Montclair High School’s girls volleyball team is looking to bring home a Super Essex Conference division championship when the dust settles this fall.

“An obvious goal is to win the ever-elusive Liberty Division title," head coach Pam Reilly said. "Another one of our goals is strengthening our resolve."

At the end of last week, the Mounties were 2-1, with victories over Nutley (2-0, Sept. 12) and at Columbia (2-1, Sept. 14) and a loss at West Essex (2-0, Sept. 16).

Montclair was on cue against Nutley and Columbia but sputtered against West Essex.

"I am confident that we match up well with anyone when we are firing on all cylinders," Reilly said.

The big plus for the 2022 squad is an experienced group with 10 seniors, but Reilly added that her team needs to avoid a pitfall.

"We tend to spend too much time in negative point swings and need to respond more quickly with positive energy," the coach said. "We want our team to remember to have fun."

Coming into the 2022 season, Reilly had plenty of experience, with six starters returning from the 2021 squad that was 10-8. The six are seniors Jaimee Keys, Maya Burke, Hani Munetsi-Bullen and Catherine Carlson and juniors Taylor Yi and Camila Herrera.

In addition, seniors Zoe Barrack and Nicole Mazzeo saw extensive court time as libero and defensive specialist.

Montclair senior Jaimee Keys, right, goes up for a shot against West Essex. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Montclair senior Jaimee Keys, right, goes up for a shot against West Essex. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)

The team's four co-captains are Keys, Munetsi-Bullen, Herrera and Burke.

Keys was an All SEC Liberty Division first-team player in 2021.

"She can bring smoke with one swing but has added finesse to her arsenal and is seeing the court even better this year," Reilly said. 

Burke moved from outside hitter to middle last season. "Maya has been demonstrating that the move suits her well," the coach said.  "She has one of the best arm swings I have seen and a devastating serve. She will also fill in at right side."

Munetsi-Bullen plays both outside hitter and right side. "She does a great job in our toughest back-row defensive position," Reilly said.

One of the key players on the floor is the setter, and Herrera was one of the best in the Liberty last season with 354 assists.

"She has always been a leader on the court but
has finally become more vocal," the coach said. "I love her fearlessness. She never backs down from a challenge. Her setting is impeccable, and this year she will get the opportunity to showcase her offensive talents as well."

While Herrera might be the top setter, Yi will also see time at that position. She has other volleyball abilities as well.

"She has clearly been busy working on her attacking and blocking, giving us yet another option," Reilly said.

One of the squad's top middle hitters is Carlson. "She has been injured for the last couple of practices, so we hope she can provide that tempo attack we like
in the middle," the coach said.

Senior Lena Turner talks strategy with head coach Pam Reilly. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Senior Lena Turner talks strategy with head coach Pam Reilly. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)

Two other top middle hitters are juniors Carlie Holm and Trinity Mankey- Akogbeto.

One of the top new starters could be senior Lena Turner on the right side, where she spent time as a setter in the previous three seasons. "She has a phenomenal work ethic and great attitude," Reilly said.

Senior Sydney Martin- Grimes will spend time at outside hitter or right side. 

Three seniors, Angelica Gallardo, Barrack, and Mazzeo, along with junior Katarine Hube, are battling for time at libero and defensive specialist.

The Mounties could find out where they are in the Liberty division this week after the loss to West Essex. Between Sept. 22 and 30, Montclair faces four teams in the division.

Montclair Girls Volleyball Schedule
(Dates and times subject to change, 4 p.m. start except where noted)

Sept. 22 at Cedar Grove
Sept. 23 West Orange 5:15 p.m.
Sept. 28 Bloomfield, 5:15 p.m.
Sept. 30 Columbia, 5:15 p.m.
Oct. 3 West Essex, 5:15 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Nutley
Oct. 6 at Belleville
Oct. 7 Cedar Grove, 5:15 p.m.
Oct. 8 at Bloomfield, 10 a.m.
Oct. 11 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Oct. 13 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Oct. 15 Essex County Tournament, TBD
Oct. 18 Essex County Tournament Finals, TBD
Oct. 20 Kearny, 5 p.m.
Oct. 26 State Tournament, TBD
Oct. 27 Montclair Kimberley, 7 p.m.