Liam Maxwell continued a Southern Regional High School volleyball tradition.

The Egg Harbor Township girls softball team created one.

Maxwell is The Press Male Athlete of the Spring, and the Eagles are The Press Female Athletes of the Spring.

Maxwell led the Rams to their fifth state title, their third in the four years. Southern defeated Harrison 25-21 25-21 in the state championship match June 9.

"Being able to win my senior year with some of my best buddies was really incredible," Maxwell said.

The EHT girls started the season 24-0, finished 24-1 and reached the first state final in the program's history.

"We had a great season," EHT senior catcher Kate Korte said. "We were always looked at as the underdogs. I feel like we set the bar (for EHT teams) for years to come."

The Eagles first met each other as youngsters playing for the EHT recreation program. Last season, they finished 19-4 and reached the South Jersey Group IV semifinals. But no one in the state softball community thought of EHT as a power when this season began. The Eagles were 11-9 in coach Mary Dunlap's first season in 2013.

EHT has featured some outstanding softball players in the past, but this season was different.

The Eagles won eight one-run games. They created a buzz in the school and the community with their winning streak.

They got contributions from everyone in the lineup and won thrilling game after thrilling game during the playoffs.

Left fielder Bri LaGroteria ended a 4-3 S.J. Group IV semifinal win over Rancocas Valley with a diving catch.

Ella Glenn singled in the winning run as the Eagles beat Eastern 7-6 in 13 innings to win the S.J. Group IV title. Pitcher and cleanup hitter Nicole Wisser scored the winning run when EHT beat East Brunswick 3-2 in extra innings in the state semifinal.

EHT's season ended with a 4-0 loss to Watchung Hills in the state final at Kean University in Union Township.

But more important than the result of that contest was the four busloads of other students who made the trip north on the Garden State Parkway to watch the game. EHT fans, dressed in the school's colors of silver and black, packed Kean.

The Eagles drew big crowds throughout the playoffs. It's been awhile since an EHT team received that kind of support. Fan enthusiasm is something on which every team in the school can build. After the loss, the Eagles fans gave the team a standing ovation.

"We had families, teachers and students behind us," Korte said. "It was a great feeling having them all there. The students would get all pumped up and fired up. It helped us in the dugout. Hopefully, the girls next year can continue this and (the community) can continue to support them."

While not many South Jersey high school sports fans expected EHT to have the season it did, Southern began the spring as the favorite to win the state volleyball championship. The Rams lost to Bridgewater-Raritan 25-22, 25-12 in last year's state final.

Maxwell didn't shy away from the pressure.

"It was a good pressure," Maxwell said. "It was a pressure I enjoyed having."

Maxwell, 18, lives in the Manahawkin section of Stafford Township. Southern volleyball practically runs in Maxwell's blood. His uncle Eric Maxwell is the head coach. Older brother Drew, a 2010 Southern graduate, played on Rams teams that won state titles in 2009 and 2010.

"My family always told me the pressure would be there," Liam said. "I got in my head early on that if I wanted to be a successful player in this program I had to be ready for it. I embraced it."

The Rams finished 44-2 this season. Maxwell also created a legacy for himself as an individual standout. He finished his career with 1,261 kills - 559 of them this season. Both totals are third best in state history.

Maxwell also 601 digs, 207 assists and 135 aces during his career. Southern went 138-12 during his four seasons.

Maxwell will continue his volleyball career at Belmont Abbey, an NCAA Division II school in North Carolina. And several Eagles will play softball in college.

But no matter their athletic futures bring, it will be tough for Maxwell and the Eagles to top this spring.

"I can honestly say winning the state championship," Maxwell said, "was the greatest night of my life so far."

Contact: 609-272-7185

Twitter @ACPressMcGarry

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I've covered high school sports and variety of other events and teams - including the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Phillies - since 1993.

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