August 2, 2021 – By NJP (Cover photo courtesy Scott Faytok)
The Paul VI Eagles are coming off an outstanding Spring campaign that saw them finish 11-2 and earned a South Non-Public A Sectional title. The Eagles slot in with a top 25 ranking for NJP’s preseason report, out of well over 300 NJ high school teams.
Zharia Harris-Waddy was a sophomore on last year’s spring team and made a solid contribution toward the team’s success. The 6’1″ middle is agile, physical, and packs a wallop on her swing, whether from the middle position, or the right side.
As Zharia continues to mature, she is set up for two impactful campaigns as a junior and senior. The sky is the limit for this junior who can be absolutely dominate with her middle hits as well as her middle blocks. She has great anticipation at the net when blocking and the wingspan and vertical to shutdown attacks, especially from outsides of lesser height.
Harris-Waddy has been a regular at Jersey Juniors (formerly Cherry Hill Vollyball Club) and has experienced numerous visits to Nationals at the club level, exposing her to playing with some of the top talent in the country. NJP expects her to have an absolute breakout season this fall.
Here is our interview with Ms. Harris-Waddy…
How are you, Zharia? Thanks for joining the NJP player interview club. Tell us a bit about yourself? (What school do you attend, what town do you live? What year are you graduating? Tell us about your family? etc.)
Hi NJP, my name is Zharia Harris-Waddy and I am a 2023 middle blocker going into my junior year at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield, NJ. I was born and raised in Lawnside, NJ and I currently live here with my mother and grandparents.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I began playing volleyball in fourth grade. I actually used to be a dancer but then one day my elementary school sent home a flyer for the volleyball team and I was instantly intrigued. That summer, I began practicing with my elementary through middle school coach, Shannon Hummel, and I soon fell in love with the sport.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What is your favorite position to play?
I am a 6’1” middle blocker. My vertical is 30 inches, and my attack jump is 10’1”. I play for Jersey Juniors Volleyball Club (originally CHVBC). My 12U team was actually the first team in South Jersey history to qualify for USAV Nationals. My favorite position is middle because I like having the opportunity to get quick points throughout matches.
Tell us about your Eagle teammates. Who do you expect to be this year’s standout players in the Fall?
My Eagle teammates are like family to me. We bring out the best in each other, and lift each other up on our good and bad days. At Paul VI, we have a strong team dynamic and can hold teammates and ourselves accountable to the commitment we made to our team. We set goals for our season, and make it a point to achieve them. This season, I expect our other middle blocker, Ogonna Ngene, to have a standout season, as well as our only senior, outside hitter, Sadie Arasim. I have faith in my team that we can achieve not only what we achieved last year, but more.
NJP considers you as one of the top 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 do plan on playing at the collegiate level, and at the same time remain focused on my academics. As a student athlete, I have to maintain strong skills on and off the court, which includes keeping good grades. In college, I plan to study biology so I can eventually find a career in sports medicine. I have been communicating with some colleges, and I hope to eventually continue my academic and athletic career in a division one program.
What an outstanding year at varsity you had this Spring as a sophomore. You were superb in the middle with both kills and blocks. What are your goals for your remaining two years at Paul VI?
In my remaining two years at Paul VI, I hope to win our conference, section, and eventually states. I believe that we have the talent and grit to win a state championship. After being first team All-Conference and first team All-South Jersey this past year, I hope to be on the state team this year as well as my senior year.
How has Cherry Hill VBC helped you with your high school and overall volleyball career?
Cherry Hill Volleyball Club has shaped me into the player I am today. My coaches always provide me with opportunities to improve my game. I appreciate my club director, club coaches, and high school coach for assisting me a lot throughout the recruiting process.
Tell us about your club tournament experience this Spring?
My club team had an amazing spring season. We are one of the top teams in the region, and we qualified to play in the 2021 USAV Girls Junior Nationals for the fourth time this year. Playing in Las Vegas with some of the top teams in the country was a great experience. I love to compete, playing at that high level really helps improve my skills. Although some things were different due to the pandemic I’m definitely happy with the way we finished our season.
Tell us about your run for the South Non-Public A Sectional championship?
Our sectional run was definitely my favorite part of the 2020-2021 high school season. We were seeded sixth in our section with St. John Vianney being the number one seed. As a very physical team, we use our size and athleticism to take advantage of our opponents. In the sectional finals, we beat St. John Vianney in a two set victory. Winning our section was our goal since the beginning of our season- it was great to end the season with that title.
Is there an athlete that you look up to as a role model and why?
My favorite athlete would definitely have to be Naomi Osaka. It’s inspiring to see someone in her position as an athlete using their platform to speak up about social issues relating to mental health, gender equality, and racism that are all directly affecting communities.
What is your favorite inspirational video or music that you like to watch or listen to before games?
My game day playlist consists of a lot of Gunna and Drake songs.
What one word describes you best?
Multifaceted: I’m complex with many pieces that come together to make me.
What is your favorite place to compete?
My favorite place to play is our home gym at Paul VI. I’m looking forward to hopefully having fans in the stands this season.
What are your favorite team memories?
Some of my favorite team memories include traveling to away games, wing nights, eating Chick-fil-A before games, and getting ice cream after away matches.
What are your other hobbies or interests?
Outside of volleyball some of my favorite hobbies are fishing, baking chocolate chip cookies, going to the beach, collecting sneakers, watching On My Block on Netflix, and making homemade pizza.