The 14 seniors on the Montclair High School girls’ volleyball team had been waiting for this season since their freshmen year.
Sure enough, their high school volleyball finale was nothing short of gratifying.
The Mounties finished the season with a winning 15-9 season, a run in the Super Essex County Tournament and a bid to the NJSIAA State Tournament. Montclair defeated North 13th Street Tech, 2-1, in the first round of the Essex County Tournament to advance to the second round.
“I think we’re incredibly fortunate that most of the team, the majority of it, have been on the team or in the program since freshmen year, so we’ve all come up through the four years together,” senior middle hitter Rebecca Herrick said. “Coming into the season, we were all at such a point where we were so connected and in tune with each other that I feel like everybody’s been waiting for this year since we were freshmen.”
Montclair was a force to be reckoned with all season long, using their veteran experience to propel them to one of their most successful seasons in recent years in which they received the No. 7 seed in the county tournament, the highest seed the program has received in head coach Pamela Reilly’s five-year tenor.
“I think that the difference between last year and this year is that there’s more support,” Reilly said. “The young ladies that didn’t really know that they were good last year have kind of realized that ‘hey, I can do this too’ and it makes us a more solid team when we have more than one player that can make a solid contribution, so I think that has taken us over the hump.”
Returning first-team All-SEC middle hitter Annura Hamilton had a dominant year for the Mounties, leading with 135 kills, 158 service points and 33 service aces. Senior setter Ciarah Minnig broke out this year with a career high 205 assists, 113 digs, 41 aces and 41 kills.
“Ciarah really stepped up this year, she’s a captain, and she’s one of the setters which is a really important role on the court,” senior Delaney Wastler said. “She’s really good about talking to people and telling them exactly what to do because she’s in every play and is such a key role on the court and she does it so well.”
Wastler added that senior outside hitter Ariana Martinez is a go-to person on the court for players needing a pick-me-up during games. Martinez finished the year with 78 kills, 158 service points, 40 service aces and 105 digs.
“I think that this year especially, everybody just stepped up their game and everybody (has) really pushing themselves as far as they can so that we can win,” Herrick said.
“It makes me incredibly happy (that this was my senior year),” Herrick added. “I’ve made my best friends on this team, this team has been my family for four years. I’m so grateful that we all have been working our hardest in season and out of season and that we’re all coming together now because it’s so gratifying since we’ve been together for so long and have been working so hard for so long so I’m just very grateful and happy about it.”