February 9, 2021 – By NJP
It’s always heartwarming to see students with a clear path and direction for their future as well as the will and determination to get there. Whether on the court playing the game or pursuing her passion for helping people and willingness to enter the medical profession, Alyssa Baron has a plan.
Alyssa started her high school career at Gloucester County Institute of Technology and made a huge splash in her first varsity season with 64 kills, 41 blocks, and 27 aces. She transfered to Washington Township for her junior year and put up similar numbers for the Minutemaids despite missing half the season due to transfer rules.
Navigating the Olympic Conference American Division is always a challenge with some of South Jersey’s top talent represented. Williamstown and Cherry Hill East are both projected as top 20 teams in NJ and Cherokee is not too far behind. Washington Township is prepared to dig in though and build on their 12-12 record from last year.
Alyssa has chosen to further her athletic career at the collegiate level and will be joining a brand new program in North Jersey at Drew University. For Alyssa, it was a sweet combination and perfect fit as she can start a winning tradition on the court while building toward her future with a top academic program. Life in the “Forest” on a pristine campus is easy to fall in love with and will provide a great environment for Alyssa to achieve her dreams.
Baron has a great volleyball frame. Slim, athletic, and solid height at 5’10”. She has a quick release on her kills and is a powerful blocker with strong jumping capabilities and solid protective instincts on the net. She is sure to continue to develop under Alyssa Broccoli at Drew and we expect big things from this East Coast Crush club player during her college career.
Here is our interview with Ms. Baron…
Tell us a bit about yourself, Alyssa?
I’m a senior at Washington Township High School in Sewell, New Jersey, graduating in the class of 2021. People who know me describe me as motivated, hardworking, and kind. I enjoy spending time with my friends and family, and value those close relationships in my life. My family is very supportive and loves to watch me succeed.
Outside of being a student athlete, I enjoy traveling and taking photos. I am proud to call myself a dedicated and accomplished student athlete, as I participate in not only club, but high school volleyball, as well. I have high expectations for myself and like to get pushed beyond my personal standards both academically and on the court. My career aspirations include majoring in biology, the subject I am most passionate about, and pursuing a career in the medical field.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I have been playing volleyball for five years now. My older sister inspired me to take up the sport, as she played both club and high school volleyball. I spent a lot of time watching her games on the bleachers and sitting beside her club team at tournaments. We even traveled together for the same tournaments when we both played for the same club. Eventually, when I was a sophomore on varsity at my former school and she was a senior, we were up against each other on opposite sides of the net. We are both middle blockers, so we had a lot of opportunities to directly compete with each other. I recall one game when our schools versed, I repeatedly blocked her attacks. Seeing us play back and forth made my parents laugh in footage. However, my sister constantly gives me tips and advice to help me grow in all aspects, even beyond volleyball.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?
I’m 5’10” and my jump touch vertical is at 9’8”. I played for Eastern Volleyball Academy my first two years and then East Coast Crush for the remainder of my club seasons. I have played as both an outside hitter and middle, however, my primary position is middle blocker. It is where I feel most comfortable on the court, and I love the feeling of a stuffed block on my hands as the sound echoes throughout the gym, followed by loud cheers.
Tell us about your Washington Township teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
My teammates at Washington Township were very welcoming. Coming in as a transfer, I didn’t expect to fit right in with the rest of the girls on the preestablished team. For two years, I versed Washington Township at scrimmages, games, and tournaments. I was their competitor on the other side of the net. Although, from afar, I’ve always admired their cohesiveness, energy, and immense effort. This season I anticipate lots of hard work and focus. We have a number of seniors, and given the unexpected circumstances, we are reminded that nothing is guaranteed, like having the chance to play. When deprived of a passion, it makes you take things more seriously. Luckily, we are expected to have an upcoming season. Even though it’ll be short, I can speak for us all when I say that the court is greatly missed and we are all dying to get back out there.
NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. Can you tell us why you made Drew your college choice for academics and athletics starting in 2021?
I chose Drew University because it seemed to check off each box individualized to fit my criteria for an ideal college. One aspect that sold me was the amazing volleyball coach, Alyssa Broccoli. She has high goals and aspirations for the program, while being simultaneously invested in her players and their character, beyond just being athletes. We connected instantaneously, and it was evident that she genuinely wished to build a lasting relationship with each of her players. In addition, the opportunity to take part in an inaugural program was another captivating piece for me, because of its great room for potential. In terms of studies, I value academics and have always held it in high regards. With a rigorous course load, such as biology, I knew I couldn’t sacrifice one for the other, between academics or athletics. Since Drew is a DIII school and plays at a highly competitive level, I will have the means to better balance my priorities. The area and campus is also absolutely beautiful, and the distance from New York City is very convenient.
I took every chance I got to visit campus whenever Coach Broccoli invited me to help out with new recruits. Additionally, the endless career advantages proved to be further enticing, drawing me in even more. The Launch internship program and other countless opportunities enable you to advance your career and establish connections well beyond anyone else in the game. The ways to get involved are limitless. Finally, the school also has a strong communal sense that is particularly supportive of athletics, as the majority of the student body is composed student athletes. I could really picture myself at Drew for the next four years and the atmosphere truly felt like home.
What do you plan to study in college or what is your career path?
At Drew, I’m interested in studying biology, the subject I am most passionate about. I find it fascinating how everything appears to make sense and how there is an explanation for the world around us, as things are credited to a specific reason. Additionally, I intend on pursuing the premed track as I aspire to become a doctor, particularly an OBGYN.
Tell us about your club experience.
Eastern Volleyball Academy was centered around family. The girls truly made the team and playing fun and worthwhile. EVA was where I learned the fundamentals of volleyball and where I credit everything I know about the sport. I’ll never forget how collectively successful my teams were, expecting to place at tournaments and walking away with medals. At East Coast Crush, I got technical refinement, fierce competition, and exposure to collegiate level volleyball. It was here where I learned how to better my skills, expand my knowledge on the strategical plays, and become smarter about the game. ECC further developed me, and shaped me into the athlete I am today, emphasizing areas such as performing under pressure, discipline, and mental toughness.
You had a solid sophomore season at GCIT helping them achieve a 14-0 start to the season, a 24-9 record, and a Gloucester County semi final appearance in the year end tournament. What made you decide to move over to Washington Township for your junior and senior years?
My sophomore season at GCIT was one of the most memorable times in my high school career. Being so young and pulled up to varsity was quite an experience. To this day, I still can’t believe I held a starting position on varsity as a sophomore. At first, I felt intimidated, being an underclassman playing in a team consisting of a majority of seniors. Whenever I messed up or felt overwhelmed, I would think that my coach, Chris Retzbach, had made a mistake putting me on varsity. But he saw something in me and made me realize my true potential, saying things like “big game today, Lyss,” or “be awesome”, giving me the reassurance that I needed before stepping foot on the court.
It was during that season of winning game after game on a consecutive streak where I realized my passion for volleyball, and that I could take this sport to the next level. The connection between the girls that year was so strong that it visibly reflected in our solid performance. Leaving GCIT was hard; one of the most difficult decisions I ever made. But my overall happiness at that school was superficial and my mental health began to deteriorate. At the start of my junior year I transferred to Washington Township. I traded my navy blue jersey for a red one. There, I was surrounded by close friends and genuine teachers in a close-knit environment that proved to be a better fit for me. My high school experience significantly was altered for the better. I found my new team was anything but unwelcoming. And my old school was nothing but understanding. It seemed as though everywhere I went the people around me always wanted the best for me. And they supported and rooted for me, unconditionally. This applies to my family, friends, coaches, and everyone at both GCIT and TWP.
Who is your support group?
My support group consists of my Mom, Dad, sister, family, and close friends. They are constantly there for me and always do things for my best interest, without hesitation. They do their best to never miss a game, and never fail to commend me after playing. I am thankful for the encouragement I get and can’t wait to continue to have their support at Drew.
What is your favorite inspirational video or song that you like to watch or listen to before games?
The summer before sophomore year I took preparation for tryouts very seriously during preseason. I created a playlist consisting of some of my favorite upbeat songs in efforts to relieve some of the stress and get the nerves out before performing on the court. Some songs include “Confident” by Demi Lovato and “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. My favorite is “Everytime We Touch” by Cascada because it’s an old throwback that all the girls would scream the words to on the bus rides. Whenever one song ends, I can hear the intro before the next song even begins to play, out of pure memory. I still listen to the playlist today, entitled “Pre Game Playlist”, that gets me motivated and feeling pumped each time.
What are your other hobbies or interests?
When I’m not on the court or studying, I enjoy traveling, photography, and spending time with my friends. I also run Track and Field, which earned me the New Heights Award and varsity letters. Lastly, I grew up singing and baking, both activities I still do in my spare time.
Who is your favorite college or pro volleyball player and why?
My favorite college volleyball player has to be Victoria Garrick from USC. Not only is she a phenomenal athlete, whose hard work allowed her coaches to change their perspectives on her, but she also advocates for mental health and body positivity. Student athletes especially find themselves in unhealthy mindsets, as they always aim to please others and live up to expectations and competition. Victoria Garrick’s work promotes awareness, positivity, and recognition through many platforms geared towards young student athletes.
Is there a teacher or coach who really helped you along the way?
My biology teacher, Ms. Angela Cardamone, immediately comes to mind when I think of a teacher who has helped me the most. Last year, I was a student in her Honors Biology class and found myself being the only junior in a class full of freshmen, due to transferring schools. It was a challenging experience as the maturity levels were noticeably different. However, Ms. Cardamone made going to class enjoyable each day, having after school conversations with me and listening to whatever I had going on. She was and still is always there for me and listens to all my issues, no matter how small. She is the sweetest human being, often sending motivational messages or giving me sincere compliments to brighten up my day. Ms. Cardamone recognized how driven I was and my potential within the classroom, even when I had my own doubts about my abilities and my future. I appreciate all the countless laughs and heartful pieces of advice from her. Even outside of biology, she would offer me help in my other science classes and even sat in the stands to show support at some of my volleyball games. The impact she has left on me has changed my life for the better and I wouldn’t know what I would do without her. I’m very fortunate to have her again for the second year in a row in AP Biology, and can tell she will continue to be a lasting mentor throughout my life.