February 26, 2021 – By NJP
Most successful teams have a special leader that drives the passion and energy level for its team. They typically hold the drive and determination to raise the level of play of team members around them. And the never die attitude that can will their team to victories. Josh Ledesma brings this contagious spirit to his teammates at Passaic High School as well as his club teammates at GSE.
Josh is the PSEG of his team. He provides the energy that his team feeds off of in a game so often controlled by momentum shifts and swings. His determination is driven by his will to succeed. His take no prisoners attitude is his hallmark.
Ledesma is versatile and athletic. He is a strong jumper and loves playing outside where he can contribute in all six rotations. He has solid technique and hits with high velocity. Josh has played middle as well due to his jumping ability and can put up a formidable block.
Passaic has really come up on the last two campaigns with Head Coach Omar Munoz bringing a new standard to Passaic volleyball. They have a record of 39-9 in the last seasons and have begun to be a force to be reckoned with in the Big North and in Passaic County.
NJP has Passaic as a top 40 team, just outside the top 25. Their 19 rating means they can compete with all of the top teams and have the ability to knock off any top team on any given day. Remembering of course that this year’s pre-season ratings are somewhat of a shot in the dark after last years cancelled season.
Ledesma will be the anchor and leader on the Passaic squad. He wants to be able to hit the ground running and continue at the collegiate level so his senior season will be his chance to show off his abilities while driving his high school team to the County finals.
Here is our interview with Josh Ledesma…
Tell us a bit about yourself, Josh?
Hey! My name is Josh Alejandro Ledesma. I go to Passaic high school in Passaic, New Jersey. I graduate in June of 2021. I have 6 amazing siblings (Oldest-youngest) Jonathan, Hender, Robert, Joel, Johana, and Jada. I am also getting my little 15-year-old brother Joel into volleyball as well. He has an astounding 35-inch vertical leap, so I know he will follow in my footsteps! Joel and I play at Garden State Elite volleyball club so I’m just teaching him my good ways on how to get better. I also show him what attitude to keep on and off the court, what commitment means, and how to be a leader. I talk to him about all the mistakes I made in the past and present, so he doesn’t make them in the future. It’s an indescribable feeling to have a little brother look up to you. not only when he’s upset at something, but when he needs help with volleyball or school or anything. I love how he knows I’ll always be there for him on and off the court.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
So, my first time I played volleyball was in 7th grade. I did it for fun, but we didn’t get too deep because it was a middle school team and most middle schools at the time didn’t have boys’ volleyball. My freshman year after basketball season, I wanted to jump higher for next season so I did volleyball in the spring. When I finished that season, I knew I was going to love this sport way more than basketball so after my freshman season I just started grinding. Passaic high school had a volleyball summer camp in 2018 so I did that all summer from 8 am to 1:30 pm Monday to Friday. I would take a break for like 2 hours and go play basketball till dark. The only days I would rest would be the weekends. I started my sophomore year. That was the year I started playing For Garden State Elite Volleyball Club!
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?
I am currently 5’11 with a standing reach of 7’7, a block touch of 10’3 (30 inch standing vertical) and 10’7 approach (36-inch vertical). I am an Outside hitter and lately I’ve been enjoying passing. I’ve played middle blocker, right-side, and defensive specialist, but my favorite position is outside hitter because I get to did everything. I get to block, hit, pass, set out of system and my favorite, serve, preferably jump serve.
Tell us about your Passaic teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
I know four players that have been putting in the work during the off-season. Jairon Medina, Randy Saenz, Allan Santos, and Huriel Pérez. I know Jairon couldn’t do Club this year, but he has been grinding going to open gyms and working out. Randy is a sophomore, also playing at GSEVC, and Allan and Huriel (seniors) are also playing at GSEVC. I feel like this year will be the year Passaic wins a county Championship.
NJP considers you as one of the top high school players in the state. Do you plan on playing in College? (If so, which ones are you looking at?) What do you plan to study in college or what is your career path?
I am committing to Rutgers-Newark. They have an amazing D3 volleyball program, they are ranked top 5 in the country, and although the campus is not that big, it’s perfect for me. They also have one of the best business programs and I’ve always been interested in investment banking. I see myself on the trading floor in a few years, buying and selling financial instruments alongside other bankers.
Tell us about your club volleyball experience at GSE.
I played at Garden State Elite Volleyball Club for 3 years. Sophomore year, I didn’t have the money to be a full-time player so I was a practice player. I practiced with the team and got better for my sophomore season. Junior year. I was a full-time player and let me tell you that year was the best year ever. We played at Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and in Massachusetts and all of the tournaments were amazing. I had a great time with my old team last year. I have so many great memories. Practice at GSEVC is great. I love it. It’s like cause and effect, the way you play today affects tomorrow’s practice plan during drills. If we do them with a sense of urgency and with energy the next day, we would have much less conditioning and more game play drills like 6v6 or hitters verse defenders, etc. and I absolutely love it. What I love about when we play 6v6 is the loser has to do conditioning after so that gives us motivation to win so most of the games are close and it’s an amazing feeling. I don’t know what kind of player I would be if it wasn’t for GSEVC.
There was a major milestone in the 2017-18 season when Passaic became a strong, winning program in the Big North. The addition of Coach Omar Munoz was certainly a reason for the turnaround as well as having George Sanchez as a player on the team. How did these individuals affect your volleyball career?
George affected me in a positive way. He showed me that it’s kill or be killed. You gotta give 1000%, fear nobody, and never fall under pressure. Lucky for me, I work well under pressure. I feel like if he saw me now, he would be proud of the player I have become and I thank him for that.
Who inspires you?
When I started playing volleyball during freshman year, anyone that was better than me at the time inspired me. I was determined to be the best. I don’t care about height, even though a few more inches would be nice. Volleyball is a mind game like chess, who can outplay and outhustle who, and I wanted to be the best in the gym. But Colton Cowell’s game play removed all the negative thoughts in my head that told me “I’m not tall enough”. “Everyone else is taller than me” and there is Colton a 6’1 outside hitter playing division one volleyball. Maybe I could have played D1. But Rutgers Newark has caught my attention and has given me an opportunity to play with one of the best D3 teams. They are #5 in the country.
When we watch you play on the court, the word that comes to mind is “Fiery”. You are a passionate spark plug of a player who brings a world of energy to the floor. How big a part does you think emotion plays in a player’s success?
I believe that passion is the key to success. In order for anyone to truly succeed in what they do, they must approach life with determination, diligence, and most importantly, a desire to thrive doing the thing they love. Volleyball is one of those things for me. I could never imagine playing as well as I do if volleyball wasn’t my passion.
Tell us about Passaic Head Coach Omar Munoz?
Coach Munoz is one of the best coaches. He taught me the game of volleyball, how it works, and why it works. He would explain all our drills, and how they improve our craft. He is also one of the people I know I can count on if I need help with anything outside of volleyball. He has been my coach since 7th grade and I couldn’t ask for a better one!
What is your favorite volleyball story?
So, long story short, we were playing our first game at the Boston, Massachusetts tournament last year before the pandemic hit. Our coach got very upset as he felt the Referee made a questionable call against us. It was a very odd circumstance as the next play, I hit the ball of the block and it struck the Ref right in the face. It was unfortunate for him, but it felt like a greater force was taking our side. We ended up winning the game.
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?)
As you know, I play for GSEVC during the off season and I try to get in shape for the next season as best as possible. I go to open gyms with college players. That’s what I’m currently doing at the moment. I have weights at home, I jump rope, and I go for runs etc…
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?
In the beginning, I was really upset and devastated because I trained all junior year and the summer before that so I could get my name known. When COVID came it took it all away. We had an absolute bomb squad. I thought we were going to win states with the 4-5 seniors we had last year. I was pumped. But not everything goes your way, so I just took it as an obstacle I had to overcome and learn from and tried my best to stay in shape.
Who is your favorite college or pro volleyball player and why?
Ervin N’Gapeth, Ivan Zaytsev, and Georg Grozer are all amazing. I know everyone knows N’Gapeth and Zaytsev but Georg Grozer is a beast. He is my favorite volleyball player along with Wilfredo Leon. Their craft and gameplay are amazing.
Is there a teacher or coach who really helped you along the way?
I can’t say that there’s just one person that helped me the most. At GSEVC, even though you have one head coach for your team, every coach taught me something that made me who I am today. Khalid helped me with passing and digging, Carl helped me over all because he was my 18’s team coach, Jordan helped me with blocking, Bill helped me how to be a better attacker and Cody helped me hit straight down and hard. So, I feel like without all there help with the little parts of my craft, I would never be as good as I am now.
What are your other hobbies or interests?
I’m an outdoor person. I love to go to Vermont for 2 or 3 weeks each year with my uncle. We go to the spot called whit rocks in Manchester, Vermont and there’s tall rocks you can jump off and land in a bottomless lake. It’s awesome! I say bottomless because even in the daytime when you look at the water it’s pitch black. So, nobody really knows how deep it is. I am also getting into beach and grass volleyball this year and for more years to come, volleyball 24/7!