WEST ORANGE, NJ – With a 12-0 record in Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division play and 19-5 overall through Tuesday, Oct. 22, the West Orange High School girls volleyball team captured its third division title following the win against Columbia on Monday, Oct. 14.
“Columbia gave us a battle during the first set – the score 35-33,” WOHS head coach Jackie Cruz said. “Our girls looked more composed during the second set and we won, 25-15, making us undefeated in our Liberty Division,”
WOHS has lost to Verona, Morris Knolls, Livingston and Bogota. This year’s title is the third division championship for Cruz in her five years of coaching. This marks Cruz as one of the most successful girls volleyball coaches in WOHS history.
“Our girls are really starting to understand what it takes to compete,” Cruz said. “I try to remind them that every day will be a challenge and that we must train harder than the day before.
“We seem to be more physically and mentally inclined this year than in past years. All of our players are determined. My main focus for our mid-way point in the season was to focus on our mentality. Players put more pressure on themselves than the coaches. I always tell them you are going to make mistakes and that no one is perfect. By focusing on the positives, your talents will shine through your mistakes. I think they are really starting to believe that.”
The Mountaineers defeated Leonia on Friday, Oct. 11. Cruz said Leonia is one of the top teams in Bergen County.
“It was the most competitive game we’ve played yet,” Cruz said. “Leonia had the best defense we’ve seen all year and it challenged our girls to execute at a level that was physical, but even more mental. Our physical ability came through when we were able to close out plays. Volleyball is almost like chess. You have to know your next move before you make it; it becomes more of a strategic game when facing teams with great defense.”
On Friday, Oct. 18, West Orange lost to Bogota, another Bergen County team, which is ranked No. 3 in the state.
WOHS, seeded fifth, defeated No. 12 seed Montclair Kimberley Academy, 25-20, 25-21, in the first round of the Essex County Tournament on Saturday, Oct. 19 at home. After beating Passaic Tech, 25-17, 25-18, Monday, Oct. 21, in a non-conference match, the Mountaineers fell at fourth-seeded Verona, 25-17, 25-12, Tuesday, Oct. 22 in the ECT quarterfinals.
“This has been a tremendous year for us as a whole so far,
Cruz said. “This might be one of the best volleyball teams West Orange has had, physically and mentally. The chemistry between the team is amazing and our volleyball IQ is growing.
“I am proud of our success thus far and I believe there is a lot more to come. As one of the youngest coaches in the game, I still have a lot to learn, but I am willing to take those strides. I like to reflect on what other coaches do and how they handle situations, whether it is formation or just composure during games. It’s the same story for our boys. I believe our student-athletes here at West Orange have a lot to give, and I am hoping that the coaching staff: Caniece Williams, Gina Graziosa, John Chang and Christopher Terranova and I can bring it out of all of them.”