June 22, 2020 – By NJP

Erin Coates has made such a positive impact on the Cougars her first two season, but the next two years should be very special for this outstanding all-around athlete. As a sophomore, Erin lead the team in kills and digs playing outside in six rotations. She had 21 aces in her second year and will be one of the clear leaders on the court for her junior season this Fall.

Starting in the 8th grade, Volleyball has become the main focus for Erin when she started playing club. Last season she played on the top 16 level squad for Atlantic Valley Volleyball Club. Despite the season being shutdown at the midway point, Erin continues to get touches at home with her Dad in late night peppering sessions.

Cranford is looking to rebound from a losing season where they finished 7-15 after leaping out to a 4-0 start. Nine matches went 3 sets so the Cougars may be just a few points per game away from a breakout season. And Erin is anxious to provide those points.

Cranford loses 5 seniors to graduation including middle Shannon Roman and libero Elizabeth Cohen. The big hit is losing their outstanding setter Mary Johnstone. Rising sophomore Molly Walsh is expected to slot in to that role after a good club season at the CJ Heat 16 National team. Erin and company will be ready to lead the Cougars to a winning season and a return to the state playoffs which has alluded them since 2015.

Here is our interview with Ms. Coates…

Hi Erin…Tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Erin Coates and I am a rising junior at Cranford High School. I am a two year varsity starter and will be graduating in the class of 2022. I live with my parents and my two older brothers. 

How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?

I started playing volleyball when I was in 5th grade at Saint Michael’s School, in Cranford. Growing up I was always active and playing sports year round. I played softball, basketball, ran track, and even did Irish dance for a few years. Softball was always my main sport…until I started playing volleyball. I picked up volleyball pretty fast and began to find it way more interesting  than any other sports I had played. Before long, volleyball was my main sport, and I started playing club in my 8th grade year. 

What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?

I am 5’9 with an 8’9 ½  block jump and a 9’1 approach jump. During this year’s school season, I was a 6-rotation outside hitter. My focus for the season was to improve my passing and defensive skills. Playing my own back row as an outside set myself up for a lot of time in serve receive and passing on defense. This club season I played for Atlantic Valley Volleyball Club. Even though we only had half of a season due to COVID-19, I enjoyed my time on the 16 Red Team, and learned a lot from my coaches  Dr. Greg Chiang and Barbara Perru. I played mainly as a DS, but when needed, I swung on the pins and even sometimes in the middle. My favorite position to play is outside and my favorite set to hit is a rip. I find playing all the way around as an outside the most fun because it allows you to get kills and blocks in the front row, but then also serve receive and get digs in the back row. 

How are you and your family dealing with the current world situation with COVID-19? Are you expecting a normal Fall high school season schedule?

My family is doing the best we can with the current circumstances. We are all healthy. It was definitely a big adjustment not being able to see our friends and family for so long, so a weekly Zoom call with my extended family became part of our Saturday night routine. During quarantine, my Dad and I have been doing drills and peppering in my backyard…he’s becoming pretty good! Although I would love to have a normal junior year season, I am not expecting one. Since high school volleyball is played indoors, I think we will be at a disadvantage and unfortunately might be one of the last sports to start the season. I also expect that we will have to wear face masks when we play, which will be a difficult and uncomfortable adjustment, especially in a hot gym with no air conditioning. Just as long as I can play with my team, I will be happy! 

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? Tell us about your teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?

I am very hopeful that we will have a successful upcoming season. We will be losing 5 seniors this year, but I have a lot of confidence in the 10 returning players and the girls coming up from last year’s JV team. The key to our success will be maintaining good team chemistry throughout the whole season. One of our team’s biggest losses this upcoming season will be our setter, Mary Johnstone. She was a key part of the team last year and led us to many wins. When it comes to our returning players, I expect to have a really strong offense with rising senior Katie Quinones on the outside. 

You lead all sophomores in digs last season and were in the top 15 of all players in the state of NJ. What special preparation do you engage to develop your skills?

I touch the ball as much as I can. Another way I have begun developing my skills is by repetition. One of my favorite things to do is have one of my teammates or a coach just hit balls at me over and over again or even just doing simple serve receive drills. My goal is to always improve technique and awareness every time I play. As I mentioned previously, one of my main focuses for this year was to improve my passing and I plan on continuing this. In a game or at practice, I always try to get on the court in any way possible, even if it means playing a different position. I think that my flexibility in positions has helped me to further develop my skills, as it also shows me different perspectives on court. 

Who is your support group?

My support group definitely begins with my Mom and Dad – they are my biggest fans. They are both so supportive of everything that I do and help me achieve my goals. I am beyond grateful for them coming to every game cheering me on, driving me to practices, coming to tournaments – the list is endless. My two brothers are always alongside me, pushing me to become a better person on and off the court. I can’t forget my aunts, uncles, and cousins who never fail to come see me play. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the constant support and love from my family. It is my goal to make them proud. 

Tell us about your high school coach? Club Coach?

My high school coach, Taylor Antoniewicz, truly has the Cranford Volleyball Program set on a path for success. Over the past year, she has helped me tremendously both on and off the court. Coach Taylor pushes all of us to become better, smarter players and has helped every player on our team grow. Her dedication to our team will be a key to our success in our upcoming season. I am really looking forward to playing my next two high school seasons under Coach Taylor. 

Have you won any awards such as All County or All State or others?

-1st Team All Conference

-3rd Team All County

-13th statewide for digs in 2019 season (380 digs)

-Top 15 of All Underclassmen statewide

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 plan on continuing to play volleyball in college. Academics are very important to me and I want to go to school for nursing. Finding a college with a successful volleyball program and an accredited nursing program will be my goal. 

Who is your favorite college or pro volleyball player and why?

My favorite college volleyball player is Dana Rettke, a middle, and my favorite college team is the University of Wisconsin. I could watch her highlight videos for hours. Watching Dana get kill after kill is amazing. Not to mention, she was named Big Ten Athlete of the Year, as well as one of the University of Wisconsin’s Athlete of the Year. 

Dana Rettke and Volleyball: Meant for Each Other | On Wisconsin ...
6’8″ Wisconsin Middle Dana Rettke is Erin’s Choice for favorite player

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