August 19, 2021 – By NJP

Over the past decade, Demarest Girl’s high school volleyball has been one of the most successful programs in the state. Under Head Coach Beth Powell, the team is a perennial leader in the Big North as well as a major player come state playoff time. In fact, Demarest is one of the top 5 most winningest programs in the history of girls’ volleyball in New Jersey. It’s a long tradition of some of the best volleyball at the high school level, and this year will be no different.

Three years ago, a young student athlete named Olivia Cammalleri made the dynamic Demarest team as a freshman. Setter Alicia Iafrate was completing her senior year, obliterating the 1,000 assist career mark and leading her team to a state championship and Tournament of Champions tournament win before being eliminated in the final game to Immaculate Heart. Coach Powell had a choice of six individuals to step up at the setter role for the new season. She chose rising sophomore Olivia to take the reins of the offense.

For Olivia, it was an intimidating prospect. Especially considering the prestige and success of the Demarest program. But she was instilled with confidence from Coach Powell who saw her potential. And Cammalleri did not disappoint as she led the Norsemen to another Group 2 state championship finishing 21-5. Olivia posted over 300 assists, 35 aces, and almost 200 digs in her first campaign as a varsity starter. Pretty spectacular.

That momentum carried over to the short Spring season in 2021. Olivia’s junior campaign was equally impressive as she tallied almost 300 assists once again, while brilliantly distributing her offense across multiple weapons on the attack. The result was a 14-2 record and a trip to the North 1, Group 2 Sectional championship where they were outgunned by NJP player of the year MacKenzie Wiggins and the Sparta Spartans.

For this Fall, Demarest is ranked #2 in the NJP preseason analysis. And we expect Olivia to once again anchor one of the most potent offenses in the state. With Immaculate Heart and Northern Highlands also in the Big North, it’s not going to be easy. As well as some fierce competition expected from rising teams Ridgewood and River Dell. But we get the sense that Olivia and Demarest will have as good a chance as any to be right back in a tournament of champions finale.

Here is our interview with Ms. Cammalleri…

Hello Olivia? Thanks for joining the NJP player interview club. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? (What school do you attend, what town do you live in? What year are you graduating? Tell us about your family? etc.)

Hello!! My name is Olivia Cammalleri. I go to NVD High school and will be a senior this coming year. I live in a small town called Haworth with my Mom, Dad, sister Gabi, and brother Robbie. My brother is the oldest and my sister is the middle child making me the youngest. I’ve grown up super family-oriented because of how large my extended family is on both my mom and dad’s side. I feel very blessed to have so many cousins, aunts, uncles, etc., and such a great support system in my life. I also have created so many lifelong friendships during my time playing club, high school volleyball, and off the court that I am so grateful for.

How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?

 I have been playing competitive volleyball since 7th grade, starting on my club team Pinnacle, although I first became interested in the sport while playing on my middle school team. There was a volleyball team for grades 5-8 that would play other schools and practice every day. I first did it only because I didn’t want to play on the middle school soccer team and needed an excuse for my parents but I fell in love with the sport immediately. I had been playing sports since I was very young and I was a very talented goalie at the time so diving and making digging saves came pretty naturally to me. 

What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What is your favorite position to play?

I am 5’9 with a standing reach of 7’3 and a vertical jump of 18.5’. I am mainly a 6 rotational setter on my team but enjoy playing defense as well when I get the opportunity to. In the past, I have played for Pinnacle and SOS at an open club level. My favorite position to play is definitely setter because I enjoy working with the hitters and getting the perfect set-kill combo.

Tell us about your Norseman teammates. Who do you expect to be this year’s standout players in the Fall?

It’s hard to explain how much Demarest Volleyball means to me and my teammates. It’s more like a family and a support system that you learn to trust. The lessons we learn from our amazing coach Beth Powell are the fundamentals that we use to win State Championships and why the program she has created is so successful. From my freshman year to now I have never had a bad experience with a team. Coming in as a newbie on a varsity team is very scary, especially since the team was so senior-heavy my freshman year, but every one of them was so welcoming and took the underclasses and new varsity members under their wing. My sophomore year was no different and each year I became closer and closer to my teammates. This season is especially exciting and not only because I am a senior but because I am taking on this huge role with the people with who I started my journey in this program. They have all become incredibly talented players that I see huge futures for. I am amazed at how all of them have grown as not only players but people. Off the court, they have become some of my closets friends and are ones that I can trust the most and know will always have my back.  

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 am interested in studying business and specifically marketing/finance. Volleyball has been a very important part of my life and has given me much joy. It has been influential in my development as a teammate and person. I would love to pursue volleyball beyond high school at a university that is a fit for my academic and future goals. 

You finished 9th in all of NJ with 274 assists and had more assists than any other player in your junior class. What are your goals for your senior season?

My number one goal for myself this season is to get 1000 assists. After having a shortened season last year, it was definitely a setback in this goal but my team was so fortunate enough to be able to play every game without a COVID scare. I also want to make sure that I bring my all to every game and continue to play without fear. Since this is sadly my last high school volleyball season, and last season with this amazing program I want to make sure I have no regrets and played every game to the fullest of my abilities no matter who is on the other side of the court.

Denise Pak, Gretchen Haray, Olivia, and Niki Woods celebrate the NVD State Championship

You quarterbacked Demarest to the Tournament of Champions as a sophomore and had an equally impressive Spring season as a junior with a 14-2 record and a sectional final appearance. What is the best part of being a setter?

My favorite part of being a setter is the connection you make with each teammate. Being the position that almost always touches the ball each rally, you must have a good relationship with each hitter and passer. Sometimes it is frustrating when it seems you can’t get that right set or work out the timing correctly, but when you finally get that perfect pass, set, and kill it feels amazing. I thrive off setting up the perfect ball for my teammate to smack down that gets the whole team and crowd out of their seats. Being a part of amazing plays like that makes the position so rewarding.

You are quite an outstanding lacrosse player, scoring 22 goals in addition to 10 assists for Demarest. Which sport is your passion?

I love lacrosse and enjoy playing with all my teammates and working with my amazing Coach. Being primarily a midfielder it’s a great out-of-season fitness while still being very competitive. I have always played many sports and being a multipart athlete in HS has been a great experience. Although lacrosse is a big part of my life, volleyball is more of a passion for me. 

Is there an athlete that you look up to as a role model and why?

The obvious answer may be a superstar professional athlete, but I think for me it has been my older brother and sister. Both were multipart athletes in HS with very successful careers. They are role models in not just their talent but in their leadership roles and work ethic. Their experience in HS sports has played a big role in how successful they are today. 

Denise Pak and Olivia

Tell us about the coaches or mentors that have positively influenced your volleyball career

Not everyone gets a chance to play with and learn from such an amazing coach like Coach Powell. Beth brought me up as a freshman at tryouts to play a brand-new position to me (setter) on Demarest’s blue blood varsity team. I was extremely nervous to take on this position but the fact that a coach with her credentials believed in me made me work harder and become the setter I am today. Without her, I would have never discovered my passion for this position. Off the court, she is such an inspiring person to learn about through her past experiences. She is the reason I was able to be a part of two back-to-back State Championship winning teams. 

What mental tool do you use under pressure?

In my HS Volleyball career, I have been in so many high-pressure situations in games that could make or break the season. In order to stay focused on my physical and mental game, whenever I am under pressure, I like to take my time and remind myself how much I believe in my own play and my teammate’s play. Whether it’s taking a breath before my serve or looking towards a teammate and telling them “I believe in you”, I am able to stabilize my emotions and adrenaline in order to play to my highest potential.

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