Watch out. Get ready. Because here come the Mustangs.
The Marlboro High School Mustangs return a veteran team from last season’s 20-5 club which finished second in Shore Conference Class A North to Wall.
“I think we will be OK,” coach Margie McNamara said. “Missing Jet Manzi (last year’s standout who is a freshman at Lafayette College) is a big thing, but we have some strong players back.”
One of those players who hopes to take Marlboro to the Class A North title is outside hitter Haley Unger. Now in her fourth season as a varsity starter, the 5-foot-10 Unger gives the Mustangs one of the conference’s best all-around athletes as she will continue her basketball career at the United States Naval Academy.
“She has such a great work ethic,” McNamara said. “She worked hard during the offseason on her strength and now she is so strong. She has increases her power and her upper boddy strength.”
Unger has developed into a powerful hitter.
“When she gets the right set, she pounds the ball down pretty hard,” McNamara said. “She has improved her spiking approach, passing and serving. She gets on top of the ball better when she spikes it. Last year, she had trouble doing that. Now, she jumps and gets right on the ball. Her passing has become more accurate.”
Unger’s serve has become more consistent.
“Her serve is more accurare,” McNamara said. “She does not have a jump serve, but she has an accurate serve. If she sees a weak passer, she will get the ball to her. That’s how accurate she is.”
Haley will captain the team with senior opposite-setter Sydney Tuman. She will spend the bulk of her time on the court at opposite after setting last season for the Mustangs.
“She can hit very well,” McNamara said. “She’s also good on defense as she s so quick, very fast and very agile. Her confidence is way up from last season. She’s very critical of herself. Now that she is a captain, she has taken on that leadership role. The kids look up to her.”
Joining Unger and Tuman as key returners are senior middle hitter Cathy Ayala, junior libero Brianna Scotti and sophomore outside hitter-setter Grace Kenningham.
Key newcomers are senior outside hitter Skylar Corrao, senior libero Melissa Bingery, junior outside hitter Michelle Buchbinger, junior middle blocker Rebekka Wagner and sophomore setter Teresa Dinh. Kenningham, Scotti, Wagner and Buchbinder played club ball during the offseason.
Kenningham was a setter last year in the team’s 6-2 set. She will play a different role this season in the club’s 5-1 alignment.
“She’s very strong,” McNamara said. “She has worked on her hitting and serving. She and Haley are our best servers. Grace has a great float serve. She even has a little bit of a jump float serve.”
The Mustangs were one of several teams that sharpened their games in a summer league at St. John Vianney. The league played its matches Wednesday nights.
“For our girls to play together one night per week rather not seeing each other during the summer was a great thing,” McNamara said. “She (St. John Vianney coach Jessica Gadaleta) did a great job of organizing it.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Southern Regional’s Carly Dellavalle: Named first-team All-Shore last season by The Press, the senior setter gives the Rams a solid leader after handing out 414 assists and scrapping for 153 digs a year ago.
Marlboro’s Haley Unger: A four-year varsity starter, the outside hitter is a powerful outside hitter and a formidable blocker. She’s one of the Shore Conference’s tallest players at 5-foot-10.
Red Bank’s Megan Reardon: The senior middle hitter was one of the conference’s top players last season when she notched 115 kills, 22 blocka dn 105 digs. She keys a veteran nucleus for the Bucs.
Red Bank Catholic’s Tara Rempel: As a junior last year, Remple led the team in blocks and set the school’s single-season digs record with 200. A middle hitter, Rempel made vast improvements in her game during the offseason.
St. John Vianney’s Haley Scheuer: The Lancers’ 6-foot-1 senior middle blocker trained vigorously during the offseason. She can hit from anywhere on the floor in the Lancers’ sophisticated offense.