January 22, 2021 – By NJP
Immaculate Heart Academy is by far the premier girls high school volleyball program in New Jersey. Their track record over the past decade and a half is nothing short of spectacular. If you go back to 2006, when Roselle Catholic beat IHA in the non-public sectional, it was the Blue Eagles last loss in the state sectional. They have been the non-public champs 13 years running. And have won 10 of 13 Tournament of Champions State tournaments over that time period, losing only to Old Tappan in 2010, 2015, and 2016 in the Championship game.
The Bergen county all-girl catholic school attracts some great players but Head Coach Maria Nolan’s approach to cultivating a winning environment could be the real draw. The winning tradition attracted Alyssa Lowther in 2017 and she has been a four-year varsity starter for IHA.
Volleyball is one of the ultimate team sports and Alyssa is one of the ultimate team players. It’s very apparent that personal goals take a back seat to the overall success of the team. Lowther is a talented and complete middle and is willing to jump in wherever she is needed and wherever her coach directs her.
Since Alyssa joined the squad, the Blue Eagles are 114-6 with 5 of those losses coming from schools outside of New Jersey. They have three straight NJ TOC tournament championships during her time. She has been a solid contributor on a team of superstars. And this year will be no different.
Alyssa has already commited to Bates College in Lewiston, Maine to further her athletic and academic careers. Life in the NESCAC seems perfectly suited for this high achieving, goal driven, student athlete who has set an amitious path for being an attorney.
Many talk about physical talent being the driver of success for volleyball. Alyssa has the size and athletic ability, no doubt. But a difference maker for her is the mental toughness that is the trait of winners. An attitude that will help her far beyond her volleyball playing days. Alyssa may not have received the accolades of the girls with all the power stats in recent years. But we want to celebrate her here as a leader, teammate, and key element to IHA’s monsterous achievements these past three years. And we look forward to see her impact during her senior season on the road to 14.
Here is our interview with Ms. Lowther…
Tell us a bit about yourself, Alyssa?
Hello, I’m Alyssa Lowther and a senior at Immaculate Heart Academy. I recently moved to Wyckoff, NJ, where I live with my mom and dad. I am the youngest of three children. I have an older brother, Michael and an older sister, Lauren.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
This year is my fifth year playing volleyball. I started playing in the eighth grade. I had played basketball up to that point which I liked as well. I had been intrigued by volleyball and ultimately decided to try out for Club volleyball. I made the DIGS team and immediately fell in love with the sport. I played basketball and volleyball together for a little bit and then decided to dedicate all of my time to continue developing in volleyball. I am an extremely competitive person and I love the way volleyball makes me feel. There are so many different aspects of the game. It really helps to develop a variety of skills. You are constantly learning and improving.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?
I am a 6 foot Middle/Opposite Hitter. My entire club career has been played with DIGS. My favorite position is middle because it allows you the opportunity to be involved in almost every play. Whether it’s blocking or getting a kill, it is all so exciting. Middle Hitter provides you with the opportunity to be a game changer and that really motivates me.
Will your Immaculate high school team keep the winning streak going for the 14th year in a row for the upcoming season? Do you have a lot of returning players? What will be the key to success?
2020 has been an interesting and challenging year for everyone. Given we are going to have an unconventional season beginning in March, it will be interesting to see how things develop. I am always confident in the IHA team and our ability to succeed. I expect this year to be no different. We have so many talented players and coaches. The team dynamics and culture are very strong and continues to be our winning ingredient.
Tell us about your IHA teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
I can’t say enough about the IHA Volleyball program. It is a special family. I didn’t know anyone coming into IHA. I made the varsity team as a freshman and was a starter. This helped my transition quite a bit. I have made all of my close friends through the IHA volleyball program. We have so many secret weapons and new girls are always developing and quickly become part of our winning culture. I do expect Olivia Coughlin, Gianna Grigaliunas and Brookelyn Talmadge to have a meaningful impact on this upcoming season.
NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. Can you tell us why you chose Bates as your college choice for academics and athletics starting in 2021?
As mentioned earlier, I love volleyball and very fortunate I am able to continue playing at the collegiate level. However, it was even more important for me to select a college that would provide me with a strong academic foundation to best prepare me in achieving my life goals. I am so excited about going to Bates. Coach DeRan and Coach Emenaker were so wonderful throughout the process. With their help, I had the opportunity to see what Bates had to offer from both an academics and athletic perspective. The NESCAC conference is everything I was looking for. As soon as I set foot on campus, I knew Bates was the one. It just felt like home.
Tell us about your high school coach Maria Nolan?
I have learned a lot from Coach Nolan. She does a great job pulling the team together and making it special to play volleyball at IHA. I’m grateful for everything both she and Coach Ed Jedziniak have done for me over the last four years. Coach Nolan’s accomplishments are remarkable. It is truly special for my teammates and I to play for a legendary coach.
As a senior, it’s your turn to shine for IHA. Do you expect to assume the starting opposite role for this year’s squad with Olivia Coughlin taking on full-time setter responsibilities?
First, it’s so hard to believe I’m already at my IHA senior season. These past four years have flown by. I have played both middle and opposite during my time at IHA. I’m really excited about the season and the potential it holds for us. I look forward to playing wherever my Coach and team needs me most to lock in another winning season for the IHA Eagles.
Tell us about your club experience at DIGS.
I cannot say enough good things about DIGS and my experience there. It was always natural to go from my IHA season to DIGS. I loved playing with most of my IHA friends but also to meet many other talented girls in the area to expand my friendship circle with such amazing people. Coach Bill Lee has been there helping me to develop from the very beginning. He is so invested in the program and the players. He helped me to develop both on and off the court. I appreciate all that he did for me. All of the coaches are really great. A special shout out to Coach DeLoid who helped me become a better volleyball player but also an advocate in my college search.
Who is your support group?
My support group is of course my family. My mom and dad have supported me through all of my decisions and provided me with these amazing opportunities I have today. I am beyond grateful for them both. My dad never missed a single game and was always there with the GoPro, reviewing games, and making sure I could send film to colleges. He remains my #1 Fan. My mom is where I get my competitive spirit from and has encouraged me to develop into a confident, strong young woman.
My sister is my supporter, always cheering me on and encouraging me to be the best I can be. My brother has always pushed me to do better and knew what I was capable of. He had a big influence in narrowing down my college search as he wants the best for me. One other person I would like to mention is my grandfather. If my parents were not available, Pop always jumped in to help. He is the reason I made it to every practice on time and had a ride home from school. It was always nice to look up at my IHA games and see him there waiting for the game to start. I’m so very blessed to have an amazing family and support system.
What is your favorite volleyball story?
To be honest, I feel like I have so many. The one in particular that resonates with me would be playing for the GEVA High Performance team. I really loved that experience and the opportunity to play against so many talented, international players.
What do you plan to study in college or what is your career path?
In college, l plan to study political science and economics. I’m looking to pursue law. Bates has a great program so I’m really excited about how this education will help set me up for success.
What is your favorite inspirational video or song that you like to watch or listen to before games?
At IHA, we develop a playlist that we use before games to help get us mentally prepared to win. It has been our tradition to enter our gym with the song, “Bring Em Out”. That song will forever bring a smile to my face.