When Livingston’s Kyle Rulka wasn’t driving spikes through Belleville’s defense, the sophomore was a decoy to open up set plays to Jayson Patel and David Lee.
And when none of those options were successful in pushing Belleville back on its heels, Ed Jung was there to thwart Belleville’s offense.
Rulka had 10 kills and nine digs and Jung posted a career-record 32 digs as Livingston (18-5), the top seed, used a well-rounded effort to produce a 25-12, 25-11 victory over second-seeded Belleville (16-8) in the final of the Essex County Tournament on Saturday in Livingston.
Lee (five kills) and Patel (four kills) combined with Rulka to key the offense as the Lancers won the ECT for the third time in the seven-year history of the event. Allan Freidman also got involved, tipping several balls over or around blocks, to collect five kills.
“We know our offense revolves around Kyle,” Patel said. “Today we mixed things up to keep them guessing. We started with Kyle and then passed away from him. And when they adjusted to that, we went back to Kyle. This was a team effort today. We're so happy to bring the crown home.”
“We came out together with everyone in their position, doing their job,” Rulka said. “We wanted to jump on them early and get pumped up. We had our biggest home crowd of the year and that helped.”
Livingston’s serving was superb as Belleville had trouble organizing all day.
Ahead, 5-3, in the first game, Livingston went on a 14-3 run to forge a 19-6 advantage. Rulka started things off with a pair of kills, before Lee, Patel and Freidman took turns on the attack. Thomas Scrivo earned six service points during the surge.
Belleville, for its part, served the ball out of bounds six times, including four in the second game, but it still managed to grab leads of 6-5 and 7-6 in the second game. However, Lee hit two aces and served for eight straight points to trigger a 15-1 deluge that essentially sealed the title.
“I was just trying to keep it in,” Lee said. “I wanted to float a little and make it hard for them to pass. This was one of our best team efforts of the year.”
Steve Burnbaum contributed 22 assists for Livingston, which had defeated Belleville twice earlier this spring.