January 13, 2021 – By NJP

When Abby Chu thinks back on her sophomore year for the Highlanders, the first thing that comes to mind is rivalries. Even as a sophomore, the history of division and conference foes comes into main focus. Northern Highlands plays in the Big North and constantly battles division foe Old Tappan each year as both schools have premier programs in the state of New Jersey. The teams split last year which was an accomplishment for NH as OT only had three loses for the season, one to the Highlanders and the other two to the participants in the Tournament of Champions finals, Immaculate Heart and Mendham.

Highlands put up a 23-4 record last year and had another super successful campaign. It’s not common for the Highlanders to have impact freshman or sophomores on the roster as the team is usually dominated by upper classman. But sophomore Abby got her reps in 2019 and continues to develop her skills at DIGS. She will be primed for breakout seasons as a junior and senior and possesses a high level of skill on the back row.

Abby is playing at the highest club level for her age group. She gets to the ball quickly and her technical skills are outstanding. She is expected to be a major contributor as a junior and be the go to libero come 2022.

Chu relies on team energy to drive her squads success. Whether at Club or high school, she gets a high from the power that team spirit brings to the floor. And the waves of momentum that can occur when the team is unified and firing on all cylinders. The spirit that each Highlander exudes can be contagious and can overwhelms opponents. Abby will be in for tons of fun for the last two years at NH and no doubt have volleyball achievements that will lead her collegiate success, both on and off the court.

Here is our interview with Ms. Chu…

Tell us a bit about yourself, Abby?

My name is Abby Chu, I am 16 years old and a junior at Northern Highlands Regional High School. I live in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey with my mom, dad, and older sister, Jessica. Along with volleyball, I have a part-time job at a bakery in the town next over. 

Abby (right) hangs out with her friend Esma Oehler from Northern Highlands

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

I’ve been playing volleyball for six years, I started school volleyball in sixth grade and club in seventh. I was never big on sports when I was younger, I did gymnastics and cheer but I could never find something that I loved. My sister was my main inspiration for trying out for my middle school volleyball team, she played both school and club up until her junior year and I wanted to take a chance and try playing. I immediately fell for the sport and have continued playing ever since! 

The 2021 DIGS 17 Club team

Who is your support group?

Whenever I’m feeling down or need a boost in energy, I can always rely on my teammates. Three of them, in particular, I know I can consistently turn to when energy is low or when I’m in need of a pick-me-up. These girls are Grace Kautzmann, Niki Matthews, and Gaby Barber. The four of us all play in the back row together, and in this we all build each other up and support one another. I’m fortunate to have such great girls to be able to play with and become close with, and I know I can always count on them. 

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

 My family and I are taking many precautions to make sure that we all stay safe and healthy during COVID-19. While the postponement of the fall high school season was ultimately sad, my teammates and I agreed that it was for the best. We are scheduled to start the school season as of March 1st, so fingers crossed that it will go through! 

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

I am 5’6” and a Libero/DS for both school and club. I played almost every position in middle school and the beginning of high school, but playing back row is something that I’ve always really loved to do. These past couple of years I’ve been pretty consistent with playing as a Libero/DS, but I’m glad I was able to experience playing other positions as it’s always helpful to have an idea of what I can do to make my setter and hitters’ job easier. 

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

My NH teammates are really such an amazing group of girls to play with. Our setter Ruby van der Heide is quick and consistent on the court and will definitely be a great asset this upcoming season. Some amazing hitters to look out for this season are Esmae Oheler, Athena Georgiades, and Emma Lomouti. We’ll have many returning seniors with loads of talent, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for this upcoming season!

January Rotation Calendar

Highlands had an amazing season in 2019 winning their first ten games against some super talented teams and finishing the year at 23-4. Tell us about the ride…

This past 2019 season was my first year playing on the NH Varsity team, and I honestly could not have asked for a better experience. While the team consisted of such talented players, I truly believe that we performed so well overall because of our chemistry both on and off the court. In those few months, I grew amazing relationships with both my teammates and my coaches. Like with every team we had our highs and lows, but we always came together in the end and supported each other. It truly was an amazing ride and I hope to carry this momentum on into my next two seasons. 

NJP considers you one of the best volleyball players in the state. Do you plan on playing in college and if so, which ones are you considering?

Yes, I hope to continue playing at the collegiate level. I’m looking into all higher-academic division 3 schools along the east coast, and I’m looking forward to further creating relationships with coaches and finding my perfect fit! 

DIGS - A Bergen County, New Jersey Girls Volleyball Club

Tell us about your DIGS club experience.

My first year of playing club was with DIGS on the 13 Red team under head coach Scotti Mose. I didn’t realize it at the time, but signing up to play club may have been one of the best decisions of my life. The DIGS community is so supportive and I’ve created so many lifelong relationships with teammates and coaches. 

Did you have a favorite game during your sophomore season?

My favorite game was definitely against Northern Valley Old Tappan in early September. This was also our first game of the season, and Northern Highlands hadn’t beat Old Tappan in around 10 years or so. Our team’s energy the whole game was great, and we ended up pulling through with the win. It really was such an amazing feeling to see our team come together and work in order to win against the great program that Old Tappan is, and I think it really set the tone for the rest of the season.  

Do you have a favorite quote?

One of my favorite quotes is simple, but it’s “remember why you play.” This quote is always prevalent in my mind, but it was especially meaningful to me during my sophomore season at Northern Highlands. Towards the end of the season, I was in a rut where I struggled with my confidence and motivation to play. During this time, I remember one practice where we were playing six-on-six and my team won a big point of some sort. We all started cheering and getting excited, and I got this feeling of motivation and desire to play that I’ll never forget. I realized that the energy and excitement I get from volleyball is my “why” for playing, and anytime I’m struggling or feeling down on myself I always remind myself why I’m here and why I love the sport so much. 

What are your favorite volleyball videos that you watch?

While I love watching the high-level division 1 teams play, I always find myself watching videos of high school players from teams all around the country play. Whether it’s serve-receive reps or game footage, seeing girls my age putting in the work to play their best motivates me to work harder and be the best I can be. 

Abby and her DIGS teammates celebrate a point won

Is there a teacher or coach who really helped you along the way that you would like to recognize here?

I’ve had such amazing coaches throughout my life such as Bill Lee, Annie DeLoid, and Alyssa Broccoli, but someone who I would like to properly recognize is Coach Warren Tom. He has never actually been my coach, yet has always been readily available to help me grow as a player. Coach Warren is always working on helping me with my technique and pushing me to work harder and fight for each play. He’s helped simplify the game for me when I start to get hectic, and always manages to find the right thing to say to pick me up. Last year I was lucky enough to join one or two of his practices, and while it was a challenge it was also a great learning experience. 

What’s the best part about being a libero?

I think the best part about being a libero is the thrill you get from playing defense. Whether it’s passing a simple free ball or digging a hard-driven hit, being able to get that first touch in order for my teammates to execute the play is something that I’ve always loved. 

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