Started last year as an experimental project, The Journal News/lohud listed nine players whose name fans should get familiar with sooner rather than later. Some of these players made an impact right away, with two players (Hen Hud’s Zoe Staats and Peekskill’s Kiara Adams) garnering all-conference honors. Another player, Harrison’s Kayla DeMartini, earned an all-conference honorable mention selection.
Before we get to this year’s honorees, please take a second to look below at what the qualifications are for one to be selected.
(Qualifications: Player is a sophomore or younger and has not earned any kind of all-county, section or state recognition. These are just players that I’ve seen that I think have bright futures; it’s not in any way meant to be an all-rookie team or anything like that.)
9 names to know
Jen Braun, Panas, So.
I’m listing these players in alphabetical order, but I’m glad that I get to start with Braun, who made this list last year. I didn’t want to pick any repeat players, but I decided to make an exception after talking with Panas head coach Joe Felipe. I made a note of Braun the second I saw her play, but she didn’t see much time last year during the Panthers’ run to the Class A state final. Felipe said the 6-foot outside hitter will likely start this year, and with Panas expected to make it back to Glens Falls, that means Braun will definitely be a team fans will want to know right now.
Kayla Diaz, Nanuet, So.
She may be the younger sister of a Division I player (St. John’s sophomore Nia), but Kayla Diaz is a much different player than her big sis. While Nia was known more for her brute strength in the middle of the Golden Knights’ offense, Kayla gives first-year head coach Danyel del Rosario a bevy of options with her versatility. Diaz can easily be a setter for a hitter for Nanuet, depending on what the team’s needs.
Rena Li, Scarsdale, So.
Being in the same class as “Super 7” finalist Annemarie Horn means that Li will likely see more time as a defensive specialist, but her ability to set does give Scarsdale head coach Ann Marie Nee plenty of options to work with. Li is the younger sister of former all-section setter Michelle, who helped mold the Raiders into the section champion they became last year.
Pamela Loh, Hen Hud, So.
You might be starting to notice a trend here, and it’s not really a coincidence. Like Diaz and Li, Loh is also the younger sibling of a former local star. Loh is the youngest of three sisters, with former hitter Morgan now graduated and current hitter Kirstin in her senior year with the Sailors. Pamela Loh differs from her sisters in that she is a libero, with a much smaller frame than her siblings. Sailors head coach Diane Swertfager said Loh spent a lot of time learning from all-state libero Lindsay Pelaccio last season, which should make for a smooth transition on defense for Hen Hud.
Isabella Pansini, Fox Lane, So.
The sophomore setter was the youngest member of her club team last year, which was led by Fox Lane head coach Jennifer Addison. With the Foxes being hit by graduation and junior Maria Violante being out for the season after undergoing surgery on her shoulder, Pansini could play a key role in the team’s offense.
Mia Persico, Briarcliff, So.
The youngest member of the Bears’ roster, the sophomore can serve as an outside hitter or libero for head coach Katie Walker. Briarcliff reached the Class C semifinals last year, but move up to Class B this season. Fortunately for the Bears, many of the juggernauts in Class B such as Hen Hud, Pelham and Nyack also moved up in class. The field should make for an exciting season in Class B this year, and Persico could be major contributor to any success the Bears have.
Sydney Roell, Westlake, So.
The sophomore hitter has ditched her trademark eyeglasses this year, but her talent hasn’t gone anywhere. Roell missed some time last year with a back injury, but between her health and Westlake expected to contend for the Class B sectional crown, everyone will want to starting talking about this hard-hitting sophomore.
Inmay Weinstein, Peekskill, Fr.
Lady Red Devils head coach Dennis Adams called the freshman setter “one of Peekskill’s budding talents.” The benefit to Peekskill still being on the turnaround of its program is that Weinstein should see plenty of court time. Peekskill will be at Clarkstown South’s annual multi-team scrimmage Saturday, which will host 13 teams and give plenty of people a chance to see Weinstein and the Lady Red Devils in action.
Leslie Yanez, Harrison, Fr.
We wrap up with the freshman libero and younger sister of Huskies setter Melissa Yanez. Harrison head coach Candy Light, who won back-to-back section titles in 2011 and 2012, praised Yanez and said she will definitely be one to keep an eye on as her high school career progresses. Yanez only played in 32 sets last year, but will see significantly more time now that former starting libero Sydney Woolf graduated.