MAPLEWOOD, NJ – It was an all-around good day for Columbia High School Girls’ Volleyball on Thursday, Oct. 11. After suffering a loss to Belleville two days earlier in an exciting three-set away match, CHS needed to bounce back. And bounce back it did. With only one home loss so far this season – to West Essex in what was essentially a divisional title decider – Columbia was determined not to let Newark Tech, which has yet to register a win this season, give it a second.
Using a completely new rotation, Columbia racked up a 25-6, 25-18 victory over the Vo-Tech school.
After the match, one of the match officials was heard congratulating the Maplewood school and told the Columbia head coach Juan Bas, “It was the best I’ve ever seen you play.”
In the Junior Varsity match, Columbia, coached by David Crouch, beat Newark Tech, 25-23, 25-12.
In the varsity match, Grace Petroccia, a senior captain and setter, broke the 500 assists barrier. Setting from the back right, Petroccia set sophomore outside hitter, Jane Fleetwood, who connected solidly with the ball to register one of her five kills on the day.
When asked about her achievement, Petroccia said, “I feel so accomplished. Reaching 500 just shows how hard work pays off.”
Petroccia came to volleyball her freshman year with significant softball and basketball experience, but with very little volleyball. That didn’t deter her, however. Nor did it make her volleyball coaches overlook her.
When asked about her accomplishment and development as a volleyball player, Bas had nothing but praise for his captain. “We’ve had success with crossover softball players. They know how to track a ball and in our sport the ball is significantly larger. We’ve had a history of crossover softball players becoming setters so it was almost destiny that Grace would become one. And she was a guard on the basketball court, which is basically the basketball equivalent of setting. She has that mindset to take responsibility on and not let it scare her. She’s dedicated to getting better everyday and achieving this milestone shows that.
“I’m very proud of her and hope her achievement is motivation for the younger players in our program.”
It was during her sophomore year, her first year on varsity playing understudy to Julia Rego (also a softball crossover), that Petroccia began keeping track of her assists and an eye on reaching 100. She ended that season with 91.
In her junior season last year, being named as junior captain and serving as the team’s primary setter, she notched 251 assists and, with more games to play before the end of this season, Petroccia is already at 165.
About her accomplishment, always self-effacing, Petroccia thanked her hitters for putting the ball down. “A set is just a set. It doesn’t become an assist unless one of my teammates makes the kill.”
NOTE – Columbia, seeded 16th, will host No. 17 seed Belleville in the preliminary third round of the Essex County Tournament on Oct. 18 at 4 p.m. The winner will visit top-seeded Millburn in the round of 16 on Oct. 20.
The following link is the ECT bracket: