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SEC Player of the Year – Jess Sanderson ’19

By Brian Bobal | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com | Click here to read the NJ.com article
on December 06, 2018 10:22 AM, updated December 06, 2018 11:34 AM

Jessica Sanderson ’19 had a season to remember, fittingly enough is it was her final one with Mount St. Dominic. The senior led the state in kills with 504 and blew past 1,000 for her career, becoming the first athlete in program history to do so. She finished with a staggering 1,266 kills in a terrific career and was named a Second Team, All-State honoree. In just the past two seasons alone she put the ball down 994 times.

She was able to record double-digit kills in 25 matches, passing 20 eight times and getting as high as 30 in a match against Caldwell back on Sept. 15.

With Sanderson leading the way, Mount St. Dominic was able to capture a Prep Tournament title and went to the quarterfinals of the Non-Public Tournament.

AROUND THE SUPER ESSEX CONFERENCE

Verona overcame a couple early-season losses and found its swagger as the season progressed. The more the team became acclimated to first-year coach Sherilyn Ferrari, the more it improved and was able to put together two separate winning streaks of at least 11 games. The Hillbillies rolled to an American Division crown with a 11-1 record, topped Caldwell to win the Essex County Tournament and marched all the way to the Group 1 final for the third consecutive year. Hunter Coppola and Brooke Cooney had great seasons with 226 and 216 kills respectively. Kelly Waterman had a team-high with 73 aces and 499 assists.

Mount St. Dominic was a perfect 10-0 against divisional opponents not named Verona. Three losses to Verona put it second in the American. Aside from winning a Prep Title and Sanderson reaching 1,000 kills, one of the highlights of the season for this squad was an 11-game winning streak from Oct. 4 to Oct. 23. Alexandra Rivera had a team-high 327 assists to go with 37 aces. Melanie Matarrazo had a nice season of her own with 96 kills.

Caldwell racked up 20 wins in 2018, a four-win improvement from 2017. This squad was the only American Division team to beat Verona and it made a great run to the Essex County Tournament final. While the team had one rocky stretch that saw it lose five of seven games in late September, it was able to string together winning streaks of at least three games three times. It’s state tournament bid came to an end against a tough Ramapo team, but overall it was a strong season. Elizabeth Hessberger finished with a team-high 123 kills and Lia Byrne had 107 to go with a team-high 33 blocks.

West Essex claimed the Colonial division title with an 11-1 divisional mark, going 16-5 overall. From mid-September to early October, this team recorded 11 consecutive wins. An 18-25, 12-25 loss to Raritan brought an end to the season in the first round of the Group 2 tournament. Dana Stelter put up a strong season with 133 kills and Jessica Coia was right behind with 117. Julia Parzecki had 223 assists.

Millburn recorded an eight-win improvement in Bill Rentiers’ first year as head coach. It was able to beat Verona for the first time since at least 2007 and earned the top seed in the Essex County Tournament. In the state playoffs, the team defeated Fair Lawn in what was the first playoff home game ever. Jessica Toledoand Stephanie Bai helped lead the team offensively with 130 and 114 kills respectively. Taylor Liu was great defensively, leading the team with 280 digs. Amanda Huang had 329 assists. It also went 12-0 to capture the Liberty Division title.

Columbia went 9-3 in Colonial Division play en route to 15-7 record. Shayla Keeganpicked up 121 kills on the year, while Jane FleetwoodPaige Carlson and Corteney Provilon-Louis combined for 228 more. The team’s 7-1 start was highlighted by a five-game winning streak and the team virtually traded two wins for a loss the rest of the way.

Belleville also went 9-3 in the Colonial Division and finished with a 16-11 record. Cheryl Ann Nicosia broke two school records with 208 kills and 76 aces on the season. The team erased an 0-4 start to the season with a terrific 15-2 run in the span of a month. Alethea Cruz had 301 assists and Fiorella Samaniego was great defensively with 276 digs.

Payne Tech finished its first season as a varsity program with a 15-14 record. Coach Natasha Batista was able to pick up her 100th win over the course of the year and another highlight was the team’s Dig Pink Game against West Caldwell Tech, which it won in three sets. It was also able to defeat Orange in straight sets in its Essex County Tournament debut. Tatyanna Rodas was terrific all season long, leading the team with 157 kills. Tyanna Rodas was next up with 92 kills.

Arts captured the title in the Freedom Division, going 15-1 en route to a 17-7 season overall. An eight-match winning streak from late September to early October highlighted its strongest stretch of the season. Valerie Valle and Syasia Bryant had great seasons and led the offense with plenty of help from Yasmille Ubiera.

West Caldwell Tech reigned supreme in the Independence Division, going 11-1 to take the crown and finished the season with a 19-6 record overall. The team won its first nine games overall before Payne Tech became its first loss. West Caldwell Tech went on to win the next 10 games, but ended the year on a five-game losing skid. Loude Donatus’ 108 kills led the team.

FINAL SEC RANKINGS

1-Verona (26-4)
2-Mount St. Dominic (25-7)
3-Millburn (19-5)
4-Caldwell (20-9)
5-West Essex (16-5)
6-Belleville (16-11)
7-Columbia (15-7)
8-Newark Academy (14-9)
9-Montclair Kimberley (13-9)
10-Payne Tech (15-14)

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