April 6, 2023

Welcome to the NJ Spring 2023 Boys High School Volleyball season. We expect another great year of competitive high school volleyball across the state. The quality of volleyball in New Jersey continues to get better and better. And now, many players are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as Pro Volleyball has emerged for both men and women in the USA. So many other sports have had the intrigue of eventually playing in the pro’s. Baseball, Football, Basketball, Soccer, Hockey, and other sports have allowed players to dream. Now, Volleyball offers the same possibilities. And we even have our own pro team right here in New Jersey. Team Freedom is filled with many local players who have gone on from high school to play college volleyball, many at the D3 level. And with the league building momentum in popularity, who knows how big it will grow. The path is place for NJ players to flourish.

We certainly have seen numbers grow in high school participation on the boys side. Men’s volleyball is one of the fastest growing sports on the college scene. Any NJ high school player commitments to college programs is at an all-time high.

So what will the Spring 2023 season bring to fans? Hmmm… let’s make some observations:

2022 was the last year that NJ will recognize one state championship team from the culmination of a Tournament of Champions. 2023 will have 4 State Champs, one for each group size. This is such a major change and we can’t help but think there will be a void at the end of the season like watching a movie and shutting it off ten minutes before in ends.

There will now be just 2 sections in state tournaments. Central and North 2 have been eliminated and those schools are now incorporated into the North/South variety. Non-Public schools and Public schools are combined, unlike the girls. There will be 8 groups in the state tournament with the top 16 seeded determined by power points in each group. Here are the groupings… B Volleyball Classifications ’22-’23.pdf (njsiaa.org)

Group 4 South has many of the power teams including Old Bridge, Southern, Hillsborough, Hunterdon Central, East Brunswick, Washington Township and Williamstown among others. Group 3 North has both Fair Lawn and SPF, two teams we expect to be top 5 teams. On paper, SPF appears to be the cream of the crop in the state with no weaknesses and some of NJ’s top players. It’s somewhat heart-breaking for them not to be a part of the state playoff grid with 4 time champs Old Bridge and others. And having St. Joe’s Metuchen in Group 2 should provide easy access to the state finals for the Falcons. But its all part of aligning equally sized school by student population to provide competitive equality.

There will be much more discussion on this topic throughout the season but the cards have been dealt and fans, players, and coaches will adapt.

What have we learned from the first few days of the season

It’s still very apparent that some schools are not recording statistics correctly. This is why we re-published our article on accurately reporting statistics. We again urge coaches or managers to record statistics accurately to provide apples to apples comparisons for all teams in the state. We saw plenty of outliers in the first few nights. One player had 25 digs in a two set match, clearly indicating that serve receive may have been counted in overall digs inappropriately. Other teams have kills, blocks, and aces totaling more than their overall points scored. Double-digit blocks by an individual may certainly mean that the team is recording blocks for all touches rather than all direct points. Lets all make an effort to clean up the books and provide accurate and unified statistics.

Many new names are popping up all over the state as new players emerge as heavy contributors for their teams. Over 1,100 players have registered stats thus far in 2023. About half of those players are seniors and a third are juniors. Just 28 freshman players have recorded stats thus far this season.

Let’s mention some of the names that have cluttered the stat sheets thus far this year…

Jon Baez of Pleasantville has a state leading 36 kills while adding 22 digs, 5 blocks, and 3 aces over the first few days of the season.

Max Finkielstein is now a senior for WWPN. He has had a stellar high school career thus far. And so far in 23′, he has 31 kills, 22 digs, 4 aces and 5 blocks. We expect some records to fall at North.

Nutley has a young star emerging in Gavin Warburton. G is just a sophomore but already has 25 kills for the Raiders.

Ethan Itkis will be a force for Millburn this season. The senior is a two way player and currently has 21 kills and 11 digs.

Watch out for Jose De la Cruz of Harrison. The setter already has 49 assists and 12 aces on the season.

Some setters that are off to great starts this season are seniors Nick Schmidt of SPF, Ivan Aranzamendi from Technology, Lucas Allan from Summit, Faraz Bhatti of Union, Chris Chen of Livingston, Francisco Jardinez of Passaic Charter, James Barone of Hillsborough, Sean Brandley of Sterling, and Josh Hrobosky of St. John Vianney. Angelo Addiego of Southern leads the setter of the junior class.

Off to lightning starts on blocking this season are Harsh Bajaj of Eastern, Leo Lopez of East Side, Jayden really of Union, Chris Wilson of Northern Burlington, and Guiseppe Adami of Kearny. Surprisingly, all of the players mentioned are just juniors with the one exception of Adami who is just a sophomore.

From past experience, we expect huge years from all of the following players…

Blake Krapf (Old Bridge)

Lucas Kean (Southern)

Ethan Itkis (Millburn)

Evan Weiner (Manchester)

Malik Dickerson (Union)

Neil Ahlawat (Livingston)

Jeremy Zimmerman (SPF)

Tim Ennis (SPF)

Zach Chung (SPF)

Nick Schmidt (SPF)

James Barone (Hillsborough)

Liam Crosby (CBA)

Scott Schmitt (St. Joe’s Metuchen)

Jack Farah (St. John Vianney)

Alek Kolodziej (Old Bridge)

Nick Caltabiano (Gloucester Tech)

Evan Jazmin (Old Bridge)

Adam Westrich (CBA)

Nick Block (Barnegat)

Ellis Gomez-McPherson (Bloomfield)

Harry Fromberg (BR)

Vin Lopez (Fair Lawn)

Donovan Swafford (Clearview)

Will Surdez (Colts Neck)

Matt Duran (Fair Lawn)

Trevor Van Valkenburgh (Jackson Liberty)

Matt Peralta (Hackensack)

Brian Axtell (Summit)

Kyle Endick (Hillsborough)

Brendan Davy (Ridge)

Charles Tirendi (Hunterdon Central)

Jeff Merkins (Jefferson)

Zak Abazine (Kearny)

Max Judson (Keyport)

Amari Menter (Long Branch)

Chris Erazo (Memorial)

Ethan Lee (Moorestown)

Justin Hidalgo (East Side)

Aaron Coley (Northern Burlington)

Chris Wilson (Northern Burlington)

Massimo Rocco (Old Bridge)

Brogan Duelly (Pineland)

Jahmir Chandler (Plainfield)

Josh Barrett (Randolph)

Clever Reyes (Snyder)

Jack McKenna (Southern)

Victor John (Sterling)

Oliver Hogan (Summit)

Jabril Bridgeman-Fung (West Caldwell Tech)

Also watch out for some of the new freshman who have started well in 2023…

Cooper McBrierty (Hunterdon Central)

Ryan Lee (Moorestown)

Dominic Nycz (Woodbridge)

Josh Tolentino (Sparta)

Our first NJP ranking will be out after two weeks of play. And watch for a great tri-match this weekend with Southern, SPF, and Fair Lawn.



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