburn in the postseason.

As for Tenafly, they took down Mount Olive, Wayne Valley, Paramus and now North Hunterdon to continue taking the court. The tight-knit group will compete in one more match and look to corral the Group 3 title at Franklin High School.

“It means everything to make it this far. We love the sport and love playing together,” Theuerkauf said.

“We just want to keep making history here,” Tapia finished.

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PJ Potter may be reached at [email protected].

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