July 27, 2020 – By Josh Wilets
Last season, the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) was filled with lots of intrigue. Mendham made an amazing run, winning the NJSIAA Group 3 Championship over Wayne Valley. After a defeating Williamstown in the first round in the Tournament of Champions, Mendham fell short to Immaculate Heart Academy in the Tournament of Champions Finals.
The NJAC will expand from four divisions to five, with many teams moving around. The Liberty division has been added, which will now include Morris Catholic, Kinnelon, Madison, Parsippany, Dover, and Hanover Park. With all the changes occurring, High Point has been added to the NJAC after serving one season as an Independent, as 2019 was the program’s first season for the school.
While all divisions are going to be extremely competitive, the American division may be the most competitive division in the NJAC. Mendham, Roxbury, Sparta, Pope John, West Morris Central, and Mount Olive will battle it out from wire to wire. Four of those six teams finished in the top two in their respective divisions last season.
With multiple players graduating as Seniors in the class of 2020, both Sparta and West Morris Central certainly have their work cut out for them, as they will have to fill many voids held by key players.
Sparta and Head Coach Derek Hall will need to replace most of the team’s defense and a middle-blocker, in addition to their setters. Liv Bouma-Hannam (MB), Kate Esso (DS), Autumn Nady (L/DS), the Sansone twins leave many opportunities for role players from last year to show what they have, while aiming at a spot in the starting lineup. Setters Morgan Saulys and Brooke Serovich have also graduated and will both be playing volleyball in college.
The silver-lining is that MacKenzie Wiggins and Martina Foye both return as solid hitting options for the Spartans. Presumably, Daniella Abbasante will slot into the MB position previously held by Liv Bouma-Hannam.
West Morris Central will be looking for a new libero to step into the shoes worn by Sophie DeFaria, in addition to many hitters and blockers. Lauren Davies (OH), Olivia Falzarano (MB) and Annika Massa (S) were all studs in their respective roles for the Wolfpack.
That being said, it should be very interesting to see which players can step up and rise to the challenge of battling the powerhouse that is the NJAC.
Stay tuned for divisional previews for a more in-depth team-by-team look at all the teams in the NJAC!