June 16, 2020 – By NJP
Donovan Catholic, coming off an amazing 29-5 season in 2019 where they reached the State Tournament semi-finals, is gearing up for the Fall with a strong core of returning players. One of those important pieces of the returning crew is senior setter Karin Ojeda. Karin’s soft hands served up some serious sauce with 648 assists, fifth in the entire state of NJ’s 300 plus teams.
The Griffins are well positioned for another successful campaign. They return 51% of their statistical kills and 60% of their aces as well as 93% of their assists, courtesy of Karin. We get the feeling that Karin wants to go out with a blast as a senior and the table is set. Barring any COVID-19 issues with the school year or schedule, we expect the Griffins to dig their claws into Shore opponents, competing at the top level with Southern Regional.
Karin also brings to the table an overpowering serve, notching 99 aces to finish second in the state. But Ojeda also has the intangibles on her side. Her leadership skills, her passion and spirit, and her drive to succeed, were clearly evident in our interview and interactions. Her devotion to teaching younger players is also a hallmark. She creates a winning aura that is contagious… the good kind of contagious!
Here is our interview with Ms. Ojeda…
Hi Karin, Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! My name is Karin Ojeda and I am a rising senior at Donovan Catholic High School in Toms River, NJ. I will be graduating in the Class of 2021. I live with my mother, younger brother, and my dog Peaches.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I started playing volleyball in 6th grade at St. Joseph’s Grade School, right across the parking lot from my current high school. I have always been that girl that is always doing something and is always involved in everything. Going into 6th grade I had my heart set on softball. I played baseball…yes baseball, at a local league (Toms River East Little League) when I was younger then transferred over to the softball world. I played travel for quite some time but I wanted to try something new. Volleyball was a new sport at St. Joe’s and sounded exciting so I gave it a try. I went to the first open gym and everything came so naturally to me that the varsity coach, Nina Pace, asked me to play up on varsity that year. I was more excited than nervous to be playing with all of the older girls. It was a great experience for me and I continued on that same team for the next three years with the coaches who got me to where I am today.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc.
I am 5’4 and my vertical is 8’5″. I will never forget when Coach Nina told me I had “good hands” at that very first open gym and I had no idea what that meant. She truly formed me into the player that I am today and I could not be more grateful for her. I started off setting in middle school, then went across the parking lot and set for the JV team at Donovan during my freshman year, where Coach Nina Pace and her daughter Lauren were my coaches for the 4th year in a row. During the summer going into my sophomore year, I worked extremely hard to prove to varsity coach, Glenn Jansen, that I wanted that varsity setter spot. I learned so much from watching Jenessa Lombardi, senior setter when I was a freshman, and she taught me so much about how to run an amazing offense. I earned my spot on the team that year and played as the only sophomore on varsity. I was so excited to get better from all of the great players and coaches who surrounded me. I continued onto my junior year with my starting varsity spot as the team’s setter. I play for Ocean County Volleyball Club on the 17 National Team with coach Dan Williams. I have been playing for this club for 5 years now and everyone there has become my second family. OCVBC has given me so many amazing memories, opportunities, and some of my best friends.
How are you and your family dealing with current world situation with COVID-19? Are you expecting a normal Fall high school season schedule?
My family and I are doing the best we can with everything that is going on in the world right now. I am grateful that Donovan did such a great job as far as online schooling and keeping everything organized. Both my brother and I have continued to stay focused on our grades with all of this change happening and the transfer from in-person school to zoom. Thankfully my mom is still working, her job utilizes zoom as well. As far as volleyball goes, I have been determined not to fall behind during this time of no practice and tournaments. I used the time off from virtual schooling during our “spring break”, to make my own creative volleyball board so that I can pepper with myself or even with some of my family members at home. I saw them all over social media and thought it would be a great idea to make one myself, but I decided to add my own creative twist. I made a short 50 second tik tok from beginning to end of my work, where I actually play with it at the end. This is the link if you’d like to check it out; https://vm.tiktok.com/7t8vsv/… As for the fall, I am really hoping that we can get back to school for this season, as it will be my last year playing volleyball at Donovan.
How will your high school team do in the upcoming season? Do you have a lot of returning players? What will be the key to success?
I am extremely excited for this upcoming season. We have 8 returning seniors including myself and 5 returning starters. I’m looking forward to all of the talent coming into this year’s group of girls, and believe that we will make it a memorable year. I have been playing with most of these girls, both the seniors and upcoming juniors, since I started playing volleyball so I believe our chemistry will be the key to success.
Tell us about your teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
Every single one of my teammates have a special place in my heart. They are the reason I love to do what I do and push me to get better everyday, as I do for them as well. This group of girls is extremely special to me because they have been there since that first open gym back in 6th grade. We are all hoping for one last ride together. I would not have been able to achieve my goal of getting my 1000 assists this past season without my teammates. At Donovan Catholic we have a tremendous amount of talent in all of the grades. There’s gonna be a lot of competition because of that talent. The returning starters including myself are Lexi Franzyshen, Madison Elsey, Madison Winch, and our DS Laine Kulpinski.
You quarterbacked your team to a 29-5 record and state tournament semi-final appearance. Tell us about being a setter.
Donovan Catholic Volleyball has been very successful these past few years, especially this past season. We had a great group of girls who strived for nothing but the best. We finished the season 29-5 and made it to the semi finals in states where we went up against number 1 in the state, Immaculate Heart Academy. I am so happy that all of my past coaches have molded me into the setter I am today. I love it so much because setting allows me to take part in almost every single play. Part of the reason I stopped playing softball was because I liked being involved and moving around all the time. Setting allows me the opportunity to contribute something to every play starting with that perfect pass. Nothing is better than a perfect pass, a set like butter, and a kill that blows everyone away.
You are a leader in service aces in the state. What’s your secret?
I was taught from the beginning that serving is one of the most important skills to have in volleyball. It doesn’t matter if it’s a floater, a top spin, or a jump serve, whatever will throw off the opponents’ offense is what is most important. That is why I began overhand serving right from the get-go. I worked hard at it during the open gyms, practices, at and at home. I did everything I could to have the hardest serve that a 6th grader could have. Getting it over came naturally to me because of the strength I acquired playing softball, so I didn’t always have the best form but with the help of my coaches I got there. I finished this past season 2nd in NJ with 99 aces and am looking forward to working hard to beat that number during what I hope will be a normal 2020 fall season.
Who is your support group?
My support group begins with my family. As a family of 3 we are very close and love each other very much. I know that they will always push me to be my best self not only in volleyball but in the real world as well. Next we have my coaches. There have been so many coaches that have influenced the way that I play over these past 6 years of playing volleyball. I look at myself as a very coachable player and I will take in everything and everything I can. Then we have my best friends, my teammates. They make me love volleyball more and more everyday. From the toughest practice to the best team dinners, I know that they will always be there.
Tell us about your high school coach? Club Coach?
Donovan Volleyball has truly thrived because of the dedication both Coach Jansen and Coach Nina put into it. Together they just have a way of making everyone they come across better. I love a coach who will push me as hard as they can while also knowing my limits, and that is exactly who Coach Jansen is for me. Over these past three years I have become tougher and stronger because of him. Onto club I can’t just pick one coach because every team I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of has taught me something different. First we have the amazing CJ Herdt. Playing for Coach CJ my first 2 years at OCVBC is where I learned to love volleyball. He taught me almost everything I know about setting while teaching me how to have fun doing it at the same time. That man can keep any ball up he’s amazing. Then we have the best duo, Coach Jose Rafael and Coach Jay P Cruz. You could tell from watching 5 minutes of one of Coach Jose’s practices that he LOVES coaching girls volleyball. He is the most passionate coach I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing for and has so much to offer anyone who gets the opportunity to be a part of his team. Coach Jay P is one of those quiet leaders, he doesn’t say much but when he does we all learn something. He helped me prepare for last school season through private workout sessions which I am extremely grateful for. I did not get a complete season with Coach/Co-Club Director Dan Williams, but he taught me so much in our short time together. I worked harder than ever before with the help of his coaching. OCVBC has really become my second family, from the club directors Scott and Jen Binkley, to all the rest of the coaching staff, there is an abundance of love. Not only do they support me during club season but during school season as well. It’s the little things that are important to me, like when they were there on the night I got my 1000 assists. Having my previous coaches there was so special because they all played a huge role in helping me accomplish that goal.
Have you won any awards such as All County or All State or others?
Frosh year; JV Coaches Award
Soph year; Varsity letter
Junior year; 1000 assists, first team all division (B-south), second team all shore, 5th in NJ for assists, 2nd in NJ for aces, Coaches Award.
NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. Do you plan on playing in College? (If so, which ones are you looking at?)
I would love to continue playing volleyball in college. My goal is to find a school that has both a good Physical Therapy program as well as a good volleyball program. I want to keep volleyball as a part of my life for as long as I can and am eager to find the perfect school for me among the few that I have spoken with.
Which schools are your biggest rivals?
Southern, Pinelands, and Brick Memorial are always good competition. All three schools have great programs and coaches who make it extremely fun to play against.
What else would you like us to know about you?
I am extremely passionate about volleyball. I dedicate a lot of my time towards teaching younger girls at OCVBC and St. Joes how to love the game through assistant coaching for the past 2 years with Coach Mario De La Torre who has also been a great influence. Aside from playing volleyball myself, I love being with these girls because it reminds me of when I was in their shoes. The volleyball community is like no other and through coaching I am able to show this to the future volleyball studs to come.