Is This The Best VHS Volleyball Team Ever?

By on October 9, 2017

Carly WatermanWe won’t have the official word on the seeding of the Essex County volleyball championship until Tuesday morning, but the people who follow Verona High School volleyball already have an opinion on which team is #1 in the county: Verona.

The Lady Hillbillies are 16-0 on matches for the the season, with a record of 48 wins and two losses in their last 50 games.

Despite this record, the 2017 volleyball team still has one tough opponent to face down: the 2016 VHS volleyball team. That team was the first VHS volleyball squad to play for the Group 1 state title. It had a a 32-3 season record and was the first Verona team in any sport to win the SuperEssex Conference’s America division, which is based on ability, not school size. It was also the first Verona team to win a county championship since 1981 and the first Verona volleyball team to be ranked in the NJ.com Top 20, which is a proxy for statewide sport rankings.

Truth be told, this year’s team is a lot like last year’s: Most of the squad is the same because there were only two seniors on the 2016 team, Caitie Kenneally and Olivia Lucanie. “We returned a lot of strong players from last year and they got even better from last year to this year,” says Coach Jeff Stiefbold. “We are better than last year at this point. We are stronger offensively and defensively.”

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This year, senior Carly Waterman and juniors Hunter Coppola and Brooke Cooney lead the offense for Verona. Madisyn Matthews (also a senior) is the team’s setter and recently achieved her 1,000th career assist. On defense are Nicolette Marino, a junior, and seniors Cameron Fuentez and Francesca Cortese.
VHS Volleyball
Waterman leads the team in service aces (25), and in service points (137). She was a standout in kills–those point-scoring slams over the net–from her freshman year on the varsity team, but this year her kill record has been overtaken by Coppola, who is the team’s tallest player at 6’1”. At the end of September, Coppola was ranked third on NJ.com’s ranking of kill leaders statewide, while Waterman was ninth.

“Carly is amazing”, says Stiefbold, “she led the state in kills last year. Hunter has been a little more dominant at the net this year. They are both playing great.”

The 2016 team ultimately lost the state title match to Bogota High School. This year, Verona is at the top of Group 1, ahead of Rutherford, Bogota, Cedar Grove and Elmwood Park.

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VHS Volleyball
There’s one other thing that the 2017 team has that the 2016 didn’t: notoriety. “We’re the target now, the hunted,” says Steifbold. “Last year we could sneak up on people.”

“This is the best team I’ve ever coached,” he adds. “We’re playing all aspects of the game well and it’s a lot of fun.”

The team’s next outing will be Tuesday afternoon at home against Madison. It faces MKA on Wednesday and Midland Park on Saturday. Those are also both at home. Volleyball senior night will be Tuesday, October 17 against Caldwell.

Photos copyright Nan Cooney. Used by permission.

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