September 8, 2023
The 2023 girl’s high school volleyball season is here with games starting this past Thursday. As every season comes and go, this year will see some new teams rising to the top of the rankings as well as perennial powers laying their claim for top honors. There are ALWAYS surprises, especially at the high school level, which inspire our New Jersey players to dream. Dreams of winning division titles, conference titles, sectionals, or state championships as well as dreaming about the game they love to play, alongside their best friends, and having the best times of their lives.
As we enter a new season, we feel compelled to send a strong message about the importance of integrity in stats collected by each team. and JP is not the stat police. But we are educators on how to calculate stats accurately in a spirit of fair assessment of talent throughout the state. During the boys season, we took a very strong role in identifying stats that just did not add up. We eliminated reporting of stats from teams that were clearly making errors in their calculations and were non-responsive to attempts to correct that data. Here are previous articles for reference. We strongly recommend that team stat takers familiarize themselves with proper protocol. The first few days of the season are yielding poor signs so far.
NJP will produce its first ranking of the season once we collect enough data for the algorithm to be statistically viable. We expect that date to be on or around 9/20. Remember, NJP ranks every team in the state, not just the top 10 or 20.
Once the first ranking comes out, we will have enough data to produce player rankings as well. The NJP Player Rater factors in per set stats and schedule strength as well as many other factors in their proprietary formula to rate every player (3,000+) in NJ.
There will be plenty of different “looks” and reports on a wide variety of statistical presentations. The NJP Predictor will making several appearances through out the season on specific nights. Historically, NJP has consistently picked winners on any given night at 90%+. We are very proud of our ranking algorithm and game prediction record that has been consistently attained over many years of covering both boys and girls volleyball and boys ice hockey since 2008.
So let’s start to look at some telling signs and learnings from the first couple of days from the season:
IHA vs Demarest: The defending champs for 2022 start the season against perennial power and rival Demarest. A quick reminder that legendary coach Maria Nolan has handed over the reigns of NJ’s winningest program to former assistant Michelle Yoo. Today’s game carried many clues about two outstanding programs on the landscape for 2023. IHA gutted out a 28-26 win in the first set with many new stars emerging for the new season. Kalena Stavish is going to be one of the top rated players this Fall. The senior setter has accumulated over 1,300 assists since starting as a sophomore. She is a complete player and brings strong leadership to the returning champs. You will hear the names Eve Roman, Abby Romero, Emily Sabino, Maddie Sandt, Bryana Saenz, and Rachel Paton all season long for the Blue Eagles. Despite losing game 2 to the Norseman, they dominated set 3 to take their first win. The Blue Eagles only lost three sets all season in 2022, so watch for Demarest to continue to dominate other teams despite packing their schedule with top-line opponents. 6’2″ Taylor Miller is expected to be lights out for her senior year and a potential candidate for player of the year.
Livingston is off to a great start with wins over Millburn and MSDA. Anika Dhar is already showing signs of dominance with kills and blocks for the Lancers. Senior Isabela Ubrig carries the weight or orchestrating the offense and is looking strong.
Batista from Cleary will be heard all season in Washington Township. This dynamic duo of seniors have been supporting each other since freshman year and work together as good as any outside/setter pair in the state. Nice start for WT as they crush a solid Kingsway team in their opener.
Super start for Fair Lawn as they down Fort Lee convincingly on Friday. Senior Melanie Lara really stepped up with 10 kills, 8 digs, and 2 aces. Riley Denio also off to a good start for the Cutters.
Barnegat returned the favor from opening night last season with a 2-0 win over Pinelands. Ashley Berger had 10 kills and Brooke DeGrazio posts 11 aces in the big win.
Roxbury off to a 2-0 start with two 3 set wins over WMC and Par Hills. Par Hills fell 28-26 in the last set. Watch for a big year from Tayla O’Connor for the Gaels under new coach Alison Correnti.
There was a time when Secaucus was an absolutely dominant NJ power and so far this season, it looks like days of old. Today was just a huge win for Coach Caruso and the Patriots as they downed last years sectional champs Bogota. Awesome start for Sofia Guzman, Olivia Jasiczek, Isabella Otero, Avalyn Torres, Amaya Ocasio and the rest of the Patriot squad. They are a team to watch in 2023.
Old Tappan with a powerful Big North win over Bergenfield Friday with Maya and Layla Giordano leading the way. Addison Gioffre has slotted in to the full time setter role as a junior and its clear this team will be a strong contender this Fall.
A big start for Monroe as they roll to 2-0 with a big win over Elizabeth. Hannah Weinman with 7 kills and 4 blocks for the Falcons.
Lyndhurst had great off-season success ,taking the Harrison summer league in fine fashion. Now they are off to a 2-0 start as they slimly get past Elmwood Park in 3 sets. Watch for Yesemin Ugurlu and Sofia Hechavarria to make some noise in Bergen County this fall.
Another strong player of the year candidate is Shantel Starling of Donovan Catholic. The Griffins blasted Colts Neck, last years sectional champs, in spectacular fashion on Thursday. It just feels like Shantel’s time in her senior campaign. After fending off injuries her entire high school career, she is healthy and ready to contribute in all facets of the game. Posting 12 kills, 2 blocks, and 6 digs while also curtailing the dynamic play of senior Savannah Butz. The Cougars will rebound, but for now, Shantel and the Griffins look outstanding.
Stay tuned for NJP to pick up coverage as we get deeper into the season., especially on the weekends.