October 16, 2020 – By NJP

The 2021 Spring volleyball season is getting closer and NJP has been exploring Hudson Counties teams of late to try to piece together what rosters may look like after the COVID cancellation last March. The Kearny Kardinals are coming off three very solid seasons with strong winning records. Last season they were expected to be a top 20 team in New Jersey.

The teams that are traditionally seperated from the rest possess what we call dynamic duos, a sold pair of pin leaders that get 6 rotations, and provide the scoring and foundation for the teams success. When we think of Kearny, the names Nathan Aguilar and Santiago Lopez come to mind. Both will be senior leaders for the Kardinals for Spring 21. Santi has been all-world for Kearny putting up big numbers since freshman year and has consistently lead the class of 2021 offensive statistics.

The dynamic duo – Santiago Lopez and Nathan Aguilar

Nathan was set to breakout during the cancelled season after getting many reps at middle as a sophomore along with Brandon DaSilva. DaSilva who graduated in 2018, went on to NJCU where he lead the nation in blocks for all Division lll schools. It’s now time for Nathan to show off his talents, coupled with Lopez, and representing a truly versatile and powerful pair.

At 6’3″, Nathan brings quickness and size to the Kearny front line attack. He has an explosive swing and continues to improve his defense and passing. He was a major contributor for his SideOut Sports club team playing up at the 18 level last year. We expect Nathan will add 3 digit kills to the Kearny attack on a team that will have a high level of talent.

Kearny will also feature seniors Kevin Chaloco and Andreas Ulloa, and juniors Chris Poncio and Ethan Lugo. As usual, we expect Kearny will content with St. Peter’s Prep and Harrison for Hudson County honors. Anything can happen in 2021 with a considerable amount of change in lineups over the past two years.

Here is our interview with Nathan…

Kearny Holiday Tournament

Tell us a bit about yourself, Nathan?

My name is Nathan Aguilar and I attend Kearny High School and will be graduating with the class of 2021. I live in Kearny, NJ. My mom’s side of the family is Ecuadorian and my dad’s side is Peruvian. I have a sister who is a junior now in high school and a half-sister who is 2 years old. Family is extremely important to me and I do everything in my power for them. They support me and my goals for the future and are always there.

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

I have played volleyball since 8th grade in middle school. What made me take volleyball up initially was all my friends telling me to try out with them. Since we were all close I knew the season would be a good one. Our freshman team went on to only lose 2 games that whole season and it was a great experience. Playing that year made me realize the love I have for the sport and wanted to do whatever I can to improve for the next season.

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

I am a 6’3 all around hitter. I have never measured my exact vertical. I have been playing middle for high school these past seasons but I might move to the pin this upcoming season. All the hitting positions are my favorite, I enjoy hitting more at outside and middle.

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

I love all my teammates. Playing with them is always a good time and we all strive to get better so the practice is always everyone pushing themselves. I think this year’s standout will be none other than Santiago Lopez. He is always getting better and I love playing with him because we both have the same goals. He is a really strong hitter and he proved that by being one of the top hitters in the state in the 2018/2019 season. Another player that will stand out this year will most definitely be our libero Kevin Chalaco. He is a really strong defender and server. He is going to do big things this season. We also have underclassmen joining the roster who will be great additions, such as Ethen Lugo and Chris Poncio. Keep an eye out for the duo of Santi and I though. 

The team clowns around for photos before a home match (Front Row) Cristian Lugo, Santiago Lopez, Brandon DaSilva, Nathan Aguilar #4, (Second Row) Kevin Chalaco, Jose Contreas and Diego Rondon (Third Row) Thiago Teixeira, Leandro Perez, Mahmoud Serour, and Levi Linhares

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 for sure plan on playing college ball. The schools I’m looking at, at the moment, are Kean, NJCU, Ramapo, and Stevens.

Nathan goes for the kill

As a sophomore, you made a solid impact at middle along with Brandon DaSilva who ended up leading the nation for Dlll schools in blocks while a freshman at NJCU.  What are your personal goals for this season? 

Being able to learn from such a player like Brandon was amazing. He taught me so much about the middle position and was like a mentor for me. He’s very talented and it was no surprise to me that he led the nation in blocks. One of my personal goals is to do as good as I possibly can to improve my stats from sophomore year and show the improvement I made. I also want to help my team as much as I possibly can to win a county championship, since Kearny has never won it before.

The Kardinal’s last three seasons have been especially strong with solid winning records including 2018-19 when the team went 16-6. What is your expectation for this years Kearny squad? 

My expectation for this year’s squad is that we will be a force to be reckoned with. Even though we lost so many strong players from the class of 2020, we still have a great foundation for success. 

Tell us about your high school Coach Bill Mullins. 

Coach Bill Mullins taught me how to stay focused and to never give up in games. He taught me to keep a good mindset throughout the whole game. He also taught me that no matter the outcome of the game, there’s always something to learn from.

Tell us about your club volleyball experience. 

I loved playing club at Sideout Sports. Coach Jeff taught me so much about technique, serve receive, etc.. He was definitely the best coach I have ever had. Playing there was a great experience because I also got to build chemistry and a bond with Kevin Chalaco, our libero.

What do you do during the offseason to stay in shape and prepare for next year? Do you play other sports? (if so, which ones?) 

During the off season, I’m always in the gym to stay in my top shape. I also go play volleyball at grass courts and open gyms.

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

The toughest competitor I have versed is the former Outside Hitter from Fair Lawn, Mark Berry. Wherever I put my block with the pin hitter, he always found a way to get around it. I blocked him once or twice but out of all the games we’ve played at that tournament he got the best of me. 

Nathan jausts Tim Jiminez of SPP

Who is your support group?

My support group is definitely my friends and family. My dad is a fan of volleyball and he loves watching me play whenever he can. My mom loves watching clips and videos that I get from playing. My sister is always at the games taking pictures and cheering me on. My friends are always at the games and yelling my name, I appreciate and love all of the people that support me.

What is your favorite volleyball story?

My favorite volleyball story is when we beat St. Peter’s away and broke their undefeated streak in the 2018/2019 season. They had beat us at home and we all wanted revenge. We ended up playing at their school and no doubt I played my best game of the season. I had my season high kills and got a lot of blocks that game. It just felt really good for all of us to go to their house and get the win. 

How are you and your family dealing with current world situation with COVID-19? How did the cancellation of the Spring high school season effect your team? 

My family and I are trying to look at this situation in the most positive way possible. We all take precautions and try to stay safe at all times. The cancellation of the Spring high school season broke my whole team’s heart. Our team that season was one of the strongest teams we have ever had. We knew for a fact, with the way we were playing in preseason, we had a very good chance in winning a lot and going far in the state tournament. 

Nathan goes up for a big block on Chris Larkin of St. Peter’s Prep.

Who is your favorite college or pro volleyball player and why? 

My favorite pro player is in between TJ Defalco and Colton Cowell. Both of those guys are insane outsides, and it seems like they always provide perfect passes. Colton Cowell being undersized is so motivating, and I admire him a lot.  The Long Beach State and Hawaii rivalry was amazing to experience. 

2018-2019 Kearny Kardinals

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