BLOOMFIELD – Head coach Louis Stevens has had some really talented teams since he took over the helm for the Bloomfield High School girls’ volleyball program.
But when it comes down to records, there’s no denying that this year’s team tops them all.
“This is the best team I’ve had at Bloomfield in terms of our record,” said Stevens, whose Bengals finished with a mark of 23-4.
In fact, Stevens, who took over for the girls’ program in 2005, said the team’s record matched the school’s previous best, which was set in the 1999 state championship season.
Without a doubt, Stevens said his team’s state playoff performance against Clifton highlighted the season.
“Beating 11th-seeded Clifton in the Group 4 playoffs was impressive for us as a 22 seed,” said the coach, whose squad fell in the next round, losing to North Hunterdon.
As another highlight, Stevens was certainly pleased with his team’s 15-1 record against division opponents.
“We definitely had a lot of success in our league this year as we only lost to Cedar Grove and that was without one of our best offensive forces,” said the coach, who talked about the season in general. “We won the matches we were supposed to.”
Overall, the coach, whose squad advanced all the way to the Essex County Tournament semifinals this year before falling to Montclair Kimberly Academy, said this year’s group was led by a strong senior class that features seven twelfth-graders.
“We will have some nice players returning next year but we will definitely have some great players to replace from this year’s graduating group,” he said.
Individually, one of those seniors who played a key role was captain and setter Jessica Carr.
“Jessica is a three-year starter and this year she recorded the most assists in a single season during my time as the Bloomfield head coach,” said Stevens, noting the senior finished with 54 aces, 416 assists and 150 digs.
Another senior who enjoyed much success for the team this year was left-side hitter Raamiah Edwards.
“Raamiah has tremendous athleticism and skill and she led the team with 55 aces,” Stevens said. “She led the team with 164 kills and she’s also a solid defensive player with 110 digs this year.”
Similarly, at middle, Stevens said Ashadah Austin made a significant contribution.
“She did everything we asked of her and she brought a lot to the table,” said the coach, noting Austin finished with 16 aces, 62 kills and 20 blocks.
In addition, senior right-side hitter Taylor Oates also helped lead the way. “Taylor brought lots of leadership and she finished with 24 aces and 85 digs,” Stevens said. “She didn’t make too many errors; she did really well on the serve and she also did a nice job in the back row.”
At the defensive specialist position, Stevens said Robyn Eseo and Gabriella Plaia were two other seniors.
“They both did well when they got in there for us and they both brought good energy for us,” said the coach.
Senior transfer Nicole Cill was the seventh senior on the team’s roster. “Nicole always brought energy and positivity and was willing to do anything to help the team,” Stevens said.
While those seniors will certainly be missed, one player expected to help fill the void will be junior libero Eva Dekaj.
“Eva is the best libero I’ve ever coached at Bloomfield. She does whatever it takes to get better,” said the coach, noting Dekaj recorded 33 aces and 242 digs.
Along with Dekaj, Stevens said a few sophomores will also be in the mix.
“Melissa Marte, a left-side hitter, can be very explosive and can take over a game as she had 37 aces, 120 kills and 115 digs, while sophomore Aicha Naouai also had a solid year with 25 aces, 114 kills, 12 blocks and 45 digs,” Stevens said.
The coach said Ava Covington, another sophomore, is a player to keep an eye out for in the future.
Notably, Stevens said Carr, Edwards and Dekaj each earned first-team All-Super Essex Conference. Naouai and Marte earned second-team all-league while Oates and Austin both earned honorable mention recognition. Carr, Edwards, Dekaj, Naouai, and Marte also earned Worrall Media All-Area honors.