August 21, 2021 – By NJP
Verona is coming off an outstanding Spring short season, winning the North Section 2, Group 1, sectional title and finishing 13-2. Verona finished just outside the top 30 in NJP’s final Spring rankings, avenged both losses, and finished ahead in the rankings of every team on their schedule.
Verona remains a young team, loses five seniors to graduation, and has just one returning junior from the varsity squad last season. But they have four varsity starters that were underclassman this spring that were all standout players. Their sophomore middle Sydney Aiello was one of those underclassmen that stepped up and had a major presence for the Hillbillies.
Aiello took charge of the middle for Verona this Spring. She blasted 54 kills while leading the team in blocks with nine. She also contributed on the service line with 15 aces and showed her versality and all-around play with 34 digs. Aiello is close to six foot tall and brings a big presence to the front row on the attack and on the block.
We interview a lot of volleyball players at NJP. We get a strong sense from our interactions with Sydney that her passion for the game is instilled by the people around her who have taken the time to help her in her journey. Whether it’s Kelly and Carly Waterman, her neighbors who lead by example, Nittany Lion Jonni Parker who left an impression at a Penn State camp, or her Coaches, Ryan Brown at Verona or Jeff Gogates at Sideout Sports, she absorbs their direction and teachings while being inspired to move forward at the game she loves. We often see these types of players return that favor and become great leaders as well. And we look forward to seeing her leadership over the next two seasons at Verona.
Here is our interview with Ms. Aiello…
Thanks for joining the NJP player interview club, Sydney. Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Sydney Aiello. I’m a junior at Verona High School, and I am graduating in the year 2023. I am a middle hitter on my varsity volleyball team, and I have played on it since my freshman year. I live in Verona, New Jersey with my twin brother and my mother and father.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I started playing volleyball when I was twelve years old on my town’s middle school team in seventh grade. This is also around the time when I started playing volleyball at Sideout Sports. What inspired me to take up volleyball initially was watching my neighbors play volleyball outside my house every day and seeing how much they loved the sport. They now both play volleyball at Montclair State University.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What is your favorite position to play?
I am 5’11 and I play middle hitter as my position for my high school team. I play both middle and right side for Sideout Sports. My favorite position to play is middle because of how many different plays I can run, and how I am able to see everything happening on the court. I also love blocking out of the middle and being able to work with other front row players to help set up the best block possible.
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?
While I love playing volleyball, I do not plan on playing at the college level. I have decided to focus a lot on my academics in college. My plans keep changing for what I want to study, however right now I am interested in studying psychiatry in college.
You had a great sophomore campaign during the spring short season, especially for your class year, slamming 54 kills and 15 aces while putting up 9 blocks and 34 digs defensively. What are your goals for your junior and senior seasons?
My goals for my junior and senior season are to continuously improve as a player, and to make a good contribution to my team. If improved stats come along with that, then that would be great.
Tell us about Verona’s road to the North Jersey Section 2, Group 1 Sectional title…
We were so lucky to have a very strong group of seniors last year, along with our amazing coach, Ryan Brown. With the pandemic restrictions, it definitely created a tough season, however we were able to remain positive and come together as a team. We really tried to focus on doing well in serve receive so that we could run a fast offence on our side. We also worked really closely with our setters to be able to run efficient plays.
Is there an athlete that you look up to as a role model and why?
I look up to Penn State volleyball player Jonni Parker because she is so knowledgeable in the fundamentals of her own position and knows everything that is happening on the court. When I started playing right side on my club team, I really analyzed how she played because I think that she is a great player to learn something from. I attended a Penn State volleyball camp three years ago, and it was a really amazing experience to be able to watch her up close to learn from her.
Tell us about the coaches or mentors that have positively influenced your volleyball career…
I have been lucky to have two really strong coaches so far. Coach Ryan Brown (VHS) and Coach Jeff Gogates (SOS) have given me so much knowledge about the sport. They have also helped to build my confidence and have taught me all of the fundamentals about volleyball. Most importantly, they have taught me how important it is to be a good teammate, and that a volleyball game is not won by one person. Informally, both Carly and Kelly Waterman have been true role models and mentors to me as players on the court.
Do you think attitude is a factor in winning?
I think that attitude 100% plays a huge role in winning. If you don’t have the right attitude on the court, it impacts your individual play and brings down the morale of the whole team.
What is your favorite place to compete?
My favorite place to compete at is the Capital Hill tournament in Washington D.C. There are so many teams there from so many places- it is always exciting when you first enter and see all of those courts set up!