LEONIA _ Kinnelon's season began with a multitude of questions.
How would the Colts replace six invaluable seniors? Would the players develop chemistry? What girls would assume leadership roles?
At a faster-than-expected pace, Kinnelon, which fell to Leonia, 19-25, 20-25, in a Group I quarterfinal on Tuesday, Nov. 10, came up with answers.
And, although their season ended with the setback, the Colts had plenty of seasons to feel accomplished and proud.
"I'll remember how close this team was," senior libero and co-captain Rebecca Civil said. "Out of the four years I've been on the team, this is the closest we've been. We all know each other so well."
That familiarity and bond propelled Kinnelon (21-7) this fall. Struggles were few for the Colts, winners of five of their last seven matches, after enduring a three-game losing streak.
"The girls had to fight to determine who would be on varsity, who would play what position," Kinnelon coach Stephanie Finke said. "We made some switches and ran with them. The players learned how to work with each other."
From start to finish, the Colts perservered, just as they did versus Leonia. Both games were tight. Inconsistent passes and errors eventually took their toll.
Civil (14 digs) noted that Leonia had tough servers, especially Gabi Capote, who had seven service points, including three aces.
"We could've handled the serves but we were thrown off," said Civil. "We didn't make the best returns. The ball was floating. A lot of the serves were deep. We hit the ball into the net. Sometimes, we freeballed it over."
Finke said her squad wasn't used to Leonia's jump servers but that wasn't all that hurt Kinnelon.
"There were a lot of close calls with serves," Finke said. "Some were difficult to decide if the ball was in or out. We made some nice plays. Leonia was a very, very good team. They're disciplined and made minimal mistakes. We couldn't give them unanswered points. We had some hits, some serves out. You just can't do that in a match like this."
Still, there was much outstanding play on the Colts' side. Junior setter Taylor Rosenberg not only had 14 assists, she served as a calming force. Michele Natale, a senior middle, was solid at the net, particularly in the first set. Senior opposite Anna Tiajoloff led with three kills.
"Taylor kept everyone focused," Finke said. "Michele was an opposite two weeks ago. She was confident and got everyone motivated."
Juniors Briana Cahill (7 kills) and Maxine Walsh (5 kills) were dominant at the net for Leonia. Cahill had an ace for 24-20 in the second game before Leah Higgins sealed the victory with a kill. Jennifer Alva finished with 19 assists and nine digs while Lee Joon Choi had 18 digs.
"We had a good record and kept our matches close," Civil said. "This season, the students at our school got more involved. So many more of them came to games. Everyone was really into it."
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