There is still plenty of time left in the high school volleyball season in New Jersey.
While some teams may be dreading that fact, others, like the Sparta High School girls volleyball program is looking forward to earning more victories and building more memories on the court.
In matches played through Oct. 6 the Spartans had a stellar overall record of 12-0 and they were 8-0 in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) American Division. On October 18, they are scheduled to host Morristown.
Helping to lead the way for Sparta this year are two senior captains-Brynn McCurry and Arianna Puleo.
“Not only are Brynn and Ari two of our strongest players at their respective positions (Arianna is a setter and Brynn is an Outside Hitter), but they are also huge leaders on and off the court and all-around just amazing young women that I have had the pleasure of coaching and teaching over the course of the last three years,’’ Sparta coach Caitlin Jozefczyk said. “They are mentally tough and keep the team together and focused. They put the good of the team before their own individual pursuits and want the best for all of the players, even if that means they need to sit on the bench for a set to give another player the opportunity to get some play time.
“Off the court they are responsible and personable. I can count on them to organize work schedules for the players and communicate with the team about any schedule changes. They have great attitudes and excellent sportsmanship. They do all of this while maintaining their grades and staying involved.’’
Jozefczyk has witnessed the various improvements made by Puleo and McCurry as volleyball players.
“I have seen so much growth in them over the course of their volleyball careers and since the skills camp we did at the beginning of the season through Gold Medal Squared where we had two outside coaches (one from Utah and one from Florida) come and work with us for a week,’’ Jozefczyk said. “Brynn’s main sport is basketball, so she came to the team having no prior knowledge of volleyball skills or even rotation rules. She has gone from that to knowing enough about the game to tell other players where to go when they are confused about what rotation the team is in or who the next server is. She is perfecting the little things, like how to read the court and where there are holes, to know when she should swing hard versus just tip the ball. She’s learned how to read the blocker and the other team’s defense, to know when to swing cross or hit line. She is one of our largest offensive weapons.
“Arianna plays volleyball all year round and has a great knowledge of the court. She has worked on her setting technique and gelling with each individual hitter on the team, to know exactly how and where each player prefers their set and also working on running special plays with the hitters. She is also one of our most consistent and strongest spot servers, which is why she is always our lead server in the game to start us off strong.’’
Most importantly, both captains are very strong academically.
“Both of these girls challenge themselves with rigorous course loads,’’ Jozefczyk said. “I personally taught both of them last year in AP US History, and am currently teaching Ari in AP Government and Politics as well. Ari is in the National Honors Society, Science National Honors Society, Math National Honors Society, Art Honors Society and the World Language National Honors Society for Russian. She was awarded the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award last year from the University of Rochester, and was awarded recognition in the College Board National Rural and Small Town Recognition Program. She is currently ranked number 10 in their graduating class.
“Last year Brynn received the Dwight D. Eisenhower award, which is a leadership award for a high school student in New Jersey that demonstrates exceptional performance in academics, athletics, community service, good citizenship and leadership. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Math Honors Society and World Language Honor Societies. She is going to Villanova in the fall on a full scholarship for basketball based on her academic and athletic accomplishments.’’
On and off the court, McCurry and Puleo are very willing to be helpful to their teammates.
“Everything we do, we do as a team,’’ Jozefczyk said. “The captains are encouraging to all players, and push the other players to do better. When they play hard, it forces the other players to keep up and play hard as well. We all discussed our goals for the season back in August and everyone holds each other accountable to make sure that we are doing everything we can every day to achieve those goals.’’
NOTES: Statistics through 10 matches: Puleo: 118 assists, 61 service points, 21 aces. McCurry: 84 kills, 54 digs, 39 service points, 10 aces.