O'Connor emerges as Griffins' leader

O'Connor emerges as Griffins' leader

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O'Connor emerges as Griffins' leader

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There are three reasons why Jon O’Connor enjoys playing volleyball.

There’s the mental aspect.

“You have to think while you are on the court,” the Monsignor Donovan High School senior standout said. “On each play, you are thinking and constantly moving around. You are on the move.”

There’s the physical aspect.

“You are constantly running and sliding,” he said. “You do a lot of diving for the ball, stuff like that. Those long rallies really take a toll on you when you are constantly jumping.”

There’s the team aspect.

“I feel it is unlike any other sport,” he said. “In the other sports, you are pretty much set to win the game if you have one star player. A star point guard can score each time. In this sport, you have to be keyed in. You have to have a love for your teammates.”

O’Connor spent the bulk of last season as a reserve. However, he learned plenty as the Griffins went 11-7 and won the Shore Conference Class A Central non-public school title. Last year’s team was ruled by seniors and O’Connor made sure he absorbed plenty of knowledge from the veterans.

“I was the lone junior and the seniors were chosen over me for positions,” he said. “I did not have a dominant role. I constantly learned from the more experienced seniors, but I came into matches in certain situations and helped the team out.”

O’Connor, the lone returning starter, finds himself playing a much more prominent role this season.

“As captain, I feel I have to bring the team together and get the guys to know each other,” he said. “I am mostly a leader on the court.”

O’Connor has emerged as a top middle blocker. Earlier this season, he set the school record for blocks (11) in a match.

“That felt awesome,” he said. “I did not even know I had it until after the match. A lot of great players have come through here. Last year, we had a ton of blockers. To hold that record is a real honor.”

“This year, he came in and owned the leadership position,” Donovan coach Tom Trembulak said. “The guys have rallied behind him. He’s our go to hitter up front. He’s athletic enough to be able to block in all positions in the front row. He’s smart enough to see locations on the court when the chance to hit the ball at full speed is not available. He can jump real high, too, so he is able to get above the block.”

O’Connor is also versatile.

“He can play all six positions,” Trembulak said. “Having a middle blocker who is so athletic adds a lot of variety to our offense. He’s a very consistent server. He uses a jump-float serve that was pretty deadly in the Moorestown Tipoff Classic (in which Donovan advanced to the Final Four). He also has a jump serve. His jump-float serve is probably his most consistent serve.”

Trembulak first saw O’Connor compete as a sophomore. O’Connor went out for the team on the advice of Trembulak’s mother, Madeline Ainloch, a Monsignor Donovan employee.

“I noticed he was a natural athlete,” Trembulak said. “For a first-year player, he read the court very well. He was an intelligent player early on. He was willing to patiently learn how to play. He got along with everybody. What more can you ask for?”

A 6-foot-1, 175-pounder, O’Connor quickly grew to love the sport.

“Jumping is one of my strengths,” he said, “and I love that about the sport.”

O’Connor takes pride in being unselfish.

“My strength is probably my passing,” he said. “A lot of people say it’s my hitting or passing, but I take a lot of pride in my passing and in letting my teammates get that big kill.”

O’Connor, an aspiring sports agent, hopes to attend St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He’s active in several off-the-court activities, including Habitat for Humanity and the Jersey GOES (Group of Extraordinary Students) Group. He’s also active in religious activities at Monsignor Donovan.

“We do a lot of Christian service activities here,” he said. “They help build me as a person. I love it here. We have a small amount of students. Everybody knows everybody and I love that about the school.”

Trembulak said O’Connor is a pleasure to coach.

“He’s a good kid,” Trembulak said. “He is just one of those athletes who knows his role on the team. He respects the sport. He respects the school, his teachers and his peers. He shows up to play as hard as he can in every game.”

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