Cutters Can't Overcome Injuries, Fall Short in County Title Bid
The Fair Lawn High School Boys Volleyball team came up short in defense of its Bergen County Tournament title Thursday afternoon, losing to Don Bosco Prep.
The Fair Lawn Boys Volleyball team’s run of three consecutive county titles ended Thursday, when the Cutters fell to Don Bosco at home in the Bergen County Tournament championship.
Fair Lawn neutralized the Bosco attack in game one -- winning a decisive 25-17 victory -- but the Cutters appeared to lose their edge midway through the second game and never recovered it. They fell in the next two games 25-23 and 25-17, failing to really challenge in the third and deciding game.
“[Don Bosco] changed the momentum of the game in the middle of the second game and we never really responded to it,” Fair Lawn head coach Peter Zisa said. “That’s when negative energy started coming in and our error level really started to increase.”
The match, Zisa said, was lost more on the mental end than the physical. The Ironmen were able to capitalize on Fair Lawn’s mental lapses and capture the match’s momentum, never to relinquish it.
“We weren’t playing intelligent volleyball and that just gave them confidence, and they continued to increase their level of play,” said Zisa, crediting Don Bosco’s coach. “[Don Bosco] did a very nice job, but that’s Beth Powell for you. She’s quite a coach and it’s not the first time I’ve lost to her.”
Injuries that kept Chris Nugent and Luke St. John -- two of Fair Lawn’s top players -- from playing in Thursday's championship match weighed heavy on the Cutters.
“When you have two captains and your two starting outsides out, obviously that’s going to have a major impact to your team,” Zisa said. “Their leadership, the quality of their play, their ability to make adjustments when need be, our ability to count on them for a big side out or a big attack when we need it -- you could see that that was a little bit missing today with regards to what we had out there.”
Nugent, the team’s go-to-player, said it was devastating to have to watch his teammates struggle from the sidelines.
“It’s one of the worst feelings,” said Nugent, whose sprained ankle will be re-evaluated next week. “Going out there and seeing us not play our best, it was a terrible feeling because I know that even if I made just a little bit of a difference it would have helped the team.”
With or without Nugent and St. John, Zisa said the team must step up its focus if it wants to compete for another state title.
“Our mental toughness was a little bit lacking in some critical moments and that’s something that we’re going to need to work on -- being able to recover when adversity is in our face,” he said. “Winning championships is all about being able to recover in a match -- who can recover quickly and minimize the damage.”
He said he hopes the loss to Bosco leaves a bitter taste in his players’ mouths and lights a fire under them for the upcoming state tournament run. Regaining confidence will be key.
“I still believe in this program,” Zisa said. “The question is whether or not they believe in themselves.”
The Cutters (31-4) cruised 25-22, 25-13, when they faced off with Don Bosco (21-4) earlier in the year, but both teams had significantly different starting lineups in Thursday's match. Not only were the Cutters missing Nugent (ankle) and St. John (concussion), who were both hurt over the weekend in the Super Six Showdown at St. Joseph's Metuchen, but Bosco -- who was without one of their top players in their first meeting with Fair Lawn -- played at full strength in Thursday's rematch.
At this point it’s unclear whether Nugent or St. John will be healthy enough to return for the team's upcoming defense of its state playoff title.
The Cutters will be seeded for the state tournament Friday and play their first round state tournament match on Tuesday.