By Tommy Zillinski / Staff Writer and Christian Rosario / Editor-In-Chief
Unexperienced—sure; but uninspiring—never. Raritan Valley Community College’s Athletics Department’s newest team, Women’s Volleyball, has the makings of what could turn into the department’s closest-knit family.
While several players had competed in high school, the majority of the team have little to no game time with the sport. To help overcome this, the team believes that they will not only have to frequently communicate with each other on the court, but will have to bond off the court to build their teamwork and trust.
Haja Sherpef, a first year student at RVCC, is looking forward to becoming closer with her teammates and “kicking some butt” out on the court. To Sherpef, Volleyball has a deeper meaning than just a sport. “It means you get to exercise; you get to do something you love. I love it because you can use the energy for good instead of letting it out in bad ways like anger,” said Sherpef.
Tori Ciampa, a second year student, played for two years in high school at Watchung Hills. She looks forward to bringing a veteran presence to the team and witnessing first-hand the progress she believes her team will make. “Volleyball means working as hard as you can to improve yourself and your team. Teamwork is everything in volleyball,” said Ciampa.
Kim Chmielewski, perhaps the most experienced volleyball player on the team, has over seven years of playing experience. She has had campaigns with the Watchung Hills Warriors, All-County, All-State and New Jersey All-Star teams.
Unfortunately, Chmielewski suffered an ankle injury during one of the team’s practices. Although the full extent of her injury is not known, she does know her tendons in her ankle are torn, and she has sprain and possible stress fractures. There is no timetable for her return yet. But with crutches in hand and a boot on her left leg, she still cheers her team on at practices and provides them with veteran insight.
Mark Signorelli, the head coach and father figures of this family, uses his skill as an English teacher to his advantage. He views coaching volleyball as another way to teach young people invaluable lessons such as good habits, discipline, teamwork, commitment to a common goal and hard work.
Assistant Coach Neil Slattery has six years of coaching experience in various volleyball leagues throughout New Jersey. His mother introduced and guided him in volleyball when he was a child. “I had no choice,” Slattery laughed. “I’ve been playing volleyball my entire life. She was my elementary school coach, she was my high school coach, and I’ve just been in love with it ever since.”
The coaches suggest that the biggest challenge for the team is getting them ready to go from barely touching a volleyball to game-ready in one month. The coaches still feel very confident for the fall campaign, and believe that they will be able to meet their goals for the season, which includes setting a foundation, establishing a winning tradition and forming the right habits.
Already on the right track, Haja Sherpef best illustrated one of those habits by proclaiming, “I love my team, it’s our mini-family,” which went a long way to the hearts of her teammates, many of whom went up and hugged her.
This article was edited on September 23, 2014.