The Verona High School 2017 girls volleyball team captured the divisional, county, sectional and Group 1 championship titles. They finished with a record of 31 game wins and one–just one–loss. To their coach, Jeff Stiefbold, it’s clear why that happened. “The players deserve all the credit,” he says.
“When you have hard-working student athletes that set some goals–and they were pretty lofty goals after last season–and they worked to every day to try to achieve them, when they do it’s time to celebrate,” Steifbold says. Remember that, in the 2016 season, only the Group 1 championship eluded VHS volleyball’s grasp.
And as good as last year was, Verona still might not have been considered to be up in the big leagues, up with teams like Immaculate Heart Academy and Old Tappan High School that win state championships year after year after year. Immaculate Heart beat River Dell 2-0 in the Tournament of Champions final on Sunday. “This year’s IHA team is the best team in New Jersey, maybe ever, and they’ve had a lot of TOC championships,” says Stiefbold, with respect. The Tournament of Champions pits the winners of all Group championships against each other, regardless of school size.
Respect was what Verona got this year in the seeding of the TOC, being ranked as the number 4 seed, just ahead of Old Tappan, the school that had won the last two TOCs. In the opening round on Saturday, Old Tappan edged out Verona in the first set, 25-21, but Verona roared back to take the second 25-10 and then got a 25-20 win in the third. “They came back at us but we stayed strong,” says Steifbold, nothing that, at one point across the second and third sets, Verona had out-scored at Old Tappan 24-4.
IHA would be a different animal, though the Verona team never lost its cool. “A lot of teams would doubt themselves and lower their heads,” Stiefbold says, “but we stood toe to toe with them for most of them game. We played hard to the final whistle.” IHA took Verona in two sets, 25-15, 25-17. It was Verona’s only game loss this season.
As grateful as he is to his team for their hard work, Stiefbold had one more thank-you to extend: to the Verona community. “It was great to see all the support from the fans,” he says. “Verona has a lot of pride.”
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Photos copyright Fred Goode. Used by permission.