CHATHAM, NJ - It's not hard to pinpoint the momentum-shifter in Chatham's come-from-behind three-set girls volleyball win over Summit in the state sectional semifinals on Friday.
When Lauren Burke hammered the kill off the set from Brenda Jaroker to clinch the second set, it also marked the 1,000th career assist for Jaroker in her three years of varsity play.
"I didn't know it was my 1,000th but it was really fun," Jaroker said. "It was so great that it came at that time. After the first set, we just knew we were going to pull back together."
Seniors Burke and Jaroker led the way as top-seeded Chatham earned an 18-25, 25-18, 25-15 decision over No. 4 seed Summit in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 tournament semifinals.
Chatham (13-3), winner of six straight, plays host to No. 3 seed Mendham (11-4) to decide the state sectional crown Monday at 4 p.m.
Lauren Burke and Brenda Jaroker talk about the win
Summit (11-3) took advantage of its strong service game to take a 4-0 lead from the start and put Chatham on its heels by taking the opening set, 25-18.
"They're a very good serving team," Chatham coach Anna Amster said. "Their serving definitely put us in trouble. You can prepare, you can watch film, you can scout, but you still have to play with everything you've got. You can be prepared, but being ready and prepared are two different things.
"I said (after the first set) that that's not my team. You know what you guys are capable of and there is not a doubt in my mind that you can come back and win this in three."
Jaroker managed to set the 5-11 Burke all over the court, keeping Summit guessing at where she'd be next. Burke finished with 18 kills, a number of her finishing plays starting from her 16 digs. Jaroker was credited with 24 assists, 15 digs and three service aces.
Jaroker helped get the Cougars started in the second set by winning three service points and Chatham moved to a 6-1 advantage and never surrendered the lead. Greta Luria's service ace staked Chatham to a 23-16 lead and Burke's kill clinched it on Jaroker's 1,000th assist (see below).
"Everybody knew that her 1,000th assist was coming up, so we were all pushing for her, too," Burke said. "The second and third sets, we really pushed. The entire time our energy level didn't drop one bit. I think we were able to get their serves under control and Brenda would set me in the middle and right side.
"Obviously, they had more energy than us in the first set and we used that to build our momentum. We knew that we could do it and we're excited that we're finally here."
In the decisive third set, Chatham won side out to hand the serve to Burke with a 19-15 lead. Burke closed out the game with six straight service points. The 24th point was a feigned set by Jaroker, who dunked the ball into the open court (see below).
Burke then finished the comeback win with her serve that never came back over the net (see below).
The hard-fought battle included some tense moments when both coaches questioned some tough calls at the net.
"I tell the girls all the time, don't worry about the reffing," Amster said. "You know sometimes calls don't go your way, I will fight for you on the sidelines, you fight for me and the squad on the court. That's what they did. They fought, they earned it. They weren't ready to have their season end."
COUGAR NOTES: Senior libero Greta Luria, who was unable to make the quarterfinals played Wednesday, returned to the starting lineup and provided the Cougars with a boost, collecting 12 digs, two service aces and two assists ... junior middle Mia Baumgardner ended with nine kills and two assists for the Cougars ... Brenda Jaroker will take 1,006 career assists into the sectional final ... Mendham and Chatham have not met on the court this season but have played some common opponents. Mendham lost two matches to Sparta and beat Jefferson. Chatham lost to Jefferson and pulled out a three-set win vs. Sparta.