June 22, 2020 – By NJP

What a monster season Isabella O’Neill had for Hawthorne as a junior. When junior middle Nicole Navarro went down with an ACL injury, no one figured Hawthorne had a chance at state playoffs. But Bella lead the Bears to a NJ state playoff appearance with a 12-11 record overall. That is just half of the story though. Bella was dominant as a junior leading her team in all statistical categories except assists.

Isabella was 25th overall in NJ in kills (234) and in the top 30 in aces with 63. She is revving up for a big senior year where we could see her top the 300 mark in kills. She is in the top 10 in aces for all returning players for the upcoming campaign.

Being “Clutch” is an O’Neill hallmark. She entered the NJ State playoffs with a tough assignment by taking on 17-11 Park Ridge. Bella tallied 11 kills and 7 aces, matching her best number of the season, but the Bears fell short in a tight match.

With Navarro now residing in Kinnelon, O’Neill will once again be the main ingredient for the Bears 2020 season. Look for junior Karolyn Moro to step up along with junior Gabby Aliano. If they continue their regiment of hard work for the Fall, NJP expects the Bears to be close to the top of the wide-open NJIC Colonial division after Rutherford lost Jenna Rogers and 90% of their stats to graduation.

Here is our interview with Ms. O’Neill…

Tell us a bit about yourself?

I live in Hawthorne, New Jersey and have lived here most of my life.  I attend Hawthorne High School and will be graduating in 2021.  Throughout my high school experience my family has been so supportive and helped me grow along the way.  I am so thankful for them, especially my mom because she has shaped me into the woman I am today. 

Mom and Isabella

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

I have played volleyball for 5 years now.  In 7th grade my best friend at the time was playing volleyball and she inspired me to take up the sport as well.

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

I am about 5 foot 8 inches.  Although I did not play club this year, my previous club team was DIGS Volleyball. I played setter in club and sometimes on right side.  For my school team I play outside hitter which is my favorite position to play. 

Bella with former teammates Jenni Fluet (NVOT)
and Olivia Bereza (Westwood) at DIGS

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? 

My high school team definitely lost some key players this year but we will work hard this preseason to be the best we can be.  We have some returning players this year but our key to success will be pushing ourselves to be better every practice and game so we can reach our goals this season. 

Girls' Varsity Volleyball - Hawthorne High School - Hawthorne, New ...

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

My teammates always work so hard and try to be better each and every day.  The player that I think will be this year’s standout and upcoming is Karolyn Moro. 

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 am not sure if I want to play in college but one school I am looking at is Sacred Heart University.

Tell us about your club experience.

My club experience was so great.  I made lifelong friends, had so many great experiences at tournaments, and it developed me into the player I am now.  Unfortunately, I did not play this year so I can focus on my school work.  

Who is your support group?

My support group is definitely my family as a whole.  The people that are my number 1 supporters are my Mom, Dad and three older sisters, Veronica, Julianna and Alexandra.  If you have ever been to one of my games you have definitely heard my dad because he is always the loudest fan in the gym.  He always cheers me on and is so proud of me just like my mom.  My mom has always been my role model and taught me so much about leadership which helps me be the best teammate to others on my team.  

Bella and her older sisters Veronica, Alexandra and Julianna

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 and I are taking all the measures recommended to stay safe from this virus.  This fall high school season schedule will probably be affected since we don’t know what the future holds for COVID-19 so we will have to wait and see but hopefully it will be positive.  

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Tell us about your school?

Hawthorne High School has been home to me for the past 3 years and always will be.  The community of the school is so great and when one of us is struggling everyone is struggling and trying to help.  The sense of family at Hawthorne is nothing I’ve ever experienced before and I want my future children to have the same experience as well at Hawthorne High School.  

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

My sophomore year of high school I won 1st Team All-County and my freshman and junior year I won 2nd Team All-County. 

Which schools are your biggest rivals?

The school that is Hawthorne’s biggest rival is Glen Rock which is the town over from us.  It always is a friendly rivalry and both teams have so much respect for each other. 

Is there a teacher or coach who really helped you along the way?

A coach that has helped me along the way was my freshman and sophomore year coach, Coach Laura Mazzacca.  She was so influential on my volleyball career and helped me so much with building my skill level up, life advice and being like a second mom to me.

The O’Neill clan… siblings and cousins

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