The Montclair High School women’s volleyball team is looking to win a Super Essex Conference Division championship when the dust settles this fall.
“An obvious goal is to win the ever-elusive Liberty Division title,” head coach Pam Reilly said. “Another of our goals is to strengthen our resolve.”
At the end of last week, the Mounties were 2-1, with wins over Nutley (2-0, Sept. 12) and Columbia (2-1, Sept. 14) and a loss at West Essex (2-0, September 16).
Montclair was well timed against Nutley and Columbia but spat against West Essex.
“I’m confident we gear up well with anybody when we’re firing at full throttle,” Reilly said.
The big plus for the 2022 squad is an experienced squad with 10 seniors, but Reilly added his side need to avoid a trap.
“We tend to spend too much time in negative swings and need to react faster with positive energy,” the coach said. “We want our team to remember to have fun.”
Heading into the 2022 season, Reilly had plenty of experience, with six starters returning from the 2021 squad that was 10-8. The six are seniors Jaimee Keys, Maya Burke, Hani Munetsi-Bullen and Catherine Carlson and juniors Taylor Yi and Camila Herrera.
Additionally, seniors Zoe Barrack and Nicole Mazzeo have spent a lot of court time as a libero and defensive specialist.
The team’s four co-captains are Keys, Munetsi-Bullen, Herrera and Burke.
Keys was an All SEC Liberty Division first-team player in 2021.
“She can bring smoke in one shot, but has added finesse to her arsenal and sees the field even better this year,” Reilly said.
Burke went from outside hitter to middle last season. “Maya has shown that this decision suits her well,” said the coach. “She’s got one of the best arm swings I’ve seen and a devastating serve. She’ll fill in on the right side as well.”
Munetsi-Bullen plays both outside hitter and right-back. “She does a great job in our toughest defensive position at the back,” Reilly said.
One of the key players on the pitch is the passer, and Herrera was one of Liberty’s best last season with 354 assists.
“She was always a leader on the pitch but
finally got more vocal,” the coach said. “I like her fearlessness. She never backs down from a challenge. Her frame is impeccable and this year she will also have the opportunity to show her attacking skills.”
While Herrera might be the best passer, Yi will also see time at this position. She also has other volleyball abilities.
“She’s clearly been busy working on her attacks and blocks, giving us yet another option,” Reilly said.
One of the best hitters in the middle of the team is Carlson. “She’s been injured in the last two practices, so hopefully she can provide that tempo attack that we love.
in the middle,” the coach said.
Two more top middle the hitters are juniors Carlie Holm and Trinity Mankey-Akogbeto.
One of the best new starters might be senior Lena Turner on the right side, where she spent time as a setter in the previous three seasons. “She has a phenomenal work ethic and a great attitude,” Reilly said.
Senior Sydney Martin-Grimes will spend time at outside hitter or right side.
Three seniors, Angelica Gallardo, Barrack and Mazzeo, along with junior Katarine Hube, are battling for time at libero and defensive specialist.
The Mounties could find out where they stand in the Liberty Division this week after the loss to West Essex. Between September 22 and 30, Montclair will face four teams in the division.
Montclair Women’s Volleyball Schedule
(Dates and times subject to change, start at 4 p.m. unless otherwise specified)
September 22 at Cedar Grove
September 23 West Orange 5:15 p.m.
September 28 Bloomfield, 5:15 p.m.
September 30 Colombia, 5:15 p.m.
Oct. 3 West Essex, 5:15 p.m.
October 4 at Nutley
October 6 in Belleville
Oct. 7 Cedar Grove, 5:15 p.m.
Oct. 8 at Bloomfield, 10 a.m.
October 11 Essex County Tournament, TBD
October 13 Essex County Tournament, TBD
October 15 Essex County Tournament, TBD
October 18 Essex County Tournament Finals, TBD
October 20 Kearny, 5 p.m.
State Tournament Oct. 26, TBD
October 27 Montclair Kimberley, 7 p.m.