August 23, 2021 – By NJP

As Joyce Chen enters her senior season, she will have the opportunity to be the driving force on the JP Stevens offensive charge. She will slot in as the 6-rotation outside and we expect, with a full schedule of games this Fall, that she has an absolute breakout year for the Hawks.

Joyce was outstanding last season for the Hawks. She powered 70 kills, 78 digs, and 19 aces for the shortened Spring season for a JPS team that finished 13-2, won the GMAC tournament title, and went to the sectional semi-final. The GMAC enjoyed the back-and-forth rivalry between JP Stevens and East Brunswick. Both teams only lost to each other during the Spring season and set totals finished at 4 apiece. JPS took the GMAC tournament, but East Brunswick won the Sectional semi-final as well as the Central, Group 4 sectional title.

We expect this year to be no different in the GMAC. Both teams are solidified in the NJP preseason Top 20, and we expect more rivalry games and three set matches. The Bears lose middle Anaya Prince to graduation along with three others and JPS loses all world Simi Carlsen and 3 others as well. The Hawks have 11 varsity players returning and may have more depth than the Bears, but EB has seniors Paige Anania and Hailey Benesz to match up with Joyce Chen and setter Laurel Sarkaria for the Hawks. East Brunswick is #11 and JPS is #20 in the NJP preseason analysis.

Chen is expected to be the Hawks leader this season. She has excellent smarts on both sides of the ball and a smooth right-handed power stroke on her kills. VBIQ and instincts are hallmarks for Chen, and she continues to improve on the defensive side as well. She is solid on the service line, and we could see some big numbers (40+) in aces this Fall.

JP Stevens HS (@JPSHawks) | Twitter

It should be a very fun year for Joyce and the Hawks who we expect will have a dominant season against most of the teams on their schedule this Fall. How they fare against the top 20 will dictate their final rank as well as how far they go in State playoffs, but we would be surprised to see them venture deep into the playoff tournament.

Here is our interview with Ms. Chen…

Hello Joyce? Thanks for joining the NJP player interview club. Tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi! I’m Joyce Chen and I am going to be a senior at JP Stevens High School (graduating in 2022). I live in Edison, NJ with my parents and my sister (who happens to be 16 years older than me) lives with her husband and son nearby in East Brunswick, NJ. 

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

I’ve been playing volleyball since seventh grade, so this will be my sixth year playing. At that point, I had played many different sports including softball, tennis, gymnastics, and soccer, but none of them really stuck. I had also been dancing for around 10 years, but I had always wanted to try another sport. That was when I was first officially introduced to volleyball during my sixth-grade gym class. It immediately clicked and I started attending volleyball camps during the following summer to hone my skills. I tried out for a club team in the fall and the rest is history.

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

I am 5’8 and am primarily an outside hitter. I started at CJ Heat for my first year of volleyball, but I’ve since played at Atlantic Valley Volleyball Club for 4 years. My favorite position to play is outside, but I’ve also had experience playing middle and right side in school and at AVVC. I always enjoy the thrill after crushing the ball or getting a crazy dig and love that being an outside hitter encompasses offense as well as defense.

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

I honestly think that almost all of our players this year have the potential to be standout players in the fall, but you can definitely count on fellow senior Laurel Sarkaria (setter) playing a big role again this year. She has run an efficient offense for the past 3 years and I have no doubt in my mind that she will again. I believe she even has her eye on the school’s record for career assists! I would also keep an eye out for Vivian Chang (senior, libero), who I am confident will be the backbone of our defense this year.

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 getting recruited to play NCAA has never been the main focus for me, I am definitely interested in playing on a club team at whatever college I decide to go to. I’ve always loved volleyball for the fun, stress relief, and amazing community, which I am sure will continue into college. I haven’t 100% decided on a major yet, but I have ambitions to go to medical school and will be following the pre-med track throughout my undergraduate studies.

You had super solid statistical numbers as a junior during the spring short season slamming 70 kills and 19 aces, while tallying 78 digs. What are your goals for your senior season?

One of my main goals throughout my entire volleyball career has been to improve my serve receive and defense. For my senior season, this remains one of my personal goals along with becoming a more consistent and reliable player and leader on the court (both mentally and physically). With the suspension of our GMC tournament last year, one of my goals for the entire team is to claim (once again) the Red Division and Conference Title and finish out my senior year on top. I know that with some hard work and by staying focused in practice, these goals are definitely within our reach.

JP Stevens had an amazing spring season finishing 13-2, losing just 2 three set matches to Sectional champ East Brunswick, and going to the section finals. You lose just four seniors to graduation but one of them was Simi Carlsen, arguably the best girl’s player in the state.  How do you expect the team to respond in the post-Simrin era?

Simi was definitely a vital part of our team. Obviously, she contributed huge kill and dig numbers, but she was also a calming influence on the court. I think much of the success that JP has experienced in the past 3 years can be credited to Simi’s influence, but I do believe that with some rebuilding, we can achieve the same success. Since we no longer have that one go-to hitter to turn to when the game gets tight, I know that everyone will step up and play their part, whether it be by being ready to take an approach and hit or by playing lights out defense to keep the ball alive. I think we will be motivated by all our success in the past 3 seasons to continue the JP legacy and to put time and energy into the gym to build a strong, competitive team (even though it may look different than previous years). We have all the pieces that we need to be successful, and I can’t wait to see what we will be able to achieve this season.

NJP Projects JPS to be in the Top 20 in their preseason analysis. Where do you see the team finishing in the upcoming season?

I think it’s still a little too early to tell for sure how our season will go since we’ve only been back in the gym for a week. From what I’ve seen so far, however, I think that there is a lot in store for our team this year and that with some more time spent in the gym, we will be a truly competitive team as we have been in previous years. While I can’t tell you exactly how our team will finish the season, I can tell you exactly how we will be starting the season. We are all very optimistic about having a full, mostly normal season (knock on wood) and right now we are just focusing on making the most of it by staying healthy, strengthening our new team dynamic, and getting back into the swing of things. I, as well as all the other girls, am very excited to see where this season brings us, but for now we are just taking it one step at a time.

Tell us about JP Stevens Coach Anthony White?

Coach White has played a huge role in all the success that the JP Stevens Volleyball program has seen in the past few years. With his years of experience coaching girls’ volleyball, he has close to perfected his coaching strategy. Alongside Coach Timko and Coach Cantalupo, Coach White has been able to shape all of the athletes on our team into talented volleyball players. He has shown so much dedication to the program through the countless hours he’s spent watching our film to figure out what we need to improve and all the time he spends looking at our opponents to better prepare us. It is with his volleyball knowledge and expertise that our program has found so much success in the past years and I’m not quite sure where we would be without him.

What are your other hobbies or interests?

When I’m not playing volleyball, you can often find me reading a book, going on a short hike or walk with my family, playing board games, or grabbing bubble tea with my friends. I also enjoy everything about music: listening to it and making it (I play piano and violin). 

How does being an athlete make you a better person? How does athletics make you a better student or worker?

Being an athlete has taught me so much and has allowed me to become the person I am today. It has shown me the importance of teamwork and collaboration, which can be applied to all aspects of my life. It has also given me an appreciation for responsibility and hard work. I’ve learned through the hours that we’ve spent in the gym that nothing comes easily, and that dedication and persistence is the key to success. Volleyball has allowed me to learn life skills that I would not learn through school or from anything else.

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