November 13, 2020 – By NJP

Chiara Brenna has shown the work ethic to be an outstanding leader for the Midland Park Panthers in her senior year. A work ethic that began far before high school when she started playing volleyball at the age of ten. A four-year varsity player, Chiara brings a solid blend of club experience and tournament play that has her well prepared for her final season at MP.

This year’s team should again be a great one for the Panthers. They finished 19-4 last season losing to just two teams all year, Sectional Champs Bogota (3 times) and Bergen County power Dwight Englewood. They lose three seniors including Gillian Luberoff who tallied 96 blocks and 155 kills at middle, but return 9 from their varsity squad and will have a well-balanced attack that will drive this year’s success.

Chiara is a candidate to fill the vacancy from Luberoff’s graduation but she may be more likely to take a role as an outside for this years team which is stacked up front on the net attack. Brenna’s versatility will be a major strength for the team as she posted 83 kills, 205 digs, and led the squad with 55 aces as a junior. Senior Sara Vanderpyl and junior Paige Touzzo combined for over 100 blocks and 100 kills last season and are expected to breakout and pile up points at Middle and Opposite.

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This Spring, we could see Chiara add a family teammate to the varsity squad as her sister Christina is playing club this winter. Nothing better than seeing sisters on the court and the continuance of family legacy over time.

So how good will MP be this season? NJP projectes them as #6 in the state in pre-season rankings. That’s GOOD! The challenge for the Panthers is their division rival and last years sectional champ Bogota is #3. Life in the NJIC can be compared to 2020. It just keeps coming at you with challenges that you never expect. But the strong presevere. We wish them well…

Here is our interview with Ms. Brenna…

Tell us a bit about yourself, Chiara?

Hi, my name is Chiara! I currently live in the small town of Midland Park, NJ where everyone knows everyone’s name. I am attending the Midland Park Jr/Sr High School and will graduate this year. At home, I live with my mother and father along with my two younger sisters. Christina, the middle child, has taken up volleyball and has joined me in playing club. This year, we will both be playing on the high school volleyball team. 

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

I started participating in volleyball clinics in 5th grade. By 7th and 8th grade, I was on the middle school team. Going into high school, I was placed on the Varsity and JV teams for my freshman year. Since then, I have played solely on the varsity team. I was inspired to play club volleyball and take my playing to another level when I saw one of my seniors named Caity Ullmer. I am still in contact with her to this day and I thank her that she had instilled me with all of this passion for the sport. 

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

My height is 5’10 and my standing reach is roughly 7’8. As for my approach and block touch, they are 9’3 and 8’11 respectively. It is hard to choose which position is better between Outside and Middle. With Outside, it is fun to play both front and back row and make that amazing save or winning hit. As a Middle, there is a lot more variety in types of hits to trick the other team or to get that winning point. As for club teams, I have played almost everywhere nearby. During Freshman Year I played on the 15’s Essex Black team. Moving forward, summer of 2018 through 2019, I have stuck to SOS and played one year on the AAU team then two club seasons with coaches Ryan, Carly, Cooper, and Alli. All coaches have expanded my knowledge of the sport and helped me to get where I am now. In the summer of 2019, I had tried out for Middle on the 17’s Allegro team. However, during tryouts, it turned out that I was good at playing as an Outside and so that was my first introduction to the position. As of this year, I am currently playing on the 18’s Red Digs team. Positions as of now are up in the air as the Coach enjoys the idea I can play two different positions at a high level. 

Photo Courtesy of Alan Javate

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

I love our Midland Park Volleyball family. I enjoy working with every player no matter the skill range and just having fun with the sport. In my eyes, you do not have to always match up with a player of the same skill level as you could always learn a thing or two from newer players. Going down the list from the previous year volleyball players, we have seniors: Julia Calderone and Sarah Vanderpyl coming back. Julia Calderone works hard on giving everyone the perfect set or to keep the ball in play while Sarah Vanderpyl takes the ball and spikes it down giving us the winning point. As for upcoming Juniors, we have Jessica Balala and Paige Tuozzo. Jessica Balala worked hard all of last season getting to every ball and making that perfect pass after everyone thought the ball would hit the floor. Paige Tuozzo is a tall middle who uses her height as an advantage. She is able to make many blocks along reaching over the opponent’s block to put the ball down.

I would keep an eye out for two more Juniors: Alyssa Cornetta and Olivia Carrea. During these tough times, Alyssa is still doing club team and getting her play time in order to be ready for this year’s season. Last year on the JV team, Olivia Carrea showed great promise in being an outside and being versatile with her hits. Other club players include my sister Christina Brenna who plays at Digs like I do.

NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. Do you plan to play volleyball at the college level, and if so, which ones are you looking at?

I am elated to hear that I am one of the top players in the state. I do in fact plan on playing at a college level and dreamed of doing so since the 9th grade. I can still recall my coach asking everyone’s goal with the sport and me, being a freshman, saying “Oh, I want to be good enough to play in college!” As the years pass by, that dream as a young kid is getting closer and closer to reality. As of now, I am looking at Kean University, Montclair State University, Ramapo, and Rutgers New Brunswick hoping I could make it onto one of the Volleyball teams. 

Midland Park Varsity 2019 gathers as a family

Midland Park was 19-4 and advanced deep into the Group 1 sectional last season. You lose two outstanding senior contributors in Gillian Luberoff and Emilie Ghalam but have 9 returning varsity players. What are your expectations for this year’s squad?

This year will be exciting as there will be many returning players that were on varsity last year. My expectations for this season are to work hard and get far. After last year’s accomplishments, it instilled everyone with the confidence that we may succeed and win the state championship this year. I know now more than ever that many of the players will hold on to that memory and work harder to win more games. 

Tell us about your club experiences at SOS?

I enjoyed playing at SideOut Sports. My first introduction to them was during the 2018 AAU where I took a shot in the dark and tried out to be on the 16’s team as a 14 year old. From then on, I spent two years there playing as a Middle. I loved being mentored by the coaches and each and every one of them helped me grow a lot as a player. It was fun going to SOS (SideOut Sports) as this was where I learned all of the other types of sets that a Middle can run. I got the real taste of competitive playing and won my first ever gold medal at SOS. I am very grateful that SOS has given me a lot of experience and skills that I still use today.

Chiara’s SideOut Sports 17 team from 2019-20

Can you tell us about your best memories from your junior year season? 

The two best memories I had of last year’s season was during the Bogota and Delaware Valley games. During our state championships, our team had worked hard and made it into the finals. Our last game was our third rematch against Bogota. It was during this game that our team had won their first ever set from Bogota in eleven years. I am sure that we caught them off guard as in previous games, our team never had such a close game as this one. During the first and final set, there was no larger of a difference than 5 points. At the end, although sad to lose, I was crying tears of joy as our team had really stepped up. My best personal game had to be vs Delaware Valley. During this game, I can still recall making different shots and hitting and making many digs. I could still hear the crowd cheering me on as I ran to make that save that will eventually lead to our winning point. 

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

For my Sophomore and Junior years, I have earned NJIC 2nd team. This was a great accomplishment as we have had many great seniors in the past and to be considered for the award was astounding. Going along with Volleyball, every year I have received Scholar Athlete for juggling honors classes along with volleyball after school hours. 

17 Allegro 2019-20

 What do you plan to study in college or what is your career path?

For the colleges I am applying to, I plan on majoring in Secondary Education in ording to become a future educator. Since Freshman year, I have always held this passion for teaching fellow students in the math subject. Due to this passion, I have realized that becoming a math teacher would be an occupation that I would enjoy and love doing. 

What are your personal goals for the 2021 spring season?

My goals for the 2021 spring season is to create more versatility in my hits and make it as far into the season as possible. Despite the COVID-19 situation with the season being pushed, I know many players are very eager for our season to begin and are begging for it to not be postponed or cancelled. 

Who is your support group?

My biggest support group would have to come from my parents. Through the entirety of my high school career, my parents have worked hard into letting me pursue club volleyball and not give up on something that I am passionate about. During many of the home games, my parents would record the games and in the videos you can really hear the passion in their voices as they see their daughter make that pass or hit. My sister, although not wanting to admit it, is supportive of me playing and often speaks about my playing to her friends when she thinks I am not listening. Outside of this small group, I would say that I love the crowds that come to our home games. I never heard it until reviewing videos, but you can really hear how passionate these people are for our team and hear them call out each player’s name when they do good. 

The Brenna family!

What are your other hobbies or interests?

At the end of the school day, I have been an active participant in the ASL club. My friend and I were one of the first people to sign up for the club when it just started up in 7th grade and to this day I am still an active participant. I find it fun to learn a new language that is more visual rather than using words to communicate. Another one of my hobbies include sewing. With this year and the pandemic, I decided to take up sewing and started to make little plushies. For my halloween costume I made two little plushies that acted as my buddies. I enjoy the peace and calmness that both activities bring to my life. 

Photo Courtesy of Alan Javate

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