By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Staff Writer
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Volleyball can sometimes seem like a complicated sport with all its strategy and constant lineup changes, but at its core the sport can be very simple. Do the little things right and more than likely you’ll have a pretty good team.
Mainland did all the little things right on Tuesday afternoon at Egg Harbor Township, including a very efficient day at the service line, and that led to a fairly comfortable two-game sweep of the Eagles. The Mustangs won the opening game, 25-6, and were just as successful in the second, winning 25-9. There was no chance of a decisive third game in the set the way Mainland was dominating at the service line and the net.

Junior Bella Canesi had a big day at the service line to help lead Mainland to a 2-0 win over Egg Harbor Township. (Glory Days photo/Sully)


The first game was tied, 2-2 early on, but then Mainland (4-1, 4-1 Cape-Atlantic League East) scored 11 unanswered points to take a commanding 13-2 lead. Star junior outside hitter Bella Canesi was at the service line for much of that run, which included several aces.
“We did a really good job serving today,” said Franky Pilli, one of just two seniors on Mainland’s roster along with Nikki Faragher. “We haven’t done very well at that in past games, but today we did really well. We’ve been better at strategy, too, and digging balls out of the net, blocking and all those kinds of skills. I think we can do very well this season and can be one of the best teams (in the CAL).”
Later in the first game, junior middle hitter Olivia Leap came through with some big-time kills, including one that stretched the lead over the Eagles (1-5, 1-3 CAL East) to 19-5. Farragher served well down the stretch in Game 1, and Leap and junior Cadence Fitzgerald had a lot of serving success in the second game, helping Mainland jump out to a 14-6 lead. Fitzgerald served for six straight points as the lead swelled to 20-9.

EHT’s Destiny Vatthanavong goes up for a block during the first game against Mainland. (Glory Days photo/Sully)


“Olivia is a junior and we just recently changed her to be our middle hitter, and things are going well. She has a lot of reach,” said first-year Mainland coach Torie Rich. “Some of these girls are new to me, and coaching the sport for the first time has been kind of eye opening. We have some newcomers, like today we started a freshman in Sydney Booth and she had a couple of kills. She did a great job, and just in general we’re looking for really big things from Bella Canesi and really good things from Cadence Fitzgerald and Franky Pilli. We have a really good lineup here.”
Rich and her coaching staff will get as much as they can out of Canesi, who also is one of the best softball players in South Jersey. That season starts workouts on Thursday and there will be some overlap in late April between the two seasons. Girls volleyball normally is played in the fall, but the pandemic pushed the shortened season into March and April this year.
“This team this year is a pretty good team. We lost three seniors from last year, but we’re doing really well, we’re rotating well together and all-around everyone is playing well. We’re letting other teams make the mistakes. At practice we watch a lot of film and we practice really hard every day,” Canesi said. “I’m really happy I get to play both sports this year. I lost my softball season last year, and this year softball starts soon, on Thursday, so I’m glad I get to play both. It is going to be tough, though, doing that. I’m really excited to be back on the court.”
“I’m excited,” said Rich, who has Mainland within a half game of division-leading Absegami (4-1, 4-0 CAL East). “We actually have a pretty young team. We have a bunch of sophomores and juniors, and only two seniors. Overall, the outlook of this team is really good.”
What’s next: Mainland travels to ACIT on Wednesday at 5 p.m. EHT travels to Absegami on April 8 at 5:30 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays