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The Pioneer

Girls Volleyball named Conference Champions!

WOHS Sports Media

Friday, October 6th, 2023, shocked gasps, intense clapping, and loud cheers from the packed Tarnoff Gymnasium stands echoed in the halls at West Orange High School.

“When the game ended, I didn’t have any regrets,” said Sophomore outside hitter Nola Duncan, “…we all had the mindset to just play our game and put everything out on the court no matter what.” With this mentality, the West Orange girls volleyball team secured the title of Liberty Division Conference Champions in a 2-set victory over Columbia (28-26, 25-21), a challenging team they faced three times in the previous season and another three times in the 2023-2024 regular season. 

“Being conference champions has been one of our many goals, and to make it a reality has been quite satisfying,” recounts 2-year Head Coach John Chang, who has led the girls’ team to two winning records and brought them into the SECs both years in his time as head coach. “I would say the factor of our success has been our resilience. We chose not to give up on each other. Having a great coaching staff, athletic department, booster club, and die-hard fans was an immense contributing factor as well.” 

The girls have worked hard to get where they are. Coach Chang has instilled a toughness philosophy in his athletes as they prepare and execute during each game.

In their 2022-2023 season, the team worked on building their culture; this culture is now demonstrated in the players, such as Duncan, who incited, “We prepared differently by not letting the game get the best of us, and we only had one thing in mind – determination, focus, and preparation for the game.” This season, the team worked on building “flow” within those on the court that can be compared with chemistry but is rather more about rhythm, according to Coach Chang. 

Showing up to practices ready to work hard and improve significantly contributed to the team’s success. According to the team, volleyball practices simulate game-like scenarios, which allow the team to cover any missteps or situations from the previous game. And it is important to the team to value resting periods to prevent burnout or worsening any injuries suffered throughout the season. 

“Our challenges were never about who we faced in a match, it was really about facing our own selves, our weaknesses, our lack of confidence, etc. It was all about our personal fight.” Thus, the team learned to improve their volleyball skills, IQ and make good decisions.

Learning to overcome challenges was essential to building a successful team. “There were many times we would have to “reset” ourselves in each game situation to regain our composure,” recounted Coach Chang. And the girls, over time, learned to value their teamwork and “be the supporting player in other’s weaknesses.”  

In West Orange, the athletics programs are often the talk of the town. The girls’ volleyball team is just one example of Mountaineer greatness that the town has to offer. With the magnitude of accomplishments from our various high school sports teams, we demonstrate the excellence of student-athletes who learn to dedicate their all to both education and athletic careers.

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About the Contributor
Nyah McKinney, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Nyah McKinney (she/her), Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Pioneer, embodies the essence of a personable and diligent student-athlete journalist. She is a member of the Junior class as the Class of 2025 president. Nyah actively participates in various extracurriculars, such as the Unity Club, Black Student Union, WOHS Sports Media program, and the French Club and Honors Society, which exemplifies her commitment to positively impacting her community. Her unwavering dedication to the cheerleading and lacrosse teams not only showcases her passion but also serves as a true source of inspiration for her peers. Moreover, Nyah is active in retail at a local store in Livingston. Her guiding motto, "Hard work always pays off," reflects her dedication to her sports career and extracurricular activities. During Nyah’s moments of respite from her demanding schedule, she indulges in a medley of creative pursuits, such as video and photo editing, journaling, dancing, listening to her favorite band called 'New Jeans,' reading dystopian novels, her favorite series being “Shatter Me” and “The Hunger Games,” and immersing herself in the captivating world of reality television. Currently, Nyah is in the process of planning her future beyond graduation, including a verbal commitment to Howard University to continue her lacrosse career and academics. She's exploring various options, such as majoring in journalism, sports broadcasting, or sports medicine. While her decision is pending, her path toward success remains crystal clear. Nyah's multifaceted pursuits and unwavering commitment leave us eager to witness the chapters she'll write in the years ahead. Nyah can be reached at [email protected].

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