Head coach Vicky Zicopoulos understands that her Kearny girls volleyball team might not be on many people’s radar within the HCIAL after graduating the bulk of last year’s group
But based on the growth this young squad has shown during summer and preseason, Zicopoulos is optimistic that despite that lack of varsity experience, the Kardinals are in good position to improve upon last year’s win total of eight.
“It is a complete rebuilding year, however, I have high expectations,” said Zicopoulos, who was quick to praise the work of assistants Tracy Signa, Emilia Fernandes, Aaron Mantella and Ashley Latushko for their role in the girls’ summer development. “We started in the summer in the Harrison Summer League and they started slow, but the girls are looking great (in preseason). I feel very, very confident that our record this year is going to be better than last year. We’re on the way up.”
A big reason for that optimism is the play and leadership of junior outside hitter Isabelle Moura. The 5-foot-7 Moura, one of the few Kardinals with starting experience, had 69 kills a season ago and has been a true leader on and off the court this summer.
“She’s always positive on the floor and just wants the best for the team,” said Zicopoulos, noting Moura’s role in organizing many of the ‘captain’s practices’ this summer when the gym was closed. “She’s so coachable. She always brings positive energy and always wants to show by example. She is a true leader and I think all the girls know that.”
Libero Bridgitte Garrido is the other returning starter for Kearny. The junior had 110 digs a season ago and will once again be counted on to lead a backline that Zicopoulos believes will be the strength of the team this season.
Senior Ariana Martinez and junior Gabriela Pifano split the majority of the time at setter a year ago. Martinez has had a big preseason so far, while Pifano is a strong server in addition to her role as a passer.
At the other outside hitter is Amaya Wilson, a junior transfer, who should bolster the offense.
Senior Sharon Lapeyre will start at one middle blocker spot after seeing some time last year as a reserve. Promising sophomore Kathryn Schwerzler and junior Daybeliz Rosillo-Rivera are vying for the other middle.
Another sophomore, Leticia Araujo takes over as the starting opposite after playing junior varsity last year.
Seniors Retsel Izcano and Frances Gomes as well as junior Julianne Aular, a first year volleyball player, are also competing for roles in the Kearny rotation.
“I’m very excited (for the season). I was very nervous in the beginning because we were so young with so many sophomores. I think we’re going to surprise some people this year because we are so young and have a whole new lineup.”
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)