March 3, 2021 – NJP

Our new COVID world has sent a destructive shockwave through the New Jersey volleyball community this past year. Season cancellations, delays, quarantines, many new rules and protocols, and a greater question of “Will we ever get back to play the game we love?” has dominated the landscape.

March 1, NJ High School girls have the chance to get back on the court for a mini season in Spring rather than their normal Fall experience. It’s hard to describe the many emotions the players are going through so we thought we would reach out to some of NJ’s best players and see what they wanted to share after their first few days back together as a team.

Simrin Carlsen, a Johns Hopkins University commit and top candidate for NJ HS player of the year, had this to share with us. “After what felt like forever, getting back on the court for my senior season feels amazing! Having the opportunity to compete and resume some sense of normalcy during the pandemic is a blessing, and I couldn’t be more excited.” It certainly has been a long road back. Simrin’s words echoed with many others we talked to.

“Being back on the court with my team feels like a breath of fresh air. Just being able to walk in the gym every day and get to work to become the best team that we can be feels amazing” said Kelle Anwander from TRS. The 6’4″ D1 commit to NJIT continued… “The shorter and delayed season forces me to appreciate every minute that I get to play with my teammates and make the most out of everything. I think this is going to be an amazing season for Toms River South and I can not wait to see how the season goes!”

For these seniors, and many others, the uncertainty around not being able to complete their final season has caused a lot of anxiety.

“I am so excited to get to play my senior season at Hunterdon Central! When we couldn’t play in the fall I was worried I would miss out but now that we’re back I’m excited to get the chance to be with all my school friends on a team again” said Hunterdon Central senior and top level beach player Syd Eckhardt. Syd has already commited to play D1 beach volleyball for Jacksonville University in Florida this Fall. “I think a lot of us were a little worried we wouldn’t get a season so we’re all very eager. and I know a lot of people (like myself) are glad to be able to play volleyball in a COVID safe setting.”

Another beach juggernaut is Kate Stoughton from Brick Memorial. She is just a junior currently, but she committed to play for Long Beach State in California as a sophomore. “It’s great to be with the team and the coaches again. Everyone’s stoked to be back and excited to start the season, no matter how short it is.” Kate also shared how the landscape has changed since the last girl’s season. “Of course it is very different, no fans cheering us on and not a 35-match season, but as a whole we understand that we need to be ready to adapt and overcome any battles we face in the upcoming weeks safely and successfully.”

At the shore, teams and players appear happy to just be back on the floor with their teammates. Lexi Franzyshen from Donavan Catholic told us “Our team is excited to finally be back on our home court and to get to work. With such an immense level of talent in our program, I know that this season will be a success.”

Senior Setter Stephanie Soares from Southern Regional had a similar response. “It’s great to be back on the court with my teammates again, although we have played club leading up to this, playing for Southern is just different. On Monday you could just feel the excitement from everyone and we all were prepared to get to work. So I’m looking forward to this season and what we can accomplish.”

Kenzie Wiggins the D1 commit to Iona from Sparta, NJ also weighed in… “I would say that being back in the school gym after so long is such a rewarding feeling. Having to take such a long break from school season was difficult, but made us want to play and get better even more!” Kenzie has moved up the rankings for potential player of the year honors this spring when Lauren Wilock announced that she will be playing beach volleyball this Spring instead of high school.

And last but not least, we checked in with Alyssa Lowther from Immaculate Heart, the perennial leader in NJ girls high school volleyball. Alyssa shared “After one long year, it is amazing to be back playing the sport I love. I enjoy spending time with my teammates and I am looking forward to a short but successful season.”

New Jersey is so well represented by our female players. Articulate and well-rounded leaders that will use their intelligence, and athletics, to help shape and influence the future in our state and in our country. The adjectives used are inspiring as we start to show off the resilience that the USA is known for… excitement, stoked, amazing, a blessing.

We have a lot to look forward to as high school sports return. With passionate and empowered optimism taking over as the spirit moving forward.

Good luck to all of our NJ HS girls as they carve-out their own special journey over these next two months…

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