Volleyball finishes season as WJIVL champions in team’s third year

After two consecutive seasons with losing records, the third year of the PHS girls varsity volleyball team proved to be the most accomplished in program history. The team maintained a record of 14–4 in the regular season, a large step up from the last two years. The girls also won the West Jersey Invitational Volleyball League tournament and, for the first time in PHS volleyball history, they entered the state tournament, where they were seeded 20th.

So how did the team produce its first breakout season? Members of the team credit the team’s success to the increased participation in club volleyball and offseason training.

“This season … a lot of girls have started doing club volleyball,” said Noa Levy ’17, a starter and varsity captain. “Our first year, there had been one girl that had done club, ever. Coming back to this season with everyone already having the club mentality really helped a lot.”

In terms of the team’s postseason success, every game of the West Jersey Invitational Volleyball League tournament was a hard-fought battle.

“All the games went to the third set so they were all tight,” said Natalia Drobnjak ’19, the varsity team’s libero. “We’re getting a banner now in this school, [and] we’ve gotten plaques … We’d never thought we’d make it this far.”

volleyball

photo by Valeria Torres-Olivares
Anna Cao ’18, outside hitter, sets up for a spike against Pennsauken High School.

Levy maintained 40 kills and 23 blocks in her last season on the team. Drobnjak led the team in both digs and aces this year, with 217 digs and 57 aces. Other players who contributed to this season’s accomplishments include Anna Cao ’18, who followed through with 136 kills, and Gillian Hauschild ’20, who produced 84 kills and 31 aces.

Head Coach Patricia Manhart attributes this season’s achievements to the growing experience of girls in the program and to offseason preparation.

“This was the first year that our seniors had four years of playing experience,” Manhart said. “That’s been the difference, just [the] element of time and training.”

Manhart also has great expectations for the future of the program.

“We’d all be disappointed if we don’t protect the WJIVL and come in first next year. So that’s kind of that bar that’s been set,” she said. “Putting [tougher teams] on our schedule and being able to play them tough or beat those teams is definitely a goal for next year too.”

Overall, the team’s record-setting season was a huge confidence-builder for the varsity program.

“Now, going into the next season, we know we can make it this far, and we will go further,” Drobnjak said.

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