Stevens volleyball hopes to end losing streak this week


After opening the season with two straight wins, the J.P. Stevens High School girls volleyball team hit a bump and went on a three-match losing streak. The Hawks will look to end the skid in a match against Colonia today at 3:45 p.m.

JEFF GRANIT staff J.P. Stevens High School's Alison Dougan returns a shot during a Sept. 17 match against South Brunswick High School. JEFF GRANIT staff J.P. Stevens High School’s Alison Dougan returns a shot during a Sept. 17 match against South Brunswick High School. “Our three losses have all been close matches,” Stevens head coach Patty Savulich said. “We were competitive in all three, and our girls were right in the mix.”

After opening the year with wins over Edison and John F. Kennedy, the Hawks lost to Old Bridge, East Brunswick and South Brunswick. All three losses came last week.

The week started with a 26-28, 23-35 defeat at the hands of Old Bridge. After hanging tough with perennial powerhouse East Brunswick, Stevens fell to South Brunswick, 24-26, 18-25.

“Our defense has been pretty solid, but we’re feeling the loss of GMC Player of the Year Maggie Kowalska,” Savulich said. “Maggie carried us offensively the last several years, and our girls are still learning how to step up in her absence.”

With Kowalska playing for Stevens Institute of Technology and the team’s starting center sidelined with an ankle injury, the start to the new season has been a challenge.

“Andrea Krapevka has missed all five games with an ankle injury and she’s expected to miss another week and a half,” Savulich said. “Sophomore Ashley Tierney has done a nice job filling in for Andrea. This is just Ashley’s first year. She’s very athletic and a quick learner.”

Senior Jennifer Sun has taken over as the team’s defensive leader. Sun was moved from libero to outside hitter to capitalize on her strengths.

“She’s working on her vertical jump and she’s doing a tremendous job,” Savulich said. “She already has 26 kills and 36 digs.”

Lindsay Uckar made the move from outside hitter to middle with Krapevka on the shelf. When Krapevka returns, it is likely Uckar will return to the outside and Tierney will play up front.

“I think Andrea is going to be a very good player for me with some more experience,” Savulich said. “Hopefully, Andrea can return to form and we can move Lindsay back to the outside. That should make us stronger and help us turn some of the close losses into wins.”

Senior Suzy Miao has also been a stalwart defender for the Hawks. She enters this week with 19 kills and 38 digs.

“Suzy has been awesome defensively,” Savulich said. “She also gives us a very solid server.”

Classmate Kendall Rotondo has been consistently good as an opposite side hitter. Rotondo missed last year due to knee surgery but appears to have come back even stronger.

“She can be a real presence as a blocker,” Savulich said. “She’s tall and she makes things difficult for the opposition.”

Also back from injury is center Catherine Gu. Gu suffered a dislocated shoulder but has recovered to amass 75 assists.

“She came back just as the season started, and she’s coming along in her recovery and her setting ability nicely,” Savulich said. “As a team, we’re slowly recovering from injuries. Our ability is there, and I think we’ll win some more of the close matches when we’re back at full strength.”