2021 Volleyball Season Summary


Mary Huegel

It was a historic year for the Colts Neck Girls Volleyball team, as they emerged as champions of the Eastern Invitational, A North Division, and Central Jersey Group 3. They were the only team in the Shore Conference to make it to a state final, eventually falling to North Hunterdon in the battle for Group 3. Playing 23 games over the span of 3 months, these Cougars will go down in the Colts Neck Volleyball Hall of Fame. 

The Cougars ended the Spring 2021 season 10-4, losing in the state sectional semifinal to Scotch-Plains Fanwood. They had 5 returning varsity starters: Madison McSorley (Jr. L), Alex Foley (Jr. OH), Mary Huegel (Sr. OH), Christianna Simon (Sr. O), and Kiersten Geissler (Sr. MB). This left the Cougars in need of a setter and a middle. Despite having some young setters in their arsenal, the Cougars turned to varsity DS Sophia Koval (Jr.) to switch positions and run the offense. Koval put in months of work in the off-season to prepare for this role, and come the fall, she shined at setter. The choice for who would be the second middle was easy: Savannah Butz (Soph.) had a stellar freshman year on JV and was showing tremendous potential. She immediately fit into the varsity lineup and was an offensive and defensive weapon the entire season. 

Going into the fall season, the Cougars were convinced they could win their division. All was going according to plan as the Cougars went into their first match against Freehold Boro with an undefeated record. This plan turned awry when the Cougars heartbreakingly lost in 2 sets. The quest to the division title became much more difficult. With Freehold Boro having 2 division losses and Colts Neck now with 1, neither team could make another mistake if they wanted to win. And to make things more dramatic, the final A North division game would be Freehold Boro vs Colts Neck. The Cougars faced a tough week, going into their next game against Long Branch in a poor headspace. They dropped the first set to Long Branch and knew they had to turn their attitudes around or the dream season could fall apart. The Cougars went on to defeat Long Branch in big margins the next two sets. However, the week was not over. The Cougars were lined up to play Shore Conference powerhouse Donovan Catholic in a non-division match that Friday. The Cougars dropped to Donovan Catholic in 2 sets, giving them a record of 7-2 going into October. 

The fight was far from over. The Cougars went on a 4 game winning streak before entering their rematch with Freehold Boro. There was a large following behind this game, especially on Boro’s side. Boro was posting about the game on all platforms and accumulated a crowd to come to Colts Neck in support of Freehold. This crowd accomplished the opposite of its intentions, however. The hype of Boro’s stands only fueled the fire of the Cougars, who won the first set 25-11. The energy in the gym was electric. Freehold Boro could not recover and the Cougars took the second set 25-17, making them A North Champions for the first time since 2009. This victory was just the first of many milestones the Cougars were determined to reach.

The Cougars made a respectable run in the Shore Conference tournament, making it to the quarterfinals before falling to Toms River East in a nailbiter. Colts Neck’s eyes then fell on the real prize: the sectional title. State seeding came out and the Cougars were ranked #7 in Central Jersey Group 3. After beating Red Bank Regional in the first round, the Cougars had to face teams of higher seeding for the rest of the season. Colts Neck beat #2 seed Jackson Liberty for the second time in the season in 3 sets to move on to the sectional semifinals — the same spot the Cougars got knocked out last season. The Cougars knew this was not the end. However, they hit a bump in the road when starting libero Madison McSorley injured herself at practice. Coach Hope always promoted the phrase “next person up.” The next person in this case was sophomore Stacy Mancino. Stacy Mancino joined the starting lineup against #3 seed Northern Burlington and helped the Cougars pull out a win in 2 sets. With the bravery of Stacy Mancino and a stellar all-around performance, the Cougars were onto the sectional final for the first time in history.

There were upsets throughout the CJG3 bracket, leaving the #7 seeded Cougars against #4 seeded Brick Memorial. Colts Neck knew they had to leave everything on the court… and they did. Colts Neck opened strong and never looked back, taking the first set 25-17. The Cougars’ blocking presence, solid defense, and strong attacks never faltered, leaving little room for Brick to score. An 8 point difference wasn’t good enough for the Cougars. They wanted everyone to know that they deserved the CJG3 title despite being seeded so low. Colts Neck took the second set 25-12 and were crowned state champions for the first time.

Next up was the Group 3 semifinal, placing Central Jersey’s champion (Colts Neck) vs South Jersey’s champion (Toms River East). Colts Neck was ready for revenge. The Cougars opened the game slow, dropping the first set 20-25. But it wasn’t over yet. Colts Neck battled through a gripping second set and emerged victorious in set 2 25-19. Now, it was time to make a statement. Toms River may have knocked Colts Neck out of the Shore Conference Tournament, but Colts Neck was the better team. The Cougars displayed this by taking the 3rd set 25-14 and advancing to the Group 3 finals at William Paterson University. 

The Cougars had the opportunity to play in a state final in a big university gym and they were ready to soak it all in. The Cougars felt blessed to have the chance to play on such a big stage as the only Shore Conference team playing in the state finals. Colts Neck dropped to North Hunterdon in two sets, but they displayed grit and heart through it all. The end of the season was devastating, but overall, it was phenomenal. 

Almost all of the varsity starters reached milestones in the fall season. Mary Huegel ended the season with 240 kills, setting the record for most kills in a single season, and ended her career with nearly 400 kills (385). She also led the team in aces and reached a career milestone of 100 (113), now holding the record for most in-season aces. Alex Foley reached 200 kills for her career and still has another season to go. She has an extremely bright future as the Cougars’ leading attacker. Kiersten Geissler reached 100 career blocks and now holds the record for highest in-season blocks with 58. Sophia Koval broke 400 in-season assists (452) and now holds the record for highest in-season assists. She also holds the highest serving percentage of all time with 94%. Colts Neck is graced by one more season with Koval. Madison McSorley broke 600 career digs (642) and leads Colts Neck in career and in-season digs (351). She’ll be Colts Neck’s star lib for one more year. 

It’s a very difficult goodbye to our 7 seniors: Mary Huegel (committed to play D3 volleyball at Gettysburg College), Kiersten Geissler, Christianna Simon, Julianna Gibson (committed to play D1 basketball at St. Francis University), Sophie Divino, Michaela Henderson, and Anna Rjahovski. These seniors have dedicated countless hours to this sport and their outstanding personalities will be missed greatly. They have built an exceptional girls volleyball program over the past 4 years and what they built will live on.

Colts Neck ended their season 14th in the state and 5th in the Shore Conference with a 19-4 record.