The term “block party” refers to a party gathering in a neighborhood. In the case of Montclair State University women’s basketball sophomore forward/center Olivia Vero, the phrase is rung throughout the broadcasts for her timely rejections and defensive efforts. The Staten Island native currently averages 2.4 blocks per game, which leads the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC).
“The coaches have given a positive input on my offensive game and every day they are pushing me to be more offensive-minded and all my teammates have [the] confidence to put the ball in the basket,” Vero said. “I think my problem last year was that I was failing a lot, being too physical. This year, I’ve been able to slide my feet more.”
Vero talked about her first impression of Montclair State.
“The team and coaches were so welcoming when I came to campus and really wanted me to be a part of the program and it was nice to feel wanted by them,” Vero said.
Vero expanded on her initial feelings.
“This place felt like home to me,” Vero said.
In regards to looking at in-game statistics, Vero stated that looking at the in-game numbers gives her a lot of confidence.
“It leaves my mind when I’m out there but afterward, I like to see how I did,” Vero said.
Head coach Karin Harvey talked about Vero’s role as a player during her first two years as a Red Hawk.
“We really liked her demeanor,” Harvey said. “[Vero] is hard-working, dedicated and a tough kid. We knew she could have a big role in the program and we were excited to have her. As a freshman, you knew there was going to be a learning curve and her development was really well and as the second half of the season hit, you saw her improve each game.”
Harvey commented on Vero’s style as a defensive player.
“Her defensive play matches her personality and [she] is still working on her individual defense,” Harvey said. Her ability to block the basketball has turned out to be a pretty great defensive quality and has some natural rebounding ability as well. She is probably saving three to five layups that would be made shots.”
Vero is described by Harvey as spirited and passionate. Vero was also named captain mid-season.
“She is tough and doesn’t take anything from anyone,” Harvey said. “She pushes her teammates to play at a higher level.”
Junior guard Kendall Hodges talked about Vero’s character and personality on the court.
“She’s one of a kind,” Hodges said. “You always hear her voice when you walk in the gym, you think she has a presence of a senior being a sophomore. [Vero] is one of the funniest people I ever met in my life. She’s always joking but definitely one to look out for in practice and to get on her good side.”
Hodges shared her advice for Vero’s opponents.
“If you’re not on her team, I recommend not driving to the basket that day because you’re going to get your shot blocked,” Hodges said.
Hodges also mentioned how the “block party” got started.
“Last year, playing home against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), she kinda went crazy,” Hodges said. “Three blocks in a row on the same play. Two of them were layups and the other one was a three-point attempt.”
That third block on TCNJ’s Isabella Cafaro turned into a layup for Vero. The five blocks Vero recorded were the highest since Kayla Bush against Rowan University in January 2020.
Vero broke that with a career-high six blocks against Rutgers University-Camden last year and did the same thing last week against Rutgers University-Newark.
“We kind of forget that [Vero] is a sophomore, she is bringing the ball up and is a captain now,” Hodges said. “If you [asked] me last year that [Vero] would be in the spot that she would be, I [didn’t] think she would. We definitely wouldn’t be the team or family that we are without her holding it down.”
Graduate transfer Teresa Wolak, who is a forward on the team, explained how Vero helped her adjust to a new setting and make a good connection on the hardwood.
“She was one of the first people that I clicked with when I got to Montclair [State],” Wolak said. “Someone who I look for as a calming kind of presence. Kind of each other’s right-hand man of things.”
Wolak also commented on Vero’s growth at Montclair State.
“She gets put in tough situations and is relied on a ton of things but I think she stepped up in ways people may not be able to handle and she has grown so much,” Wolak said.
The next time you go to a Montclair State women’s basketball game, just remember that No. five is handing out the invitations to the block party.