WEST ORANGE, NJ – As the new banner recognizing the first-ever 2016 Super Essex Conference-Colonial Division championship for the West Orange High School girls’ volleyball team hung proudly in the high school gymnasium, the 2017 team earned its first win of the season in a 2-1 victory against Bloomfield on Sept. 7.
Strong showings by Cassidy Ferrell, Aliya Perkins, Kendal Hoges Kena Arhtus and Madison Mitchell ensured the victory of the season for the Mountaineers.
“We try to bring the competitive edge out of everyone during practice in many ways with different activities whether it be fitness, team bonding, communication,” said head coach Jackie Cruz. “We try to remind the girls mental toughness goes a long way; the moment you have a negative thought, that’s when it all starts to fall down. They have all come a long way when it comes to believing in themselves and the team.”
Returning senior Madison Mitchell discussed last year’s success and said, “It was great. For anyone doubting girls’ volleyball or girls sports, we proved we could do it.”
Kendal Hoges noted, “We overcame and were proud.”
“Between summer league, camps, and summer practices, the girls are ready to start the season,” said Cruz. “Our preseason was a test to see where we would be able to compete this year. I try to remind the girls where we are is not the cap; we could only get better. We have to be able to outplay and outsmart the other team, and I think our preseason was a true test to that.”
Senior Aliyah Perkins returns this year after ACL surgery and was excited to play again. Her strong performance in the match proved she was all in again.
Cruz agreed and said that in addition to Perkins, players to watch are Madison Mitchell, Kena Arthus, Saniyiah Richardson, Kendal Hoges, Cassidy Ferrell, and Racheal Ezomo.
“This year is going to be a challenge for us being that we moved up a division,” said Cruz, “but we have faced the majority of the teams in the Liberty Division so it shouldn’t be a surprise for us. I believe the seniors know what it takes to be successful and will do whatever it takes for us to have another successful year.”
“We want to win another conference championship as well as the county tournament,” said Mitchell. “We’re going to take it one step at a tme and we’re gonna get there.”
“We don’t want to go back to where we were,” said Kendal Hoges. “We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.”
The girls play Verona in a home game on Sept. 12 beginning at 4 p.m.