2011-10-19 / Sports

Hawks volleyball team is continuing to thrive

Girls’ team eyes playoff run

J.P. Stevens High School girls volleyball coach Patty Savulich would have you believe her team’s ascent to the upper echelon of the Greater Middlesex Conference the last decade has been due to excellent assistant coaches and the Hawks’ work ethic.

Those are not the only reasons. If ever a coach has embraced the challenge of building a program from the ground up to where it has become one of the better programs in the GMC, it is Savulich.

Stevens started playing girls volleyball under Savulich when the team was founded in 2000, and it has not suffered a losing season since 2003. That string will continue this fall with the Hawks’ record currently 14-5.

“We set the bar high every year,” says Savulich, “and this season is no different. I’m optimistic we can make another run at the GMC Tournament title and hopefully go deep in the state tournaments.”

Savulich cautions that the road to victory is blocked with potholes, including a few in her team’s backyard. Colonia, which defeated the Hawks Saturday, 2-0, is the primary obstacle, and it is likely the opponent that Stevens will meet again in the GMC Tournament. The Hawks also compete in South Jersey Group IV, which is loaded with quality teams throughout the state.

While only three players were lost to graduation, Savulich maintains that replacing her setter has been the biggest challenge. Junior Emily Chan (290 assists, 83 service points) has done a solid job in that role and is backed by freshman Jessica Liu (34 assists).

Junior Lorraine Mackiewicz (177 kills, 63 digs, 59 service points) has turned into a strong leader and has been an offensive threat while seniorAshley Tierney has been a strength in the middle.

Other members of the team and their statistics are senior Kripa Rajan (89 digs, 60 service points), juniors Adrianna Pagnotta (34 digs, 43 kills), Jillian Pastor (41 digs, 28 service points), Maxine LeSaux and Jen Yang, sophomore Angela Liu (39 service points), and freshmen Susan Zhao and Amanda Gu (31 service points).

The coaching assistants are Anthony White and Jason Madsen, who bring a brand of enthusiasm that Savulich believes is crucial to the Hawks’ success.

“The sport has grown to the point we’ve been able to start an eighth-grade program,” said Savulich, whose career record is 161- 126. “We have 18 on board, and that will yield benefits down the road when we need to replace graduated players.”

Savulich also credits an administration that she calls “extremely supportive” in addition to a large fan base that follows the team home and away.

“As the saying goes,” she said, “we’ve fostered an attitude where there is no ‘I’ in the team. That’s very true here at JPS.”

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