Last season, North Brunswick took its lumps with a sophomore- and junior-laden roster. This season, however, coach Jim Biolsi expects to see vast improvement with a player who is garnering Division I college attention.
Nnenna Ibe, a 6-2 middle blocker, has coaches around the Greater Middlesex Conference buzzing about her potential.
“She’s really only been playing full-time for a year,” Biolsi said. “She didn’t join the program until her sophomore year and took her lumps last year on varsity. She’s very coachable, focuses very well in practice and wants to improve on all different aspects of her game.
“Shes come a long way in a short time,” added Biolsi. “Her sheer athletic ability could turn her into a great player. She’ll only improve as time goes on, and it’s just a matter of whether or not she can realize her potential or not.”
Ibe has already received interest from Penn State and Washington, and Biolsi expects her to garner much more attention as this season moves along.
“She’s going to be the best player in the county, hands down,” said Colonia coach Tom Hennessey in reference to Ibe.
Senior libero Emily Mercedes-Teronima and senior outside hitter Nicole Fostka will provide team leadership for a squad composed of five seniors and six juniors.
“The libero position is definitely a position of leadership, and (Mercedes-Teronima) should be very helpful and a big-time contributor to our chemistry,” Biolsi reasoned.
While Biolsi expects his club to improve upon last year’s 6-14 record, he sees one key strategy that must improve.
“We want to become a much better serving team,” he said. “We really trained in the offseason serving the ball aggressively and hope that can be a threat for us this season.”
And as any volleyball coach will tell you, the setter position dictates how the team flows. Biolsi thinks he has a good one in junior Zoey Woody.
“I think a lot of our improvement and success is going to be predicated by the setter position with (Woody),” Biolsi said. “She’s in a position of leadership with a lot of decision making, and when she has the ball in her hands she has the ability to make a quality set. The team goes as the setter goes and she’s been working hard. Her performance and growth as a player will be indicative on how far we go.”
Another key to the Raiders’ improvement will be how senior Cassie Luken adapts to a position change. Luken, who played middle last season, moves to the outside to provide a powerful force on the edge.
“She (Luken) is making nice progress for us,” said Biolsi, ” and she should be able to put more than a few balls down for us.”
AROUND THE AREA
Parody should be the theme this year in Middlesex County as not one team is the preseason odds-on favorite as has been in years past. “I don’t think anybody stands apart much from anybody else,” Hennessey said.
Colonia junior outside hitter Rachael Priebwasser will be a player to keep an eye on. She’s coming off a season with 106 kills for a team that was decimated by graduation.
J.P. Stevens, the GMC Tournament runner-up last season, will have the luxury of having senior outside/middle Angela Lu back. Lutallied 131 kills, 54 digs and 65 service points in 2012.
In Union County, Rahway lost five starters, but it brings back a versatile threat in Jineri Cordero. Corderocompiled 159 assists and 121 service points a year ago.
West Windsor-Plainsboro North and West Windsor-Plainsboro South will join the GMC this season for scheduling purposes only. Each team will not be eligible to win the conference title.