October 5, 2021 – By NJP

Bergen Tech is in the midst of their best year ever this Fall, accumulating a record of 12-3 thus far and being recognized as one of the leading teams in the Big North-Liberty. They have only lost to three Top 25 teams and recently took Pascack Valley to three sets in their opening round Bergen County tournament.

It was a tough draw for the Knights, but they had to come away from that match thinking they can play tough with just about every top team in New Jersey.

There are several key components to this years squad who places an emphasis on balance with 17 players on the roster making contributions. For senior Catalina Cecoltan, she brings the steady presence to the outside position that makes this team outstanding when she is on the court.

Despite appearing like a model you would see on a Vanity Fair magazine cover, Cat brings grit and physical presence to her game every night. She has already smashed 50+ kills on the season and is equally as productive on defense with digs and blocks. She pares at outside hitter with junior Riley Sobel and this duo handles a large portion of the offensive charge for the Knights.

Cecoltan is one of just two seniors on the current squad and the team relies on her leadership and maturity to set the right tone. Bergen Tech will no doubt be back with a very strong squad next season. While Cat will look to make her mark at the collegiate level in both academics and in volleyball.

Here is our interview with Ms. Cecoltan…

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

Thanks for having me! My name is Catalina Cecoltan, and I am currently a senior at Bergen Academies. I live in Glen Rock with my mother and father, while my sister (who also plays volleyball), is graduating from Emory University this year.

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

I have been playing volleyball for as long as I can remember, but I think I was most inspired by my sister, Olivia. I used to be on a swim team all throughout elementary and middle school, but in 6th grade I started to play volleyball and participate in clinics, camps, etc. In 7th grade, I started to play on my school’s team, and that was also my first year with DIGS. That was the year that I truly fell in love with the sport, and so right before I entered BCA I dropped swimming to better be able to pursue volleyball. I’ve been playing both school and club every year since then, and I’m so glad I started playing relatively young since it has become such an important aspect of my life.

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

I am 5’9, an outside hitter, and I play on the club volleyball DIGS. Outside has always been my favorite position to play, even though I have played as a middle and a right side in the past. I enjoy hitting no matter where I am on the court, but I like outside specifically since I think I’m a lot more successful hitting shoots and 4 balls rather than middle or opposite sets.

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

I love my Knights teammates and am glad that I can say I am genuinely friends with all of them. Since this is my fourth year on the team, there are some girls that I have been playing with for years, as well as some that I only met a month ago. But regardless, it has been a lot of fun both meeting new people and playing with them, as well as having the opportunity to play with girls I have been on the court with, in years prior. It is difficult for me to distinguish certain girls as being standout players for the Fall since I feel that our team is successful due to everyone’s combined efforts. Even though the season just began, I can already see that everyone is improving so much. I love that our team is really growing together and functioning as one unit on the court, rather than as individuals.

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 volleyball is important to me, I am also very focused on academics. I would love to be given the opportunity to play volleyball in college, but I want to make sure that whatever I do, I attend a school that is strong academically as well. From a young age I have been interested in business, which is why it was easy to make the decision to apply to Bergen Academies in 8th grade, since the school offers students the unique opportunity to study within a major. For the past four years I have remained completely dedicated to my goals within the field of business (I am planning on majoring in either Economics or Finance), as well as my career in volleyball.

Tell us your best memories of your junior volleyball year where you led the Warriors in kills during the shortened Spring season, with 63 as the Knights ended at 11-3 overall…

Last volleyball season was definitely a memorable one, both because of our successes but also due to the pandemic and how different everything was. It was hard to not have family or friends cheering in the stands during games, having to play with masks on, and not having those notably fun bus rides to every match. But despite all the challenges that COVID-19 brought to the Spring 2021 volleyball season, I am so grateful that I even had the chance to play (which is more than can be said by many others participating in school sports last year). As for my favorite memory, it would probably have to be achieving the league co-champion title. Not only was that kind of uncommon for Bergen Tech, but it also showed that despite all our setbacks (cancelled practices and games, girls being out abruptly due to COVID exposure), we came together as a team in the end to accomplish that. All in all, I was, and am, super proud of our team for pulling through last year to be able to become league champs!

The Knights return almost all of their varsity starters after a very successful Spring season and garner a preseason ranking just outside the top 50 in NJ.  How far do you think Bergen Tech can go in the upcoming season?

Running the risk of being cliche, I think that the sky’s the limit when it comes to the 2021-22 Bergen Tech volleyball season. We have so much talent this year, and we are only getting better. Hopefully we will be league champions, and anything more than that will just be a cherry on top. Though we definitely will be up against some hefty competition, I am so genuinely excited for the rest of the fall and am looking forward to a killer senior season.

Tell us about your club experience at DIGS…

I’ve been playing club on DIGS since I was 11, and it’s been a great experience. All the coaches that I have had have been amazing and so helpful, and I feel like I really do improve after every passing season. Having been on DIGS for so long, there are some girls on my team that I have played with since middle school – it’s been really cool to see all of us grow as players as we get older, and consequently become a better team. I have been lucky to be able to go to many overnight volleyball tournaments the past few years with the club, and I have made great memories playing teams from all over the country. Tournaments like Capitol Hill Classic and Happy Volley have been the highlights of my club experience, because of the amazing games we played as well as staying in hotels with all my teammates. I am so upset that I only have one more year left until I graduate, but I have had a great experience and am looking forward to a memorable last season.

What are your other hobbies or interests?

Other than playing volleyball, I love to play my ukulele, spend time with my dog, and cook. I have a food blog, and I really enjoy spending time in the kitchen playing around with new recipes with my mom. I am also very interested in fashion and like to research new trends and shop for unique pieces.

How does being an athlete make you a better person?

I think that being an athlete makes me a better person since I think that sports in general make me a better person. Being on a team requires cooperation skills, effort, motivation, time management, and endless other things that are qualities of both a good athlete and a good person. Also, playing volleyball helps me since it is an outlet for me: no matter what is going on in my life, I know that I can always go to practice and have a good time playing with my teammates.

Who motivates you?

My main motivator is my team. My team motivates me more than anything. Whether it be for school or club, I always want to play my best for my teammates and to help us win. One of my favorite feelings as a volleyball player is making my team proud, and it’s this feeling that pushes me to be better.

Do you think attitude is a factor in winning?

Attitude is definitely a factor in winning. Volleyball is just as much a mental sport as it is a physical one, and a lot of times I feel like my team is beating themselves by not being able to side out, missing serves, etc. I think that having a positive attitude and never feeling defeated, no matter the score, can go such a long way when it comes to winning. With a positive outlook on things, it is easier to keep persisting and fighting until the end of a match, instead of giving up and letting the other team win. So, while it is hard to stay hopeful when I could be down by 10, I try my best to keep my spirits up and play every point like it’s the last.

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