March 7, 2020 – By NJP
It was great to sit down with Justin Tuohy at Rutgers Newark and discuss his current and past success at Volleyball in New Jersey. Justin represents the dream of most NJ high school players having won back to back NJ State titles at Old Bridge, moving on to be recruited for a top D3 program at Rutgers, and then being part of a current Scarlet Raiders crew that is off to a 16-1 start.
He played a huge part in the success of the last two NJ Players of the Year, both coming from Old Bridge, Elan Dorkhman (2018) and Andrew Zaleck (2019). It is no surprise that that this years Rutgers team is successful with all three players playing together with other top flight former NJ high school stars Eric Hollenbach (Piscataway), Arvind Kumar (Southern), Nick Arce-Cox (Bayonne), and Robert Long (Ridge) to name a few.
There are still a number of home games left to see Justin and the rest of the Scarlet Raiders take on some of the CVC’s top teams. Rutgers still has upcoming games with #3 New Paltz, #2 NYU, and CVC rival Kean University (3-17-20) on the schedule that will be worth your while to see in person or watch on RaiderVision. Next home game is Tuesday, March 12th at the Golden Dome vs Brooklyn College.
Rutgers will be in good hands for the next four years as Justin and Andrew Zaleck are only freshman. Fun times in Newark for the foreseeable future.
Here is our interview with Justin…
Tell us a bit about yourself Justin…?
- I attend and live at Rutgers-Newark University, and I will be graduating in 2023. Both of my parents played beach volleyball, and my sister is currently playing for Warren Sixpack and Old Bridge High School (she’s a beast). I graduated from Old Bridge High School and I played for Warren Sixpack.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?I’ve been around volleyball for most of my life just because of my parents, but I started playing organized volleyball in the 7th grade. Seeing my parents play with all their friends at such a young age and not being able to play with them drove me and inspired me to play the sport.
Can you share some advice for current high school level volleyball players and students? (Technical, mental, recruitment, etc…)
- Technical: A few general tips that I’d say can make you a better player is having an intent with every ball that comes to you, staying low and stopped on defense and then reacting to whatever happens, and to always do your job. You always have something you need to be doing whether it be covering or making yourself an option to hit, so never just stand and watch.
- Mental: Always keep your head up no matter what the situation is and play the game one point at a time. Stay confident and focused throughout the match, and trust that the hard work you put in practice will translate come game time. One thing I do before every game is envision myself in the game. Visualizing my serve, each set I make, or even digging a ball helps because once you’re in the match, you know what you need to do, and you just execute.
What is like playing for the Scarlet Raiders? How is your current season progressing, and where do you expect to finish?
- Playing for Rutgers has been an amazing experience so far and I owe it all to my teammates and coaches. We are currently ranked #5 in nation sitting at 16-1 on the season. We are trying to get better every single day and accomplish the goals we set for this season. We’re focused on finishing the regular season strong and taking it one match at a time. It’s good to look ahead, but we want to focus on what’s in front of us right now.
Is there a current high school player that you admire?
- I think Vaughn McConnell from St. Joe’s is one the most talented setters in the state and I’m excited to see what he does this season. I think he’s a great all-around player and can play any position, and that’s what I admire the most about him.
Can you share one tip for setters at the high school level to improve their game?
- One of the biggest things that I took away from my current coach is staying tall and keeping your core tight when you set. It makes it harder for the defense to read your set if you look the same when setting each position.
Tell us about your college coaches, how different are these coaches from your high school or club coaches?
- My college coaches, Jack Wilson, Doug Dzema, and Ray Kowalski, all played volleyball at the Division 1 level, so I really try to absorb everything they teach me. I have learned more at my time at Rutgers then I have throughout my volleyball career, and I’m just excited to keep progressing. My head coach, Jack Wilson, is the man. We owe all our success to him, and the amount he taught me in the past few months about setting is amazing considering he never set in his career. He puts in the time and wants to see us get better, so all we can do is listen and take it all in.
What word of encouragement or inspiration can you offer current high school level players?
- You guys play the game for many reasons but one of those reasons is that you have a love for volleyball. When you’re at practice or at a game, remember why you love playing this sport and let that reason drive your play. If you want to get better and put in the hard work, only positive things can happen.
What do you do during the offseason to stay in shape and prepare for next year?
- Over the summer I play a lot of beach and grass volleyball. I believe that the more touches you can get, the better. I enjoy playing beach and grass volleyball just as much as indoor, so really my season never ends.
Who is your favorite teammate and why?
- My best friend since we were two years old hanging out at daycare, Andrew Zaleck. We both started playing volleyball in the 7th grade, and that’s where the chemistry on the court began. He’s my favorite person to play with because I can always trust him in tough situations and he’s a great leader on the court, as well. It’s nice playing with someone who is always on the same page as you. I can go on forever about this guy, but I’ll just let our play on the court do the talking.