The Donovan Catholic volleyball team went 29-5 and reached the Non-Public state finals this year while setting several school records along the way. Courtesy photo
The Donovan Catholic volleyball team went 29-5 and reached the Non-Public state finals this year while setting several school records along the way. Courtesy photo

Glen Jansen was expecting a good season from his Donovan Catholic girls’ volleyball team, but the coach in the Toms River high school never foresaw a history-making campaign.

Yet, that is exactly what he got as the Griffins went 29-5 to tie the program record for victories.

“If you asked me back in July if we’d be 29-5, I would have said no,” Jansen said. “I didn’t think we’d be that dominant. It was a very historic season for a bunch of reasons.”

Other first-time accomplishments included gaining a fourth-seed in the NJSIAA Non-Public State Tournament and winning three home games before losing to perennial N-P state champ Immaculate Heart. After sharing the title the past two seasons, Donovan Catholic claimed its first-ever outright Shore Conference B South Division championship. Another first was going undefeated at home, including regular-season and tournament games. Three other losses came to Southern, which is a New Jersey dynasty; while a defeat to Brick Memorial was avenged in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals. 

So the obvious question for Jansen is, how did his team surpass expectations by so much?

“Hard work, commitment, believing in each other,” he said. “I always say there’s two things you can always control – how hard you play and being a good teammate. We definitely epitomized those two things this year. We also had depth. We’ve had talent before but never had this much depth. I had three or four girls at the opposite, right-side position this year, I never did that before. We had three really good middles, I only had two before. Our depth was a tremendous asset to our success.”

Aside from setting new team standards, individual records were also broken. Senior libero Lexi Tamburello demolished the school career mark for digs with 1,137 and is the first Griffin to ever have over 1,000. She also broke her own season record with 375 digs.

“Lexi is the best in the business,” Jansen said. “She’s the best in the Shore, the best in the state. Lexi has some choices to make with colleges. Whether she plays at the club level or the collegiate level depends on where she chooses to go academically.”

Junior center Karin Ojeda set the school season records for assists (656) and aces (99) and became the second player in program history to have over 1,000 career assists.

“That’s pretty awesome,” Jansen said. “Karin just keeps getting better and better every year. She’s a great competitor. Her realistic goal is to be a college volleyball player. She’s a great talent. She has things to work on but I have no doubt she’ll be able to be there if she keeps up the same tenacity.”

A senior who will be tough to replace is outside hitter Lauren Schailey, who had 225 kills (including 25 in the states) and 81 aces.

“Lauren is one of the most exciting players I’ve ever coached,” Jansen said. “Her ceiling is way above a lot of her peers.

The Griffins also got a stellar senior season from Karolina Jaruseviciute, who had 124 kills and 28 blocks. Underclassmen Madison Elsey and Lexi Franzyshen also made solid contributions.

“The rest of our juniors have been unbelievable,” Jansen said. “I told the girls once they lost, to take the weekend off, and start working the Monday after. That’s what they started doing. They’re all playing club. I expect us to be within a few games next year of this record. I expect us to be right back on the horse.

“We have an unbelievable junior class and a lot of these girls have been waiting for the opportunity. We have a tremendous group of sophomores, and I’m only graduating four. We have at least 20 freshman coming in. You change names on the roster, but not expectations.”