May 21, 2022

With the NJ Boys High School Volleyball state playoffs here in a minute, we asked some of the top players in NJ to weigh in and share their thoughts about the upcoming tourney. The best part of our job and getting the opportunity to interact with so many of these young men who still have many athletic and academic opportunities ahead in their future. We love to see the themes shared by this group about brotherhood, great teammates, and a vision of being able to accomplish anything. This tournament always has upsets and you might get a sense from some of these remarks just where they will be coming from.

We would like to thank all of these great players for participating and wish them all the best of luck in their team journey’s over the next few weeks leading up to the state championship game on June 9th in South Brunswick. We unfortunately could not include every player we would like to but we want to wish all players and coaches a fun and exciting tournament. We still have several players comments to add so check back for more quotes all weekend.

“I believe Bergenfield isn’t being recognized enough. Although we haven’t faced the four teams that are ranked higher than us in the bracket, we have proven ourselves to be a strong team with our 19-1 record. As well as being County Champions. I think the opposing teams that will give us the biggest challenges are Fair Lawn and Livingston, because of the talented players they have on their team. However, Bergenfield is also a team that is filled with players that know what their roles are on the team. We are a team full of talent and amazing chemistry, and that’s what makes us so good.” – Masa Hamada, Bergenfield ’22

We believe that if we play our game, we can beat anybody. If we play Old Bridge volleyball, no one can stop us in the state tournament It will be a very difficult road though, as central jersey is the toughest section in the state. But if we stay determined and mentally tough, I have no doubt we will take it home this year. There are so many good teams in the state tournament, especially central jersey. Just to get out of central jersey, we have to get passed teams like Hunterdon Central, Hillsborough, and St. Joes. We have played great games against each of these opponents. It will be a challenge having to face them in the state tournament. Everyone is counting Old Bridge out right now. And I can’t blame them. We lost many games that we should have won. Losing over 5 games is very uncharacteristic for this program. But if we come together and play true Old Bridge volleyball, we have the ability to beat anybody.” – Rob Obdyke, Old Bridge ’22

“The Central region of the state tournament is definitely the most stacked, and talent in this region runs very deep. No matchup is going to be an easy one in this bracket. However, we know that we can beat any team in the region, and we are confident in our play moving into the state tournament. We have been road warriors all year long, so we are confident that down the stretch, we can walk into any team’s building and play our best game against them. I think that St. Joe’s is definitely going to be one of our biggest challenges in the tournament. When we faced them, it was a super tight matchup that could have gone either way. They have great defense, size, and hitting power, which makes them a tough opponent to play against, but we know that we have the ability to take down any team when we are at our best. This has been a great season for our team. We have had a lot of success on the court, but that hasn’t come without having our fair share of adversity along the way. However, know that we are excited and ready to give everything that we have when the state tournament comes around next week.” – Andrew Sasso, CBA ’22

“I believe that our team has the talent and discipline necessary to win our bracket. We believe that we have been placed in the most favorable grid. The biggest challenge will be the game against CBA. CBA is a top 5 team and we are excited to compete with them. This season has had a whole lot of ups and downs but I believe that we have gelled together and finally hit our stride. We are a team to look out for.” – Armaan Ghotra, JP Stevens ’22

“I think we have the ability to go far in playoffs. We’ve overcome a lot of obstacles this season with players being injured and continually rotating our lineup, but we’ve persevered through it all and are prepared for what’s ahead. I think one of our biggest challenge moving into the playoffs is maintaining consistency. We are on a nice win streak and have to continue playing strong volleyball throughout playoffs. There are some good teams but the winner will likely go through Southern. We are a second year program looking for their first playoff win, but we know we can do more than that. It’s been a great senior season and I want to thank my coaches for making it all possible. I look forward to extending the season as long as possible with my incredible teammates.” – Scotty Hiltner, Egg Harbor ’22

“My team is always having a good time. We take practice serious but we always like to mix in some fun to have a healthy balance. We all believe as a team that the states are ours to win, we lost county’s but saw that as a learning experience and we’re taking that energy into states. I don’t think that any team will be more of a challenge than ourselves. We all have to come together and overcome adversity and no one can beat us. I made a promise to my coach that we’ll win a championship no matter what and I’m ready to make it reality!” – Alex Casais, Bayonne ’22

“We are not worried about what’s down the road. We are ready to go game by game and focus on going 1-0. I think our tough schedule has prepared to make a run in states. Teams like St. Joes, Boro, CBA, and Old Bridge will be tough, but we now know how to overcome adversity and win.” – Corey Paulson, Hunterdon Central ’22

“I believe my team has a tremendous amount of potential. We have a great group of guys that are definitely looking forward to Tuesdays game against Eastside. It’s always a great match up against the Red Raiders. We will definitely fight as hard as we can to get far into this tourney. I believe we had a good run, we fought hard throughout the season. I wouldn’t want to be with any other team. This team is like a brotherhood that can’t get split up no matter what the outcome is. I believe that the Lions have something to prove! We are going to finish this season hard and show everyone how much we can really achieve, starting with May 24th’s game.” – Luis Carvalho, Payne Tech ’22

“I think that our team is a very dangerous team when we all play to our full potential. So if we play well then we can beat any team that stand in our way. I don’t think that there’s any school that’s a big threat to us if we play our game. We can beat any team in the state. Our team has some good chemistry if we play our game. We need to start the game off very fired up that is the key to our success. If we do that, then we can play with any team in the state.” – Tyler Iozzi, Central Regional ’22

“We are obviously hoping to make it further this year than last. Last year we were knocked out in the semis…so hoping to make it to the finals. Fair Lawn will be a big obstacle to that goal. But, we can’t overlook any team in our side of the bracket…they all have been preparing for this all season, just like we have. I think our team is up for the challenge, we just have to work together like we have all season to win the NJAC Conference Title. We need to play our game, stay focused, support each other and play hard.” – Dan Pugliano, Jefferson ’22

“We have a talented bracket, for sure this isn’t a walk in the park. We have competitors like Eastside, Kearny, and Summit to get through. Our main focus on this team is to get to the finals for a rematch against SPF, to get them back for our loss in county finals. Our season has been really well so far being seeded 2nd in our section and 10th in the state. All thanks to our top players including Nate Thompson (OH), Jayden Reilly (M), Faraz Bhatti (S).” – Alex Boulin, Union ’22

“I believe my team will go far in our grid. We have great competition coming and that is making us practice and working harder. St. Joe’s will be the biggest challenge because we played them 3 times and lost all three. My team is ready for the rematch and have been sharpening all of our skills and working more as a team to take the sectional title. I feel it has been going really well. The season had its ups and downs, but we still play as a team and know our mistakes. We have built chemistry over this season. All of our players are stepping up for the state tournament, so I’m excited where we will reach to” – David Flores, Old Bridge ’22

“I think that our work ethic and potential as a team is a powerful threat in this tournament and I am looking forward to good competition.” – Evan Weiner, Manchester ’23

“Lindens volleyball program is a very defensive oriented team. Without the strong defensive work our team puts on the court we’d be unable to produce offensively. Going into to the state tournament, we plan to construct a team building mindset to work as one. We plan to take each game, set, and rally at a time. The team that will bring us the biggest challenge is our own. Our whole team and each individual on the court have to be on the same page in order to make it as far as possible in the tournament.
As far as for myself as a player, this is my second year playing and my best season by far in my volleyball career. As far as for the team, we hold a lot of potential and are very confident going into the state tournament.” – Christian Garcia, Linden ’22

“As my last season in High School comes to a close, I can’t feel anything but excitement for the playoffs coming up. I feel like we have come a long way since the beginning of the year, both as a team and as players individually. I feel like this season we proved a lot of people wrong and we hope to keep doing that in the playoffs. We have a tough bracket as we will have to face Jackson Memorial in the first round and potentially play against top ranked St. Joes so we will have to grind and play up to our potential if we want to go as far as I know we can. I see a lot of potential with this group, especially in the younger classes, and I can’t wait for the tournament to start and end my senior year on a high note.” – Mauricio Catalan, Colts Neck ’22

“Old Bridge has been the reigning state champions the past three years in New Jersey but that title does not come without bumps in the road. Losses and upsets have been notorious within each state championship for us and just causes my team to work harder. Central Jersey is the toughest conference in my opinion, and will be a struggle to get out of. We take one point at a time, one set at a time, one opponent at a time, focusing on what we can control. Old Bridge needs to play as one, and as a team, in order to make it through this tournament.” – Pavlo Chernyshov, Old Bridge ’22

“This is definitely our year to prove our program is among the top in New Jersey. Union is a top team in our section and I wouldn’t be surprised if we faced them in the tournament. Our team meshes really well and we are excited to see how far we can go.” – Nick Schmidt, SPF ’23

“We play a tough Don Bosco team in the first round, but we are confident. Throughout the season, we have learned that if we play our game and bring energy, we can really surprise a lot of teams. We’ve shown that in the regular season and in the NJAC tournament, and we can definitely do it again in states.” – Brian Macaluso, Randolph ’22

“I feel we matchup great against all these teams, and there’s many familiar faces in our bracket coming from the Shore Conference. Our team just needs to take one step at a time and can’t look ahead of ourselves in the tournament, so each opponent we play will be our biggest challenge, and we must be ready for them. Our team has faced unimaginable obstacles, from having the whole team sick and varsity players starting in their first year playing. These obstacles have established better chemistry as a team that we overcame together, and now I hope we can finish the job.” – Jack Farah, St. John Vianney ’23

“I feel my team has the ability to make it far. We’ve been through a lot this year and this could be our icing on the cake. Our biggest challenge to me is not our team but it’s ourselves. When we keep our attitude and spirits high, we are scary. We just have to keep it up. I’m so proud of my teammates and my coach to make this season really fun and competitive.” – Channing Williams, Jackson Liberty ’22

“My team has been doing very good this season, and to be honest, there aren’t really any big challenges in our bracket. We’ve proven ourselves by competing against top teams in the state such as Livingston, North Bergen , Newark East Side and Hackensack. No matter the odds, we’ve fought through everything the whole season, and if we can avoid mental errors and play our game, we should be able to compete. Hopefully with this energy and high intensity throughout the tournament, we can bring home the title.” – Kennedy Ibezim, West Orange ’22

“Obviously, the expectation is to win the whole thing. We’ve worked hard and don’t expect any less for ourselves. This year, the North is very strong. Livingston, Bergenfield, and Don Bosco are all very prominent threats, along with many more. It’ll be a real challenge this year. Overall, this season has had its ups and downs, but I love the team. I enjoy playing with them immensely and will miss them next year.” – Itay Akad, Fair Lawn ’22

“We are going to take it one game at a time, but we think we have a shot at making it far this year. We played very high level competition this year and I believe that we are ready for any team that come our way. One of our biggest challenges this playoffs if both of us win our first round games is Williamstown as we played against them last year and are trying to repeat ourself and defeat them once again in the playoffs just like we did last year. Us Dragons won Tri Conference with a record of 10-2 and are looking forward to just keep on winning throughout these playoffs.” – Dylan Hicks, Kingsway ’23

I first want to say what an honor is to be reached out too. I truly believe that we can win our section (North 2) Since people will underestimate us and know about our talents. Union will definitely be our first toughest game, since they happen to have a great outside who is also named Alex. But every game after will be tougher, leaving us with a bigger mountain to climb. We just have to dig deep and play with a killer mentality. One of our favorite quotes to go by is “Thinking” by Walter D. Wintle- “If you think you are beaten, you are… If you think you dare not, you don’t… If you like to win, but think you can’t, you won’t…” Alex Zinkevich, Bayonne ’22

“Old Bridge is looking really solid and sound. We are excited to start playoff play and looking to win Central sectional again. Central this year is by far the hardest. We have so many great teams like Hillsborough, St. Joe’s., Hunterdon Central, and many more. If there’s one thing I can say about our team it’s that we’re hungry and ready to win a 4th straight state championship.” – Blake Krapf, Old Bridge ’23

“I think that we can get pretty far, we are an underrated team, and others are going to think we can’t hang. The most challenging team that we can play in our sectional is definitely Scotch Plains, if we make it far. Union and Bayonne are also pretty tough teams. This season as a whole was awesome… Kearny earned their first ever county champions and made other historical records. We built a little family and we go to war with each other and play our hearts out…that’s what I love about Kearny boys volleyball.” – Ethen Lugo, Kearny ‘22

“I think our team is going to have a challenge in the up and coming state tournament. I think if we play hard and fight until the end we will come out with the win and move to the next round. The Hammonton Blue Devils have come so far, from starting the program last year and being 1-14, to being 13-5 as of right now on the season, and I think this is a great achievement for our school, we definitely shocked a lot of people.” – Manny Waugh, Hammonton ’22

“Since our season started we have been very good, and our team has really good chemistry. Good chemistry makes good teams great. In our section, North 2, Union and Kearny will be our two biggest threats, Union being in our county makes it a tad bit harder and a bit more personal. We should fare very well and as long as we take care of business, we can go far.” –Tim Ennis, SPF ’24

“My team should fare pretty well we have strong players overall. The only thing missing is experience since some of the guys are first year varsity players, but other than that we are a solid team with great chemistry. We expect that the biggest challenge will be SPF. No matter the outcome of states, I’m proud of my team and what we have accomplished this season. We were predicted to be underdogs and came out near the top. Everyone on the team has grown and shown that they wanna keep playing on the court. I can safely say that I can leave knowing that the team is in good hands next year and in future years. – Jaden Hong, Summit ’22

“I think that we have a great opportunity to make it far in this tournament, and we hope to make it to the finals against Fair Lawn, which will be our biggest challenge. This team is basically a big group of friends who are truly passionate for the sport, and all but one of us play club in the off season. We spend a lot of time with one another after practice or on off days, and I think that this is a big reason behind our success so far.” – Chris Lynum, Livingston ’22

“I think we will do pretty well but it will only get harder as we go. We just need to play our own game and keep fighting. I feel that Old Bridge is our biggest competitor due to the fact they they are probably one of the most all around teams that we have played.” – Vinil Shah, Hillsborough ’22

“We are pretty confident coming into the state tournament after our county championship win. We have proved that we deserve that number 1 seed in our section. Some big competitors in our section are Hunterdon Central who beat us earlier in the year, Old Bridge and Hillsborough. Old Bridge will probably be our biggest competitor now that we beat them three times this year after losing to them 4 times last year. I don’t see a clear powerhouse state championship winner this year as there was in previous years. I think it all comes down to who plays the best when the time comes. Whoever is ready to battle and be the strongest mentally. I believe Coach Cabrita has prepared us very well mentally and physically to outlast these strong teams and that is the reason why we have been so successful this year and that is why we are going to make a far run in this tournament.” – Jacob Franco, St. Joe’s Metuchen ’22

“I think our team is going to perform very well in the playoffs. We’ve been working extremely hard for this moment all season long, and we know it’s going to pay off at some point. I believe any team has a chance of making it considering there many teams with talent in the state. We’ve played Scotch Plains and they were really tough to beat. Same with Old Bridge and St. Joe’s. Like I said before, our team is full of hard workers that are ready for this moment. We’ve had a successful season so far and plan to continue this success.” – Lucas Kean, Southern ’23

“Our season has been great and we all had a great time. We were able to have a good record and win counties, which is amazing. We were able to get really close as a team, and I believe that chemistry was able to help us win games. I believe in states, we can do good, maybe surprise some teams. I think with our team’s skill, passion, and chemistry we can win any game. Of course, there’s going to be good teams in our bracket like Fair Lawn, Livingston, and Jefferson, but any team can play an amazing game, and upset a team. Especially in a one game elimination. Just because a team has a better record or a higher seed doesn’t guarantee them a free win. Anything can happen, and we’ve seen that in play throughout the season.” – Julian Jasiak, Lakeland ’22

“I think we are definitely an underestimated team starting this state tournament. We have a relatively new team, and they have worked extremely hard over the course of the season. With that being said I think we are heavily judged off of our first couple of losses. We are a strong and much better team now that I think can match up to anyone in this tournament. Our team is playing great volleyball, we gave Bergenfield their only loss of the season and beat Fair Lawn in the Bergen county semi finals. We came up short in the finals but that is just fueling the fire right now and we believe that we have the ability to win against anybody.” – CJ Barker, Don Bosco Prep ’22

“We begin the tournament with West Orange. If we beat West Orange we play Teaneck. But we have to play the game one at a time because every team is hungry to win it all and I know it is not going to be easy to win the states championship. I look forward to giving my best effort to help our team advance in the state tournament. With every day my relationship with my setter Jonriz gets better and I feel more and more confident on the floor. But we can’t win volleyball with just one person, it’s a team sport. I trust my team behind me every time the ball is on the other side of the court. Our defense as a team has been playing better which makes it easier to stay in rhythm and hit the ball hard. I am hoping we can keep up the strong play and push deep into the state tournament.” – Richmond Casino, Belleville ’22

“After our win in the Skyland conference, I know for a fact that we have what it takes to take down the top teams in the state.“ Also wanted to say that I loved the picture of me and Vinil as Batman and Robin!” – Jack Freese, Hillsborough ’22

“The central section is unbelievable this year and any of the top 10 teams have a real chance at getting to the Tournament of Champions. But after defeating St. Joe and staying with Southern down to the very last points, we’ve proved not only to ourselves but to the rest of that as well state that we play our best volleyball against the best competition. And in my mind, we are the favorites to win it all. I’m expecting Old Bridge to pose the biggest challenge. After playing years of club with that whole team, I know just how good they all are. If we’re lucky enough to play them it’ll be my favorite match-up of the year, but also one of the toughest. Our biggest advantage is that we don’t have any flaws in our team. We might not have the best player in the state, but we have a full team of top kids so no other teams can really pick out a weak passer or blocker. Everyone has been playing their best volleyball when it really matters so we are more than ready for the big games ahead.” – Liam Crosby, CBA ’22

“One of the opposing teams that will be difficult to beat will be Teaneck. And Lakeland put up a pretty big fight when we played them previously. My team is very fun to play with. My team is always there for each other when we’re down in the dumps or we are not feeling good one day. I’ve had fun with this years varsity lineup and even though most of us are young, some of the seniors will be leaving us. They have contributed to the team and I am grateful for them. I hope our team can progress to the finals and make a name for Hackensack in this new day in age” – Matthew Peralta. Hackensack ’24

“The most important role in a team is their ability to stay driven and focused, whilst collectively uplifting each other during riled scenarios. Saint Joe’s differs in their ambition, underlying respectful charisma, and our collective exuberance as a team. It’s not a one man show, but rather an epitome of how volleyball should be displayed as: a team sport; a brotherhood. It took us a while to gel each of our strongest assets together, especially with the absence of playing on the same club teams, (some played on 18-1’s; others 18-2’s, others 17-1’s), but Mr. Cabrita assisted us in our case with his keen eye. We each have our individual assets, but we all also possess a heart towards each other. Skill is powerless without radiative, joy, and because of our implicit naturalness, that’s what makes St. Joes the faith-driven apparatus we are. In all honesty, our toughest adversary right now is Southern. Their drive is identical to ours. Both the players and the coaches are deeply invested in the journey, and that’s the greatest part of it all: the passion. We both contain an innate ability to lock in and play to the very last ball, and that’s the competition we truly seek for. We beat them in a scrimmage once, but have come up just short every following game. Real talk, it all boils down to discipline and consistency now. We both know what we wish to obtain, but the true outcome will be found in our hearts. Scotch Plains is up there too. The best competition is that which matches your energy on the court. When each player starts to play in personally unconventional ways and everything seems ultra perfect for each side, that is when we see magic unfold and veracity hit untraversed limits. The show goes on, and we will soon be shown our future tasks.The season has been beyond spectacular and livid to say the least. We’ve seen each player unleash a bucket load of potential, and we have collectively asserted our position amongst the state. Although we started as underdogs, with being ranked #20 by, the art lies in proving others through charisma. Our successes are only checked off grocery list items, but transpire as achievements through our Coach, Mr. Cabrita. The drive is what truly matters, and our bodies still contain a large amount of fuel, even despite rising gas prices. We wish to change history, and the only way to do so is through heart.- Michael Weikum, St. Joe’s Metuchen ’22

xx – Drew McNellis, Southern ’22

xx – Destan Llolla, Jackson Memorial ’22

xx – Andrew DuHaime, Jefferson ’22

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