With a new cast of quality athletes, SJV volleyball continues to thrive

May 10, 2024 at 7:00 a.m.
The St. John Vianney volleyball team, despite returning one starter from its state championship squad, has gotten off to a 15-4 start and No. 12 state ranking with nearly an entirely new squad. Courtesy photo
The St. John Vianney volleyball team, despite returning one starter from its state championship squad, has gotten off to a 15-4 start and No. 12 state ranking with nearly an entirely new squad. Courtesy photo

By RICH FISHER
Contributing Editor

When coach Jessica Gadaleta discusses her St. John Vianney, Holmdel boys volleyball team, she doesn’t refer to them as players but as athletes.

“We’re very lucky at St. John’s to have so many talented multi-sport athletes,” said Gadaleta, who coaches the team with husband Brian. “It’s a really good class of athletes who want to play all the sports and we certainly benefit from that. They bring their knowledge from other games and they’re competitive spirit, and we turn them into volleyball players.”

They are the reason why SJV – despite graduating all but one starter from last year’s NJSIAA Group I state champion –  carry a 15-4 record and No. 12 state ranking into its May 10 Shore Conference Tournament opener with Lacey Township.

Three of the Lancers losses are to No. 3 Southern, No. 8 Howell and No. 19 Holmdel. They are in second place in the B North Division but have a chance to grab a share of the title in a May 14 rematch with Holmdel.

“We knew they were a strong group of athletes,” said Gadaleta, who guided the 2023 team to the first sectional and state titles in program history. “We had no idea how successful they’d be this volleyball season. They certainly defied every expectation and goal we had. They just keep rolling so we’re very proud of them.

“This is probably the [mentally] toughest team I’ve ever coached on the girls or boys side,” she continued. “It doesn’t matter what the score is, they are always in the game and always competing.”

Senior opposite hitter Nick Huzar is the lone returning starter and has amassed 170 kills, 26 blocks and 94 digs.

“He made it to the state championship last year and knows what it takes to win,” Gadaleta said. “We did task him to teach these other guys [and] get them to fall in line. If we hadn’t named him captain, he would have stepped up because leaders reveal themselves. Nick is absolutely one of those guys who commands everybody’s respect. Asking him to move to the right side was an adjustment but he’s been working very hard.”


Nick Huzar attacks the ball in St. John Vianney's April 16 win over Wall. Looking on are teammates Dom Fuoco, Alex Cardenas, George Farah, Troy Sheerin and Peter Gioacchini. Courtesy photo

Junior Peter Gioacchini has been groomed since his freshman year to step into the varsity setter’s role. He has a team-high 450 assists to go with 78 digs and 30 kills.

“He has a super-high volleyball IQ,” Gadaleta said. “He’s an intelligent, athletic player and is quietly competitive. He’s great at distributing.” 

Senior middle Deon Jackson (48 kills, 24 blocks) is a Monmouth University football commit who’s typical of the Lancers all-around athletes. He also played basketball and switched from baseball to volleyball to try something different. At 6-foot-5, he and the 6-4 Huzar are imposing up front.

“He’s having a great time,” Gadaleta said. “He likes the guys, he likes the game, he’s fiery and he gives us a lot of athleticism up front. He’s got a monster arm.”

Sophomore Dom Fuoco (34 kills, 20 blocks, 20 digs) was expected to replace Huzar at opposite next year but an opportunity arose in the middle and “Dom just worked super hard. He’s undersized for that position, but he makes up for it with a really well-rounded skill set.”

On the outside is sophomore Isaiah Boone (110 kills, 40 digs), a soccer player who “has the heaviest arm in the gym.” He is up top with sophomore Trey Sheerin (95 kills, 84 digs, 33 aces).

“Isaiah is a super explosive athlete who has been great for us,” Gadaleta said. “Trey is a well-rounded player who had some experience in middle school. We moved him to the outside and he’s humming for us. If Isaiah is our power hitter, Troy’s our precision guy so they’re a nice balance to each other.”   

Rounding out the starters is sophomore libero Alex Cardenas (78 digs), who missed the first eight games due to a broken foot in soccer. Gadaleta said that upon his return “We took our defense to another level. He’s super fearless, super athletic.”

Rotating in are sophomore serve spec/b spec Dom Blunda, freshman defensive specialist George Farah (86 digs), senior opposite Nick Liotta and sophomore middle Luciano Naimoli. Freshmen Gavin Bearmore, a three-letter winner, and Justin Togans, a basketball starter, provide added athleticism and depth.

“We actually kept a small roster this year,” Gadaleta said. “That’s uncharacteristic for us, but we wanted to make sure we could give that individualized attention to each of these athletes because they are so new to the sport, and they did have big shoes to fill.”

They seem to be fitting quite comfortably into those shoes.

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When coach Jessica Gadaleta discusses her St. John Vianney, Holmdel boys volleyball team, she doesn’t refer to them as players but as athletes.

“We’re very lucky at St. John’s to have so many talented multi-sport athletes,” said Gadaleta, who coaches the team with husband Brian. “It’s a really good class of athletes who want to play all the sports and we certainly benefit from that. They bring their knowledge from other games and they’re competitive spirit, and we turn them into volleyball players.”

They are the reason why SJV – despite graduating all but one starter from last year’s NJSIAA Group I state champion –  carry a 15-4 record and No. 12 state ranking into its May 10 Shore Conference Tournament opener with Lacey Township.

Three of the Lancers losses are to No. 3 Southern, No. 8 Howell and No. 19 Holmdel. They are in second place in the B North Division but have a chance to grab a share of the title in a May 14 rematch with Holmdel.

“We knew they were a strong group of athletes,” said Gadaleta, who guided the 2023 team to the first sectional and state titles in program history. “We had no idea how successful they’d be this volleyball season. They certainly defied every expectation and goal we had. They just keep rolling so we’re very proud of them.

“This is probably the [mentally] toughest team I’ve ever coached on the girls or boys side,” she continued. “It doesn’t matter what the score is, they are always in the game and always competing.”

Senior opposite hitter Nick Huzar is the lone returning starter and has amassed 170 kills, 26 blocks and 94 digs.

“He made it to the state championship last year and knows what it takes to win,” Gadaleta said. “We did task him to teach these other guys [and] get them to fall in line. If we hadn’t named him captain, he would have stepped up because leaders reveal themselves. Nick is absolutely one of those guys who commands everybody’s respect. Asking him to move to the right side was an adjustment but he’s been working very hard.”


Nick Huzar attacks the ball in St. John Vianney's April 16 win over Wall. Looking on are teammates Dom Fuoco, Alex Cardenas, George Farah, Troy Sheerin and Peter Gioacchini. Courtesy photo

Junior Peter Gioacchini has been groomed since his freshman year to step into the varsity setter’s role. He has a team-high 450 assists to go with 78 digs and 30 kills.

“He has a super-high volleyball IQ,” Gadaleta said. “He’s an intelligent, athletic player and is quietly competitive. He’s great at distributing.” 

Senior middle Deon Jackson (48 kills, 24 blocks) is a Monmouth University football commit who’s typical of the Lancers all-around athletes. He also played basketball and switched from baseball to volleyball to try something different. At 6-foot-5, he and the 6-4 Huzar are imposing up front.

“He’s having a great time,” Gadaleta said. “He likes the guys, he likes the game, he’s fiery and he gives us a lot of athleticism up front. He’s got a monster arm.”

Sophomore Dom Fuoco (34 kills, 20 blocks, 20 digs) was expected to replace Huzar at opposite next year but an opportunity arose in the middle and “Dom just worked super hard. He’s undersized for that position, but he makes up for it with a really well-rounded skill set.”

On the outside is sophomore Isaiah Boone (110 kills, 40 digs), a soccer player who “has the heaviest arm in the gym.” He is up top with sophomore Trey Sheerin (95 kills, 84 digs, 33 aces).

“Isaiah is a super explosive athlete who has been great for us,” Gadaleta said. “Trey is a well-rounded player who had some experience in middle school. We moved him to the outside and he’s humming for us. If Isaiah is our power hitter, Troy’s our precision guy so they’re a nice balance to each other.”   

Rounding out the starters is sophomore libero Alex Cardenas (78 digs), who missed the first eight games due to a broken foot in soccer. Gadaleta said that upon his return “We took our defense to another level. He’s super fearless, super athletic.”

Rotating in are sophomore serve spec/b spec Dom Blunda, freshman defensive specialist George Farah (86 digs), senior opposite Nick Liotta and sophomore middle Luciano Naimoli. Freshmen Gavin Bearmore, a three-letter winner, and Justin Togans, a basketball starter, provide added athleticism and depth.

“We actually kept a small roster this year,” Gadaleta said. “That’s uncharacteristic for us, but we wanted to make sure we could give that individualized attention to each of these athletes because they are so new to the sport, and they did have big shoes to fill.”

They seem to be fitting quite comfortably into those shoes.

The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.

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