August 25, 2020 – By NJP
Julianna Lavner of Wayne Valley is at the top of her game and will enter her senior year with one major goal, to win a group 3 sectional title. She will be a 4 year varsity starter. In her previously three years for the Indians, Wayne Valley is 73-15 and made it to the Sectional championship game twice. This year, going one more game and making it to the Tournament of Champions will be the team focus. Wayne Valley is a perennial favorite and has had massive success under head coach Jason Carcich.
The COVID situation has certainly thrown a wrench into the upcoming season as clubs scramble to adjust to the new schedule. Julianna has played for SideOut Sports in Fairfield and participated on the 17-1 National team for the club. She was joined by 3 other Wayne Valley teammates Anna Balinski, Lauren Antonio, and Alex Calello. COVID hit too close to home earlier this month when a Wayne Valley freshman volleyball player contracted the virus. That teammate has now recovered and all freshman advanced to phase 2 in the protocol on 8/24 so hopefully its business as usual despite the shift to the Spring high school schedule.
Julianna is 6’0″ tall and is expected to handle Middle duties and possibly some Opposite. She put up almost 40 blocks in 2019 leading the team in that category. She also led the team in kills with 183. At middle, Julianna has a quick release and explodes on the ball with strength and power. She has a knack to play angles and not communicate the direction of her hits to avoid the block. She also has excellent instincts and won’t hesitate to tip over the block and drop one in to get a point. Her serve continues to improve and we project her ace count to jump in the new season.
Wayne Valley earns an NJP #19 Pre-season ranking, the best in their division, and 5th best in the stacked Big North. The road to the Group 3 sectional final is projected to lead through Mendham, Northern Highland, or Old Tappan so the Indians will need to be razor sharp. And the caveat is of course that the year end tournament will have a whole new look possibly due to the pandemic. It will be worth the wait for Julianna who will (hopefully) get the chance to have an awesome senior season and take that momentum to a new college experience as a premier student athlete.
Here is our interview with Ms. Lavner…
Tell us a bit about yourself, Julianna?
I go to Wayne Valley High School in Wayne New Jersey and I am in the graduating class of 2021. I am one of two kids and I have younger brother named Jack. He isn’t as big into volleyball but he’s a huge lacrosse and football guy. My Mom and Dad love watching volleyball and they are my two biggest supporters for sure. We also have a golden retriever named Rosie and she is probably the best dog you’d ever meet. She’s extremely lazy but the most loving and cuddly dog out there.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I started playing volleyball in 7th grade so now it’s been about 5 and a half years. I was never really interested in vb because I was a really big swimmer, soccer and lacrosse girl and those sports alone took up a lot of my time. But, I really wanted to try something new and try to find a sport that was a good fit for me. My Mom had heard about this volleyball club that was having these clinics and I went just thinking it would be something I tried once and never did again. I ended up leaving that practice with my own ball that I was given to do setting reps at home with and I was beyond excited to go back in two days. From there on volleyball and I just clicked.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?
I am 6 feet tall and my standing reach is 7’2. With my full approach I can reach to 9’5. I play at sideout sports volleyball club but we call it SOS for short. I am a middle and don’t get me wrong I love that position with all my heart but, if I could play any position I would want to be a setter/right side. To better explain I would want to run a six-two but go all around from setting to then being a right side with a new setter in the back row.
How will your Wayne Valley high school team do in the upcoming season? Do you have a lot of returning players? What will be the key to success?
This high school season is going to be different no matter what. Due to the pandemic our season has been pushed to the spring which wasn’t ideal for any of us. We have 5 returning full time varsity girls and 2 returning swing players who practiced varsity with us all last year but played JV. Obviously, we took a big hit losing all the seniors that we had last year but we definitely have people who are more then capable to fill those holes. I think our key to success is going to be the same as it always has been. To stay positive regardless of what the world is going to throw at us and to work together and challenge each other to be the best player and person they can be on and off the court.
Tell us about your WV teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
This year we have a lot of young blood joining us. Without a doubt though from the returning girls I feel that Alex Calello is going to standout another year and hopefully she can lead the state in digs. I also think that Lauren Antonio is going to be one of the best setters our program has seen. Anna Balinski is coming off of a injury but I have no doubt that she is going to be one of our go-to hitters this year. Jenn Howarth is also another name I would remember. She was a swing player last year for us and she is definitely going to be a hot-hand this year for us.
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 do plan and would really enjoy the opportunity to play in college. Right now I am looking at Marist College and Springfield College. I want to find a school that has my major and also has a program where I’m going to grow not just as a player but also as a person.
Which player last season was the toughest competitor that you faced and why?
Last season I have to say I think the toughest competitor we faced was Mendham. That final game was definitely the hardest mentally on our team. I was the only player on that team who had played in a state final before that game and the nerves were completely the same as they were my freshman year. All of us were ready for the game but I don’t think any of us were really prepared for the crowd and pressure that we would feel walking into that gym.
You lead the Indians in kills and blocks last season as a junior on a team that finished 24-5 overall and went to the Group 3 state final game… what are your personal goals for 2020?
My personal goals for 2020 are to try to be better then I was last year. I want to try to get first team all state along with all county and conference. My other goal for 2020 is to try to win state finals. I’ve lost 2 state finals in the past 3 years and I am beyond determined to finally win.
Tell us about your state playoff run last season.
The state playoffs last year was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had in my whole high school career. The semi-final was probably the best game that I had played in all 3 years. The energy was high and the pressure we were all facing was one that’s hard to forget. Our defense was unbelievable and we were playing so well and so smart through the whole state tournament. Our team was beyond determined to keep going and we made it all the way to the finals. We all knew that there was a chance that we could do it but actually seeing it come to life was unbelievable. Each game we put our all into the game because we knew that it could be our last one.
Tell us about your Wayne Valley high school coach Jason Carcich?
Carcich is an amazing coach. He is the perfect blend of intense, motivated and sarcastic. We will be doing run-throughs which is exactly was it sounds like, it doesn’t matter how far the ball is thrown you do everything you can to get a touch, and he will be making fun of us and tricking us out with where he’s going to throw the next ball the whole time. A practice with him will make you not only a stronger volleyball player but a stronger person. Outside of the volleyball world he is always looking out for us and is always willing to give up some of his time to talk to his players and students. He is the heart of Wayne Valley Volleyball and without him the program wouldn’t be half of what it is today.
Tell us about your club experience at SOS and your Club Coach?
Throughout the years at Sideout I’ve had various coaches but for the past 2 years Allison Hart has been my main coach. SOS is like a second home to me and the coaches there have had a huge impact on me as a person outside of the volleyball world. All the coaches treat the girls there like they are playing for them and they have helped me grow so much in the 5 years that I’ve been playing for them. Ali and Cooper have been my coaches the past two years and in those two years I can safely say that I have not just gotten better technique but I have also gained a greater volleyball IQ.
Who is your support group?
I feel I have a really big support group. My family is probably my biggest supports and they always want me to push myself and be the best person and player I can be. My friends and teammates are also another huge support system for me. They are constantly helping me when I’m down and giving me support when I need them.
Have you won any awards such as All County or All State or others?
Sophomore year I won 1st team all conference and 2nd team all county. Junior year however, I won 1st team all conference, 1st team all county, and 2nd team all North Jersey.
What are your other hobbies or interests?
Outside of volleyball I really enjoy art and am actually creating an AP portfolio right now. I also enjoy running and playing lacrosse with my friends in my free time. I am also very interested and involved in community service projects where I am able to go out and help people who truly need it.
What do you plan to study in college or what is your career path?
In college I plan on studying non-profit business as well as creative and professional writing. I want to publish a book in the future. I also have a dream of working for an organization such as Habitat for Humanity. I want to help people and travel. I need to be hands on in whatever it is I am doing.