Barbara Jacangelo has been through a lot in her young life. The Belleville High School senior has had to watch her older sister Tyler wage a battle against Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She has also battled back from a serious broken tibia she suffered during a volleyball match last September.
But through it all, Jacangelo has been the quintessential teammate for both the Belleville girls’ volleyball and softball teams.
“She was always willing to help those behind her try to get her position,” said Belleville head volleyball coach John Spina. “That says a lot about Barb. She’s a very good person to have as a role model.”
“I think it motivates others to play better,” Belleville head softball coach Chris Cantarella said. “The others see Barbara working hard and putting the time in, then they should work just as hard. She’s also pushing the others, always the first one to congratulate another, a pat on the back, a highfive. She truly cares about her team.”
When the Yogi Berra Museum was rounding up student/athletes for the Yogi Berra Best Teammate Award, there was only one student from Belleville truly worthy of the honor – Barbara Jacangelo.
The award is given to the best student/athlete who exemplifies what Berra was to the Yankees, a great teammate and leader.
Jacangelo received her award at the Yogi Berra Museum last month.
“When I found out from Mr. (Tom) D’Elia (the Belleville athletic director), I said, ‘Are you serious?’” Jacangelo said. “I was so surprised. I am a big Yankee fan and know all about Yogi Berra. I’m also a huge Derek Jeter fan, so it was a big thrill for me to go to the museum. I knew that Yogi Berra was the ultimate teammate.”
Jacangelo received her award at a reception at the Yogi Berra Museum in Little Falls. She had the chance to meet and talk with Lindsey Berra, the legendary Hall of Famer’s granddaughter and a columnist for MLB.com.
“It was so cool for me to be recognized as being the best teammate,” Jacangelo said. “I didn’t know you can get an award for it. It just comes as second nature to me.”
For her entire high school career, Jacangelo was a fierce competitor on the volleyball team, eventually serving as the team’s libero, the most thankless position on the court.
“What set Barbara apart for me was that she was a very good listener,” Spina said. “She was always listening and paying attention to what I had to say and what I was teaching. You get some athletes today who think that they can do it on their own. Barbara took it to the next step, took what she learned and put that thinking into action.”
Spina said that Jacangelo adapted well to the role of libero.
“It’s a tough, defensive position,” Spina said. “You didn’t have to be the most talented player, but you had to know where the ball was at all times. You have to sacrifice yourself and Barbara did that. She understood where kids had to go to hit the ball. She was the first one to dive on the floor and she was always in the right spot.”
Spina was asked what trait stood out the most about Jacangelo.
“Her toughness more than anything,” Spina said.
The tough side of Jacangelo showed when the Buccaneers were playing in the prestigious Hackensack Tournament in September.
“She broke her tibia, but she didn’t want to go to the hospital,” Spina said. “She wanted to stay and play.”
Jacangelo didn’t think much of the injury.
“I said to (Coach) Spina that I think I’m done for today, but I’ll be back on Monday,” Jacangelo said. “I didn’t want to come out of the game. I didn’t know how bad it was. I don’t cry much, but this hurt so much that I cried. I knew I had to go to the hospital. It was the first game in four years that my Mom (Gina Marie) missed. The doctor said that I broke my leg and that he didn’t think I’d be back.”
Spina thought that he had lost Jacangelo for the season.
“I knew that there was no way she was coming back,” Spina said. “Sure enough, with about a week left to go in the season, there she was.”
“I took that as my motivation to come back,” Jacangelo said. “I was cleared to return less than a month later.”
The hardest part for Jacangelo was being on the sidelines and being inactive.
“Harder than breaking my leg was watching someone else (Cristine Areola) play my position,” Jacangelo said.
Spina said that a limited Jacangelo still had a major role with the Buccaneers, who went 21-8.
“She’s an excellent passer,” Spina said. “She only missed one serve out of about 100 or so attempts. She was spot on with her serves. So I used her in spot action, have her serve and then come out.”
“I like the toughness she carried in herself,” Spina said. “When she was out, she was very good at reading plays. She was sitting on the bench and calling out plays.”
Cantarella knew that the ankle injury might limit Jacangelo during softball season.
“She worked her way back to play volleyball, but she was still undergoing rehab for her ankle,” Cantarella said. “It affected the way she played. But she showed so much determination to make her way back. I think that motivated the others. They saw how hard she worked. A good teammate does that. She always wanted to do better. If she couldn’t be successful, she wanted her teammates to be successful.”
The Buccaneers went 18-8 in a huge rebound season.
“She’s just a great kid,” Cantarella said. “Barbara was always there, working hard. She always cares about her team.”
Jacangelo recalled a defining moment in her athletic career.
“I was a sophomore and my friends were going to Wildwood,” Jacangelo said. “But I knew that it was the week of volleyball tryouts. I could have gone, but I decided against vacation and went to volleyball. I just love playing. I want to be the best I can be. I guess that’s just the way my parents (Gina Marie and Victor) brought me up.”
Jacangelo said that it was a trying day when she learned of Tyler’s diagnosis.
“I was in eighth grade,” Jacangelo said. “Believe me, it takes a lot out of a family. But I found out during a game that her cancer went into remission. The whole team ran over to me to comfort me. Tyler is doing great. She’s still in remission.”
Jacangelo is off to Neumann University in Ashton, Pa., to study athletic training.
“I will try out for the volleyball and softball teams there,” Jacangelo said.
Like a true teammate would in the spirit of the greatest Yankee teammate ever.
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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”