Sammy Olander is off to a jack rabbit start to her high school volleyball career for the Roxbury Gaels. She broke onto the scene as a freshman in 2018 made an impact with 50+ kills and 23 blocks. But her sophomore season was an absolute breakout with almost 200 kills, 15 blocks, 58 digs, and 29 aces. As she enters her junior year, NJP expect her to be a dominant force on the attack for a team that loses just two seniors and returns almost its entire varsity starting squad.

The Gaels started the 2019 season with 13 wins in their first 16 games before ending a very successful season at 20-9. West Morris was a thorn in their side as the Gaels lost all three matches they faced against the Wolfpack including being eliminated in the state tournament. West Morris loses 10 senior varsity players to graduation so the 2020 task could be a lot easier.

The shortened season could certainly work to Roxbury’s advantage with their talent level. NJP projects them at #18 overall in the state and the second best team in the NJAC next to Mendham.

Sammy has much to look forward to in the next two seasons. COVID aside, we expect standout offensive production from Sammy, Amber Chen, and Julianna Medina up front. Senior Quinn Longo will quarterback setting responsibilities and the overall defense for the Gaels was one of the best in NJ, tallying over 1,100 digs for the 2019 season.

Samantha has the potential to be one of the top players in the state by the end of her high school career. She has outstanding volleyball instincts, a strong right arm, and excellent finesse and touch at the net. She will be a force to be reckoned with in the NJAC as she continues to mature in the next two seasons.

Here is our interview with Ms. Olander…

Tell us a bit about yourself Sammy?

Hi! My name is Samantha (Sammy) Olander and I live in Succasunna, NJ. I am an rising junior at Roxbury High School, and I will be graduating in the year 2022. I am a 2 year varsity starter for my high school’s volleyball team. I live with my Mom, my twin brother, and my younger sister, who are unconditionally loving and supportive.

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

I have been playing volleyball competitively since my freshman year of high school. Prior to volleyball, I was convinced that I was going to play soccer in high school, after playing competitively for many years. However, I tried out a few volleyball clinics throughout middle school that were run by my current high school coach, Anthony McMichael, and instantly fell in love with the sport. Although I will always love soccer and the memories I made, I found a new passion within volleyball. Starting with my freshman year, I put a lot of time and effort into the sport in order to become the best player that I could.  I owe a lot of thanks to my high school coach and my club coaches for introducing me to the sport I love, and for always pushing me and helping me improve as a player, a teammate, and a person!

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

I am about 5’10, my vertical is 9’4, and I play for Garden State Elite Volleyball Club. I play outside for high school, and I played middle for club, but I play all around the front row, and have experience playing right side. I wouldn’t really say I have a favorite position, as I am very grateful that I’ve had a chance to play so many positions that I love! I definitely love playing outside though because I love the challenge of hitting out of system sets.

How will your Roxbury high school team do in the upcoming season? Do you have a lot of returning players? What will be the key to success?

I have a lot of hope for this upcoming high school season! Our team has so much potential to be great, and I think we definitely have a strong shot at winning counties. This year’s group is full of strong-minded, hardworking individuals which will contribute to the overall team chemistry. Thankfully, we only lost 2 players, which means we have almost our entire lineup coming back for the upcoming season! I am very proud of my team’s performance last year, and I know we are going to enter this upcoming season with confidence, and a winning mentality!

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

My team has so much talent and potential, and I’m so excited to play with them this season! I believe that the best teams have to have a good team chemistry and trust in one another. I’m proud to say that my team definitely has that!  Unfortunately, we graduated 2 seniors last year, Stephanie Lemanis and Jessica Allen. Both of these girls were huge energy givers and I definitely looked up to both of them. Roxbury Volleyball is going to miss them!

My team is also full of talented and stand out players, that I’m glad I get to share the court with. One of these players is Quinn Longo, Roxbury’s returning senior setter. Quinn is a very talented player, and a great leader on and off the court. Amber Chen and Juliana Medini are also returning seniors, and let me tell you, they are both monsters on the court! Juliana has a killer swing, and Amber is one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with. We also have a lot of talent in the back row! The back row is definitely challenging, and I really respect the scrappiness and talent that our Roxbury players have! This season we have 2 incoming sophomores, Lorie Horta and Victoria Latino who played varsity this past season, and it is clear that they are great players who are going to continue to improve.

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?)

In regards to college, I have been and will always be a student first. Academics will always be my first priority, but athletics are still incredibly important to me! I still need to figure a few things out, but I love volleyball, and am definitely interested in playing in college.

Which player last season was the toughest competitor that you faced and why?

Last season, one of our toughest competitors was definitely Mendham. Their team is full of many talented players, especially in the front row, such as Lauren Wilcock and Cat Holtz. We only had the opportunity to play them once last season, and I’m proud to say that Roxbury came out the winner! I think the talent that we were met with on the other side of the net, definitely pushed us to play our best. Our win against Mendham was definitely a confidence booster for our team, and helped propel us for future successes.

You have had an amazing first two years for Roxbury putting up some monster stats for a sophomore. What are your current personal goals and how much do you think you can accomplish on the court before graduating?

This year I am just very eager to continue improving myself as a player and a teammate! I’m proud of the player I am today, but every practice and game gives me an opportunity to improve, which I hope to utilize. Success is earned through hard work, confidence, and teamwork, and I hope to better myself by focusing on all of these things. I also hope to improve my passing and digging skills. I would definitely say that my weakness on the court is the back row, so I hope to be able to work on these skills. Finally, I am really looking forward to being part of a supportive and hard working team this season who I know is going to reach its full potential!

How are you and your family dealing with current world situation with COVID-19? How will the delay in the Fall high school season schedule effect you or your team?

My family and I are handling these Covid-19 times about as well as everyone else. I am very lucky to say that everyone in my family is safe and healthy, and I could not be more grateful for that. Although it’s not perfect, we have been making the best of it! We’ve been following the CDC guidelines, and making sure we prioritize our health before all else. Despite this, I am very glad that there has been a little more normality in the past few weeks!

In regards to my team, I know that no matter what happens we are going to have a successful season. This year’s group is full of very dedicated and adaptable girls who I know are going to make the best of any circumstance that is thrown our way! This season may look a little different then what we are used to, but don’t worry, Roxbury is still going to enter the season with our absolute best!

Who is your support group?

My family is definitely my biggest support system! Whether in the stands, or at home, my parents, aunt, nana, and siblings are always extremely supportive and loving. Them being in the stands cheering for me always brightens my mood, and makes me feel more confident on the court! My mom is definitely my rock, and she is my favorite person to talk to after a game. I am a very competitive person, so as you can imagine, I really hate losing. Fortunately, my mom is always there to lift my spirits no matter the score at the end of the game! My family has also sacrificed a lot to help me get to volleyball tournaments and practices, and for that I am very grateful! My friends are also big contributors to my support system. Whether they play volleyball with me or not, they provide me with endless support and friendship on and off the court!

Tell us about your club experience and your Club Coach?

I can not say enough nice things about Garden State Elite Volleyball Club. My freshman year I was trying to decide where to play volleyball in the off season. As I was looking for a club, I was a little nervous because it was going to be my first time playing for a volleyball club! Fortunately, the moment I walked into GSEVC, I knew I found the right club to play for! Not only are all the coaches extremely talented, but they were also automatically super welcoming and friendly. This club is a family that I am proud to be a part of! Specifically, my coach this year was Amy Berry. Coach Amy is hands down one of the best coaches I’ve ever had, and I’m lucky to be coached by her! She coaches us to not only be the best players we can be, but also the best teammates and people. She is very team oriented and a huge believer in the notion, “win as a team, lose as a team”. She always pushes us to be our best, because even when we can’t see it ourselves, she knows how good we can be! Coach Amy, and the rest of my club have taught me so much in the 2 years I’ve been playing for them and I can’t thank them enough!

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

My current high school coach, Anthony McMichael, has been a huge influence on the player I am today! Since the beginning, he has really helped me be the best player I can be! He is an amazing coach in many ways, but the most prevalent aspect about him is how much he cares about each and every player. Coach McMike is incredibly dedicated to volleyball, and our team, in the on and off season. Whether it be watching endless hours of tape, supporting his players at their club tournaments, or coaching us on the courts almost every day of the season, Coach McMike always puts his whole heart into our team. I am very lucky to have such a caring and involved coach, and I’m excited to be playing two more seasons on his team!

What is your favorite inspirational video that you like to watch before games?

I don’t necessarily have a specific video that I watch before games, but I definitely hype myself up before games by listening to music with my teammates. It always puts me in a good mood, and it sets me up for success. I also sometimes read some motivational quotes, right before the game in order to boost my confidence and get me ready to play my best!

Which do you prefer… Beach or Hard Court?

I definitely am very passionate about hard court volleyball, as I love the team aspect of the game!  I have not had many opportunities to play beach volleyball, although it looks like a lot of fun, and I would love to try it in the future!

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