The expectations were high for the Pope John Lions girls’ volleyball team heading into the 2023 season.
After a 12-12 year with head coach Tyler Singh who would begin her third season as the head coach in 2023, the Lions were ready to improve and head back to the playoffs with a better result than a first round exit. However, the team was not the same without a couple of key players, but they worked hard to put together a 9-16 season with light at the end of the tunnel fast approaching.
The Lions started the season strongly with two wins against the Chatham Cougars and the Morris Hills Scarlet Knights. This two-game win streak to begin the season was broken by a four-game losing streak which then brought about another two-game win streak. The Lions were now 4-4 and would lose the next match to the Morristown Colonials but win the following match against the Blair Buccaneers.
Beginning October with a 6-5 record was great for the Lions as they were pleased with how the team was playing even though they weren’t winning more matches than they wanted to.
“I think we were more cohesive this year as well as more talkative,” said coach Singh last Monday. “I think we didn’t have as many unforced errors which created better play overall for us as a team.”
The Lions began October with a big win over the Randolph Rams, but struggled early in the month. The Lions lost the next five of six after the win over the Rams, putting them at a 7-10 record. This led them into the 2023 Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex tournament which was a huge success for the Lions.
They defeated the High Point Wildcats in the first round, lost to the Montville Mustangs in a regular season match, defeated the Hackettstown Tigers in the quarterfinals and fell to the Hunterdon Central Red Devils in the semi-finals.
With three matches left, the Lions were 9-12. Throughout the season, the senior class had been leading the way as they passed on the skills for the juniors and underclassmen to learn for future seasons to come.
“I’m very proud of this team since we never gave up in any of our matches this year,” said senior Reagan Healy last Monday. “This team’s really a family. We spend so much time together, and we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re always there for each other.”
Seniors Katie Rysdeck, Lian Vieluf, Lauren Duffy, Lauren Cordero, Olivia Barragan and Healy all made massive contributions to the team throughout the season.
The Lions wouldn’t win another match as they finished the regular season with a 9-15 record. They would lose to the Paul VI Eagles in the first round of the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament to end their 2023 season.
There were tears after the final point was scored against them, but they all knew that with all of the skills that the seniors and leaders left the underclassmen, the team was going to get even stronger, heading into next year and the years to come.
“I think the senior leadership was strong as we did put a lot of focus on senior leadership instead of multiple captains,” said coach Singh. “They all led by example, worked really hard and helped to make this season fun on and off the court.
Andrew Nowel, Contributing Sportswriter
Currently enrolled at Canisius University in Buffalo, New York, Andrew Nowel is an up-and-coming journalist/photographer and broadcaster. He wrote sports' articles for his high school, Pope John XXIII Regional High School. Andrew has worked with Morris Sussex Sports in sports broadcasting and analyzes professional sports in his free time. Andrew and his friend Ryan have a podcast that talks about professional sports and Canisius Athletics. Andrew also runs his own website about Canisius Athletics. He strives to inform the people about local sports and the young athletes of our communities from Buffalo to New Jersey and everywhere.
Andrew has provided previous and remarkable sports stories and photographs for the Ridge View Echo since he was 16 and enrolled at Pope John High School.