August 15, 2020 – By NJP
Shall we go to the gym or to the beach? Not a tough question for most of the people in the world and certainly not for Sarah Wilcock. When it comes to volleyball, Sarah is beach focused all the way, much like her older sister and fellow Mendham teammate Lauren. But you would never know it when they take the floor on the hard court.
Sarah is an elite beach player, especially for her age group. She currently plays up on the 18U level despite being only a freshman. She travels nationally year-round for tournaments through her Sinjin Beach Volleyball Club program in North Carolina and is part of the P1440 Elite program which exposes her to some of the best junior players in the country. She is sure to land a commitment to one of the top beach volleyball college programs in the US. But it doesn’t deter her from making an immense contribution to the Mendham Minuteman in the Fall.
Last season, the Minutemen finished 28-6 and went all the way to the Tournament of Champions final with Sarah quarterbacking the offense as a freshman and her sis Lauren being an absolute kill machine on the attack as a junior. They will be paired again on this years squad with other top talent such as outside Cat Holtz (commit to Gettysburg), libero Michele Kifyak (Allegro 17N), and middle Poppy Skjonnemand (Xtreme 16N). This is a talented group and have earned an NJP Pre-Season ranking of 7th in the state as well being the top rated team in the NJAC.
Sarah’s numbers on the hard court were just amazing for a freshman. She was one of the top setters in NJ tallying 441 assists, 122 digs, and 75 kills. But the maturity to lead her team, as its playmaker, all the way to a state championship game shows another level of talent and commitment. As she enters her sophomore year, she will have a world of opportunity to put up some prolific stats in the NJ Girls High School Volleyball record book.
On the beach, Sarah possesses superior volleyball instincts. Her ability to know where her opponent is going to hit is uncanny. She has quickness and can strategically place her hits to win points in bunches. We get the sense that the best is yet to come from this young beach superstar and the offers from D1 beach college programs will be voluminous.
The stage is set for a magical culminating season for the Wilcocks in their final high school season playing together in a quest for a repeat Group 3 state championship and the hope to get one game further than their incredible 2019 season.
Here is our interview with Ms. Wilcock…
Tell us a bit about yourself, Sarah?
I attend West Morris Regional High School District in Mendham, NJ. I am a rising sophomore and in the graduating class of 2023. I have one of the most supportive families. My parents attend every game or tournament and are always there to support me and cheer me on. They have sacrificed a lot of their time to give me the opportunity to play the sport I love. I love them beyond words and appreciate everything they do for my sister and me.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I have been playing volleyball for about 6 years now, beginning with indoor and then later transitioning to beach. My parents introduced me to volleyball. As a matter of fact they met playing volleyball. The first beach volleyball tournament I played in was with my dad and my love for the sport has grown ever since.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?
I am 5’8”. For High School I played full rotation setter and right side. I have been exposed to almost every position, but setter is by far my favorite. I love the importance and versatility of the position. Constantly communicating, bettering the ball, and adjusting to the players needs is what really makes me love the position. Also having the opportunity of setting my sister and winning the State Championships together this year, was just beyond amazing and something I will never forget. I currently play beach volleyball full time now. I play for Sinjin Beach Volleyball Club in North Carolina and compete nationally. I have the most amazing coaches Greg Vogel, Kidder, and Latacha, who have all done so much for me. I am also a part of the P1440 Elite program as well which allows me to train and compete against some of the top players in the nation.
How will your Mendham high school team do in the upcoming season? Do you have a lot of returning players? What will be the key to success?
I believe that we will have an extremely successful season this year if we are lucky enough to have one. We have several returning players who are key components to our team. Additionally, we will have some new incoming JV players from an undefeated JV team last year who are all just phenomenal. I think our key to success will be the team’s chemistry and communication. In the beginning of last year our team struggled with communication, but once we became closer as a team our communication and confidence soared.
Tell us about your Mendham teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
We did lose a few seniors, but we have a lot of insane JV players coming up. One standout player for this year I think will be Ally Blackwell. Last year she jumped between JV and Varsity, but didn’t get many playing opportunities on Varsity. She has always been extremely dedicated and hard working. Throughout the season she would be the first one out of the locker room and the last one on the court getting extra reps. I am so excited to see her keep growing this year and kick butt. Also my sister Lauren, who is going to be a returning senior, had a phenomenal season last year and has improved so much since! I can’t wait to see what she will accomplish this year. Cat Holtz and Michele Kifyak are our other two seniors and both such big parts of the team. Michele was our libero last season and was such an amazing defender and positive player on the court. Cat Holtz also known as “hammering Holtz” is such a consistent and energetic player that is constantly working hard.
You and your sister Lauren make up the most dynamic sibling duo in NJ volleyball. Tell us about the relationship with your sister and her influence on your passion for volleyball.
The best part about the season for me was getting to play with my sister. We have always had the same passion and drive for volleyball. We travel all over the nation together and train together everyday. She is an astonishing volleyball player and just an amazing overall athlete. Watching her play on the beach courts and indoor courts always pushes me to be better. She has grown and improved so much so fast it is insane to see and she is definitely someone I look up to. She has always been there for me to help coach me and support me during my tournaments and overall recruiting process.
We would love to hear about the road the state championship game last season. Can you share?
Last season we made history for Mendham volleyball. It was an experience I will never forget. We began the season as the “underdogs”. Other teams knew we were competitive and strong offensively, but Mendham was rarely seen as a threat. We had a decent regular season with 15 wins and 3 loses. As we moved into counties our team really picked up. We beat our rivals after a defeating loss the first time playing them. Mendham had not beat Central in about 6 years so this win was incredible. The Mendham Mosh Pit was by our side almost every game. Our team fed off the energy and I think that was a big part of our winning streak. Once we beat Kinnelon in the County Championships, our team really came together and felt that we could take this all the way.
In the quarterfinals of states we played against Old Tappan who was ranked 3rd in group 3. This game was the tipping point for our team. We lost the first set 25-20, but Coach talked us through a new game plan and we were ready to win the next set. We won the second set 25-17 and took the game to a third. Our third set was a nail biter, point for point. We pulled out the set with a 25-23 win. We were all extremely excited and anxious to play our next match and keep up the winning streak. Our next game was the state semifinals against Colonia. The game against Colonia was another three setter where we lost this first set then came back and won the second set 25-20. We closed out the game with a 25-16 win in the third set. We were all speechless after that game some of the team was even in tears. We were headed to state finals and had the confidence that we were going to win. In the finals all of our adrenaline was pumping. We had a wild fan section all there to support and cheer for us through every point. We ended up winning in two sets against Wayne Valley and winning the State Championships. This was the first time Mendham had ever won a volleyball State Championship and definitely a moment I will never forget.
You had tremendous overall play last season as a freshman with 441 assists, 122 digs and 75 kills. What are your personal goals for 2020?
If there is a season this year I really would like to hit 900 assists, maybe even a 1000. I want to just keep working hard in practice and in the gym to get stronger and better. I would like our team to be successful and win back to back County and State Championships. My personal goals for beach volleyball is to keep playing up in 18u and hopefully be committed by the beginning of my Junior year.
You possess gifted abilities as an outside. Do you expect to set for the remainder of your high school career?
I’m not sure if I will remain a setter for the rest of my high school career. In the beginning of last season our coach was debating whether or not to keep me on the outside. I played outside in some of the scrimmages, but we found that setting was the right position for me and the team. We have two big outsides leaving after this season so I might get switched back. I would like to stay setter, but I will do whatever benefits the team the most. Outside is an amazing position to play full rotation as I also love to play defense too, but I would be happy with either position.
We have seen you play beach volleyball and you have amazing skills on the sand. Which surface do you prefer and is beach volleyball in your college future?
I do love my high school team, but beach volleyball is where I want to further my volleyball career after high school. I plan on going to a D1 university and I’m currently in the recruiting process. Ever since I switched to beach volleyball, my life has changed. I have met so many amazing people and knowledgeable coaches that have all done so much for me. It’s been an amazing experience.
What is your favorite inspirational video or music that you like to watch or listen to before games?
For our team it was a tradition to blast music every ride on the bus before a game. We would all get super hyped up and get our adrenaline running right before the game. The last song we would listen to on the bus or walk into the court was “Thunderstruck”. I have a wide variety of music taste. One song I love to listen to right before I play is “Halo” by Beyonce. We always blast it on the speaker in the bus. This song gets all of the nerves out and gets my adrenaline pumping.
What do you plan to study in college or what is your career path?
I am planning to major in exercise science or kinesiology. I am interested in becoming a PA or a Chiropractor. My grandmother was a surgical nurse, my grandfather was an anesthesiologist, and my cousin is an ER Physician’s Assistant, so I have always been surrounded by people in the medical field. I really just want to pursue a career that can help heal or change a person’s life.
Who is your favorite college or pro volleyball player and why?
My favorite pro volleyball player is Sarah Hughes. I have been a big fan of her ever since she started playing in college at USC. She is such an aggressive, dedicated, and energetic player which is everything I strive to be. I watch her compete on the AVP tour and she’s a very strong player with outstanding court coverage . She also has an extremely positive presence on the court and is always supportive of her partner. She is definitely a player I look up to.