Pinelands Regional Girls Volleyball Team Finally Gets Statewide Recognition

Sep 27, 2017

The SandPaper and the fans of the Pinelands Regional High School girls volleyball program have known for a couple of years that the Wildcats have been developing into a championship contender at many levels, despite the fact the varsity team is in only its fourth year of existence. Now the rest of the New Jersey volleyball world has taken notice.

Pinelands, unranked in the preseason, cracked the Top 20 on Friday, checking in at No. 16. The ’Cats were also ranked the No. 2 team in the Shore Conference, behind only Donovan Catholic, and No. 3 on the statewide Group 2 list.

Pinelands also featured prominently in’s stat leaders lists. As of Sept. 22, Kayla Thornton had not only posted the most blocks in the state, 39, but had seven more than her closest competitor. Two of her teammates, Alexa Houston and Emma Capriglione, also were among the top 25 in that category. Jessie Rising was sixth in assists with 173, and Thornton’s 89 kills were the seventh-most in the state while Carly Jannsch was eighth in service aces with 33.

The Wildcats are now 10-1, with a three-set loss to Donovan Catholic, ranked 14th in New Jersey, their only blemish. They soon regained their confidence and racked up a couple of impressive wins on Friday, pinning the first loss on a 7-1 Absegami squad and defeating an 8-3 Red Bank Catholic team, 2-0.

Absegami didn’t go quietly into the night against Pinelands. The Braves actually won the first set, 25-22. The ’Cats were stretched to their limits, narrowly winning the second set, 27-25, before finally putting the Braves away, 25-23, in the third.

Thornton recorded six blocks, 11 kills, five service points including two aces, and eight digs. Jannsch had a dozen points from the serving line including five aces, nine kills and 13 digs. Rising contributed 23 assists. You’ve gotta dig Jillian William’s 19 digs, along with Kati Coverdale’s 11 and Alexa Houston’s 10.

Red Bank Catholic played a respectable first set against Pinelands, losing 22-25. The second set went more quickly, with Pinelands winning, 25-17.

The star of the match versus the Caseys was Williams. She led the team in digs with 15 but also contributed 13 service points, three of which were aces. Thornton also had another good match, with 13 kills, seven service points, three aces, three blocks and six digs. Jannsch had a good day on defense with a dozen digs, as did Coverdale, with nine. Rising and Victoria Pickel split setting duties, with the former recording 10 while the latter had seven.

Pinelands has a relatively easy schedule this week, with perhaps its toughest match against Barnegat next Wednesday. The Bengals have gotten off to a slow, 3-4, start this year, with one of their losses coming at the hands of the Wildcats. But Barnegat will have the home court advantage in their second meeting, and a win against Pinelands would be an early-season highlight for the underdogs.

And the ’Cats will have to concentrate when they tangle with the Bengals because they’ll surely be looking forward to what might be their most important match of their regular season when they entertain Donovan Catholic on Friday, Oct. 6, in a match that is set to tip off at 5:15 p.m. with a B South title, or at least co-title, on the line.

— Rick Mellerup

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