Pre-Season Notebook

Observations and reflections on 2020 Boys NJ High School Volleyball…

Here are some deep-dive stats by class year for you based on the 2019 season: The breakdown of players who made statistical contributions to their teams during the 2019 high school boys season is as follows… Seniors represented 43% of players with stats and juniors represented 36%. 17% of players were sophomores and just 4% were freshman. There were 1,742 players statewide with some measure of stats.

As far as these players contributions, more than half of all stats come from seniors in most categories. Seniors represented 51% of the 11,985 aces, 56% of the 57,198 kills, 54% of the 14,161 blocks, 53% of the 68,473 digs, and 46% of the 51,386 assists.

NJP analyzed statistical percentage increases on average by class year and it was interesting to note the progression each year from freshman to senior on average. Let’s start with kills. Kills from freshman to sophomore year players increased 32% on average, sophomore to junior increased 84% and junior to senior increased 39%. Let’s use an example from the past… if we look at former Harrison standout and current D1 NJIT player Piotr Namiotko’s stats from his high school days, Piotr had 80 kills as a freshman (pretty impressive). His Junior year, he increased his kill count by 150% to 200. He increased his kill count by 50% to 300 his junior year, and increased his kills 75% to 525 his senior year. So Piotr was obviously better than the average increases as he almost doubled the average increases in his last two years. Obviously, there are numerous factors that will need to be taken into consideration when projecting potential future stats from current players. Let’s follow the path of NJ’s last two years players of the year. Elan Dorkhman from Old Bridge, the 2018 player of the year, finished with 392 kills his senior year which was 26% better than his junior year kills of 310. Elan had the same amount of kills as a sophomore as he had as a junior at 310. Andrew Zaleck the 2019 player of the year, also from Old Bridge, had 457 kills his senior year, 241% better than his junior year total. Obviously this had a lot to do with Dorkhman’s presence while Andrew was a junior and then he exploded his senior year as the go-to leader of the team. Both individuals had amazing sophomore years and similar junior years with no increases in kills as juniors. The better the player, the more likely they will exceed average increase numbers. Here is a table of average increases by class grad year by stat:

14 of the 150 NJ boys high school squads have virtually no information available for rosters, stats, and team info. They are Edison, Garfield, West Side, Hoboken, Central Jersey Charter, Kennedy, Abundant, Camden, Dwight Morrow, Salem Tech, Passaic Charter, Wilberforce, LEAP, and Hoboken Charter. Any relevant and verifiable information that can be provided on these squads would be greatly appreciated.

We calculate only two teams that did not lose a senior to graduation in 2019. Indian Hills (0-18) was one and will be a much stronger squad in 2020. Our PSR has them at #71, up from their #119 final season rank in 2019. The other is Montclair Immaculate (16-7). We expect Immaculate to break into the top 50 for 2020.

Teams returning over 90% of their statistical points on average other than Indian Hills and Montclair Immaculate are Eagle Academy, Golda Och, Newark Tech, Manchester Township, and Northern Burlington. All of these squads are expected to have a significant rise in the rankings compared to 2019.

There are 8 teams that lose more than 90% of their statistical points to graduation. These schools will be hard-pressed to rejuvenate their squads with JV players and are expected to regress substantially in 2020. They are Toms River East, Hopewell Valley, Belleville, West Essex, South Brunswick, Summit, Bayonne, and Hunterdon Central.

Fair Lawn returns 85% of their statistical points and is a clear #1 in NJ for 2020. The return of Mark Berry, Jack Centeno, Alex Work, Dennis Narteh, and Gil Zyndorf will present near insurmountable challenges to any opponent. There is a huge margin between the #1 and #2 team with a differential of 3.184 rating points. It is interesting to note that the largest differential between #1 and #2 over 10 rankings throughout the 2019 season was 0.970. Our rating system is based on how many points away each team is from the top team in the state so Fair Lawn’s strength will drive down other NJ team ratings, especially when comparing to last season. The number one team will always have a 25.00 rating and the rating system is designed to show what the score would be in head to head play in a set against the top team in the state. Keep this in mind when evaluating rating points year to year.

NJP does not keep statistics on JV squads. Some teams have immense depth with JV and freshman teams refueling varsity talent each year. Other teams only field a varsity level squad. Perennial leaders like Southern, St. Joe’s, Old Bridge, and Fair Lawn have plenty of depth waiting in the wings for their opportunity to play with the big club. In most situations, roster size is large enough to ensure that returning juniors and sophomores will be featured players the next season. From our analysis, the chances of an incoming freshman having significant contributions to a team are very few and far between. Our rating algorithm will be flawed in situations where there are extreme talent levels at JV levels.

The Big North, in addition to top-seeded Fair Lawn, is projected to have several top contenders. Wayne Valley jumps into the top 10 in pre-season rankings returning 86% of their statistical points. We expect senior Anthony DePalma to record over 350 kills for the Indians. Passaic and Teaneck are projected to be top 25 teams with Passaic at #19 and Teaneck at #22. Eastside Paterson and PCTI are expected to be in the top 40.

The GMC will be super solid again in 2020. Old Bridge loses 84% of their statistical points to graduation but we do expect them to remain in the top 10. NJP is projecting solid improvement from both St. Joe’s Metuchen and Colonia ranking them both at #2 and #3 respectively. Colonia loses very little to graduation after posting a 23-8 record in 2019. St. Joe’s has an abundance of talent and may be best suited to test Fair Lawn. East Brunswick and JP Stevens will have solid teams and we project EB to be a top 25 team and JPS to be top 40. South Brunswick has the biggest impact from graduation and we expect the #19th ranked Vikings to regress out of the top 50.

Hudson County is projected to have a few high profile teams. St. Peter’s Prep pulls in the #7 pre-season ranking returning senior Chris Larkin and a high achieving group of sophomores from last seasons 19-5 team. The Marauders finished #6 in the 2019 final rankings and may be even better in 2020. Kearny is expected to rise from #31 in the 2019 final ranking to #14 in the PSR. The all around play of junior Santiago Lopez will power this teams success along with the return of senior Douglas Ferrari. Also watch out for Synder to improve after going 17-5 last season as they return 88% of their statistical points. We expect Hudson Catholic to also be much improved and could beak into the top 50. Bayonne is expected to regress after losing 91% of their statistical points to graduation and is not in the NJP Top 50 pre-season ranks. Harrison is expected to be a top 25 team and will always be ready come County Tournament time.

Northwest Jersey is expected to have Jefferson as a lone top 50 squad. Jefferson is projected to be #34 in NJ. We expect Chatham to improve and both Pope John and Vernon to regress.

The Skyland Conference, despite only having 5 teams, always has some of the states top talent. Although all 5 teams are expected to be in the top 30, we expect some movement and regression of some perennial top 10 squads. Hunterdon Central and Hillsborough were top teams but both lose a substantial amount of talent to graduation. Watchung Hills who finished 5th in the Skylands in 2019 has a 87% positive impact score and could break into the top 25 this season. Bridgewater Raritan is expected to be a top 5 team powered by 6’8″ Senior Griffin Fieseler. And Ridge is expected to remain in the top 20 despite losing their Head Coach and some top level seniors.

When you talk about NJ Boys Volleyball, Southern is the perennial state champions that first come to mind. NJP expects Southern to have a top 5 squad again this season. But the shore conference is getting better and better each year and may not be an easy ride. Kean, Healy and Deakyne will lead the Rams. We project that 6 shore conference teams will be in the top 25. CBA will be improved this season but we are projecting them at #29. We expect major improvements from Manchester, St. John Vianney, and Jackson Liberty. But the biggest improvement is expected from Jackson Memorial who is our pre-season #4, one slot ahead of Southern. We expect regression from Howell, Colts Neck and Marlboro. Wall is projected to remain a top 25 team.

Essex County looks rather wide open with just two teams in the top 20 and 4 teams in the top 40. Livingston is NJP’s #13 ranked team for the pre-season. West Caldwell Tech comes in at #17. Bloomfield and Payne Tech are projected at #31 and #35 respectively. West Essex lost almost their entire squad to graduation and could slip out of the top 100.

The Farmers of Union lead by senior setter Justin Novoa are the only Union County team in the NJP top 20 at #20. We expect every other squad in the county to regress including SPF who finished in the top 20 for 2019.

In the Olympic, there will be several top teams projected to be in the top 20 mix. Clearview earns the #10 pre-season ranking after a 22-4 season last year and retaining half of their scoring. Washington Township is #18 in the PSR. You can never count out Kingsway from making a run but we have them at #44 currently. We do expect Gloucester Tech to be much improved and break into the top 40.

Burlington County will be super competitive this season. 6 teams are expected to be in the top 50. Rancocas Valley appears to be the most improved and the team to beat. NJP projects the Red Devils at #28 in NJ. Atlantic Tech, Sterling, Northern Burlington, Moorestown, and WWPN are projected to be in the top 50.
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