September 30, 2020 – By NJP

Old Tappan has had an abundance of success over the last decade as evidenced by their 225-31 record and .879 win percentage. Over the past five years, the NJ Girls High School Volleyball Tournament of Champions Tournament has been won by just two teams… Old Tappan and IHA. We tend to think as IHA as so far ahead of other teams in the state after 13 straight sectional championships so we did a bit of comparison over the past five years between NJ’s top perennial favorites.

The Golden Knights has a 5 year record of 114-12 with a .905 winning percentage. IHA is 187-18 over the same period with a .912 win percentage. IHA has three TOC Championships and 5 Sectional titles in 5 years with Old Tappan winning 2 TOC Championships and 1 Group 3 Sectional Title. Old Tappan has won 5 of 9 head to head meetings with IHA over the five year time period. Last year, the two teams split 2 matches. So let’s just say they are much closer as far as accomplishments as you may have thought.

Chrissy Chu has been a starter since joining the varsity squad as a Freshman. She knows the feeling of winning a State Sectional Title and also knows the feeling of beating IHA. Last year was just tough for the Golden Knights when they were upset by the eventual sectional champ Mendham in the quarter-final round. OT had made the sectional final game every year this past decade leading up to last year. So this years squad clearly has vision on the end goal in a COVID modified short-season.

Chrissy will quarterback this team on the floor as setter. She is smart, athletic, can make quick decisions, and has all the skillsets needed as one of the top setters in NJ High School Volleyball. Both Old Tappan and Chrissy can be absolutely dominant on the floor and appear to thrive at crunch time. This years OT team has one of the most powerful lineups in NJ as they return all but four graduating seniors and over 90% of their statistical output from last seasons 22-3 team. Some other players to watch on the Golden Knights squad are rising junior Jola Olutiola and fellow seniors Katie Butler, Carly Powell, Emma Illovsky and Sofia Colon.

Chu had 532 assists in 25 matches and averaged over 9 assists per set finishing 4th in NJ in that category. She has almost 1,200 already through her junior year. With her volleyball IQ at such a high level, no goal can be set too high for her and the Old Tappan Golden Knights.

Here is our interview with Ms. Chu…

Tell us a bit about yourself, Chrissy?

I currently attend Northern Valley Regional High School in Old Tappan, NJ. I am a senior and will be graduating in 2021. I live in Old Tappan with my mom, dad, older sister, and dog. My paternal cousins also live in town and two of them, along with my sister, also played for NVOT. 

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

Volleyball has been in my life for as long as I can remember. My mom played in college and both my parents played competitive club volleyball after college. Their interest rubbed off on my sister and I. We would set up a net during family barbecues and play for hours. Even though I have been around volleyball all my life, I didn’t start playing competitively until I was 12. I was playing both middle school and club volleyball.

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

I am 5’9” and my approach jump is 9’3”. I am a six rotation setter for both high school and club volleyball. At NVOT, I have been fortunate enough to be in the starting line up since my freshman year. The team just graduated a senior setter, and they were looking for someone to fill in. I was taken on to the team and was shown the ropes. At Pinnacle, I usually play six rotations and I sometimes hit rightside when I’m in the front row. I enjoy being the setter because it keeps my mind sharp. I’m constantly thinking about all the pieces of the game and trying to see what’s the best way to score a point and set up a successful offense.

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

We have 10 returning varsity players including myself. This will be the year that everyone hears some new names. We have an older team and there will be more players stepping up and taking larger roles on the team. We are very fortunate to have such a skilled team and everyone will be giving everything they’ve got.

NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. We see you have committed to play volleyball at Bates College in Maine in the NESCAC. What drove your decision to attend Bates?

I knew from the start that I wanted to be at a school that valued both academics and athletics. I also wanted to stay on the east coast. I looked at a bunch of different Division III schools, but I thought the NESCAC schools had the best academics and athletics. I continued to talk and do more research on those schools and Bates turned out to be the best fit for me. I love the campus environment, the academic programs it offers, and how Coach DeRan emphasizes the importance of team chemistry.

Tell us about your club experience at Pinnacle?

I started at Pinnacle when I was 15 years old and I plan on finishing my last year of club there as well. Pinnacle is a fairly new club, but it has become a tight knit family that I’m happy to be a part of. All of the coaches there focus on pushing their players to compete at their fullest extent. I have learned so much from the coaches and I have made so many valuable friendships at Pinnacle. I’m sad this will be my last year but I’ll be back to help when I can to give back to the program.

Old Tappan has had an incredible run of success over the last decade. What do you expect from this year’s team?

I expect nothing but the best. We lost 4 solid players, but I know we have the skill to compensate. With the support and determination of Coach Landeck, the team will be working very hard to put ourselves in the best shape to win. Also, we have an older team this year and I’m excited to see all of us step up and overcome these hard times during the pandemic.

You are primed for an outstanding senior year after 3 years at varsity, progressing each season with improved stats over the prior year. You have already achieved the 1,000 assist mark and racked up over 500 last season. What are your goals for 2021?

First off, I’m just praying that we have a season to set goals for. When we get there, I hope to continue to assist my teammates in any way I can whether it’s on or off the court. I would love to continue to strengthen the bond between my teammates. I think a team that has a strong relationship with the same goals will go far. Also, getting 1500 assists or even 2000 would be amazing, but that’s not why I play this sport. I play this sport so I can surround myself with amazing girls who have competitive spirits. As a team, I want us to play to the best of our capabilities and win as much as we can.

The Big North can be a nasty place to play with a very high level of competition. NJP projects Old Tappan in the top 10 at #8 overall in NJ, 3rd in the Big North, #1 in the Freedom Division. What will it take to stay ahead with your perennial rival #14 Northern Highlands as well as compete with Immaculate Heart and Demarest?

It’s going to take a lot of hours in the gym to stay ahead of those talented teams. Northern Highlands, IHA, and Demarest are always great competitors, and I believe we’re all essentially equal. At the end of the day it comes down to who wants it more, who can stay more focused, and make the least unforced errors.  If Old Tappan can come out with a confident and competitive attitude every time we play, we should do well.

Northern Valley Regional High School - Old Tappan

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

IHA is always one of the most challenging teams that we come across. Anna Morris proved herself a worthy competitor whenever we faced IHA. She was a strong girl with a powerful swing. If she was set, you knew the ball was coming in hard. Having a ball come at you that fast and hard is something very difficult to read. After playing her all these years, I think we found a way to dig some of her hits, but almost all of them were kills.

Who is your support group?

My parents are always at my high school and club games and my older sister comes when she’s not in her college volleyball season. My friends are also great supporters but my biggest supporters are my maternal grandparents. They make it their mission to never miss a game. After watching my mom play throughout her childhood, they are so happy and proud to be able to watch me play the same sport. At my games, you can expect my grandma to be the loudest one in the stands and everyone knows who she is!

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

My family and I have adjusted to life in this environment. We have enjoyed doing many things together as a family like cooking, baking, watching old movies, and playing mahjong. We all have a little more time on our hands so we try our best to spend it with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.

The delay in our season means that my team won’t be able to spend as much time with each other and prepare for the season. The time spent on a typical pre-season helps with building team chemistry and different options for line-ups. We’re trying our best to keep in touch and workout together.

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

  • Freshman Year: 2nd Team All Division
  • Sophomore Year: 1st Team All Division, 2nd Team All County, 2nd Team All State Group III
  • Junior Year: 1st Team All Division, 1st Team All County, 1st Team All State Group III, 2nd Team All State, Team of the Year (All County)

What are your other hobbies or interests?

Before volleyball, I was very interested in art and reading. I would draw, paint, and read all the time. Now that I have some more time on my hands, I’ve picked up art and reading again. I’ve painted some canvases with college logos on them for my friends. I have also been reading the Harry Potter series.

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