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Volleyball: Middle tops first-year Lady Tigers (w/ photo gallery)

  • Middle Township's Jenna Reef receives a serve as teammate Elise Fiore looks on from behind in their team's recent win over Lower Cape May.
  • Lower Cape May's Mia Wood (left) and Shaye Fletcher each attempt to keep the ball in the air against Middle Township.
  • Middle Township's Verushaka Valendin sets the ball for a teammate.
  • Middle Township's Brianna Armstrong tips the ball over the net.
  • Middle Township's Myesha Sapp gets set to serve against Lower Cape May.
  • Lower Cape May's Melani Amador sets for a teammate.
  • Lower Cape May's Kylie Chew goes low to dig out a Middle Township serve as teammates Melani Amador (left) and Shaye Fletcher (rear) look on.

ERMA – Dave Pacevich teaches at Lower Cape May Regional High School, but he coaches girls volleyball at Middle Township High School.

Last Friday after school, he had to drive to Middle to meet his team and board a bus.

For a trip back to Lower Cape May.

“When I woke up this morning, one of the first things I thought was, ‘I can’t believe we’re playing Lower Cape May today,’” Pacevich said with a smile about his team’s meeting with the first-year Lady Tiger program.

The meeting came about because after years of persistence by coach Rick Ferrante, Lower Cape May finally has an interscholastic program to call its own.

Not surprisingly, Lower Cape May is struggling so far as a first-year program. Junior Abby Spruce, who transferred from a school in Michigan prior to this scholastic year, is the only player in the program with interscholastic experience in the sport prior to this year.

But what the team lacks in experience at this point, it makes up for in spirit. A large crowd attended Friday’s match to cheer on the Lady Tigers. The players on the bench and on the court cheered for each other when things went well and picked each other up when they didn’t.

“It’s tough to start a varsity program when all the other teams that we play (in the Cape-Atlantic League) are so established,” Ferrante said. “But the kids have really tried hard. They really tried hard (Friday), because Middle is their rival. We make a lot of beginner mistakes. We missed some serves and didn’t do well with a lot of our passes. But the kids are learning and having a lot of fun. It’s brand new to them.”

Ferrante first tried to get volleyball started at Lower Cape May more than three decades ago. His attempts back then weren’t met with a lot of enthusiasm. He eventually moved to the Florida for a while but reprised his efforts when he returned to Lower Cape May as a teacher four years ago. Last year, he was given permission to begin a club volleyball program.

“But the problem was that none of the other (interscholastic) teams were allowed to play us,” Ferrante said. “So we played matches against the faculty and against the kids’ parents.”

Interest in the program grew, so the school gave the go-ahead for Lower to enter the CAL for the first time this fall.

“I didn’t push for this because I wanted to be the head coach,” Ferrante said. “I just wanted to get the program started and get volleyball established here. But they asked me to coach, so here I am.

“Volleyball needs to be here. The Cape May area is a place where volleyball should thrive. I hope and pray it does stay. If it is to continue we’ll need to attract good athletes who want to learn. We’re off to a good start.”

Middle won the match in a sweep, with game scores of 25-16 and 25-9. Players such as Brianna Armstrong, Jenna Reef, Myesha Sapp, Elise Fiore, Verushaka Valendin, Morgan Kern and Ava Frie were a bit too much for the Lady Tigers.

“It was really neat coming here and playing Lower Cape May,” Pacevich said. “Our kids were excited for it.”

— Brian Cunniff