Most of the varsity teams at Montclair State University have the majority of their rosters made up of New Jersey natives or student-athletes from the surrounding tri-state area. With the home of the Red Hawks being one of the smaller state schools compared to a school like Rutgers University, only a small percentage of students who attend are from out of state. But that doesn’t seem to be the case for Montclair State’s volleyball team.
Of the 19 student-athletes that make up the roster, only seven of them are from New Jersey. Most of the team is even made up of transfer students and those who committed, from states like Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and even states way out west like Colorado and California. So, how has the volleyball team been able to recruit so many student-athletes from out of state?
The volleyball team has found success in recruiting through national events and tournaments all over the country. These events take place in cities like New York, Orlando, Washington D.C., Nashville and many others that host teams from all over the country who are looking to qualify for “Nationals.” This is when head coach Eddie Stawinski gets to see future Red Hawks in action.
“That’s when you get a chance to see teams from California, Florida, it could be Wisconsin, all over the place,” Stawinski said. “We tend to go and see them play and try to identify a list of recruits that we like and continue to see them play throughout the years and try to stay in touch. That’s pretty much how the recruiting goes in terms of identifying and then obviously it’s just keeping track of who’s interested and who’s not.”
Some transfer students like junior outside hitter Skye Ramsey have found themselves in the right place after coming from different schools. Ramsey started her college career playing junior college (JUCO) volleyball at Fullerton College in California. Eventually transferring to a Division I team at Delaware State University, Ramsey felt it was not the right fit. After entering the transfer portal, she found her new team at Montclair State.
“Coach Eddie reached out to me once I entered the transfer portal, and I came here and ended up really liking it,” Ramsey said.
Other recruits like sophomore defensive specialist Addison Castles, who is from South Carolina, reached out to schools herself in hopes of continuing her volleyball career. An opportunity presented itself after she was put in a match to replace an injured teammate, and Coach Stawinski happened to be there.
“He [Coach Stawinski] walked by, he wasn’t even one of the schools I originally emailed,” Castles said. “We had a conversation afterward, kept in touch and I just ended up here. It was the best option. I liked that it [Montclair State] was a bigger school, I’m a very social person. I also have family in New York City so it was kind of more appealing that if I was going so far away from home, I would still have people close by.”
Freshman Zoey Horn, from Georgia, and Gianna Cefalu, from California, both decided to commit to Montclair State after seeing the campus, and with New York City just a train ride away, it was hard to turn down.
“I decided to commit because I loved the campus, it was beautiful,” Cefalu said. “The academics were great and just the competitive team here. It really drew me in and just having the city so close as well had a major impact because my sister was in New York City as well.”
Middle-blocker Horn originally did not want to play volleyball at a collegiate level, but after missing a tournament match due to an illness, she was not ready to quit.
“This was my top school to go to,” Horn said. “My high school game, we made it to the sweet 16 and I couldn’t play in the next game because I got terribly ill. I was like, I have to continue this sport, that’s when I found out how much I loved this sport. I sent a video to Montclair and they called me the next day and said, ‘Can we stay in contact.’”
Despite the team being so diverse in terms of student-athletes from all over the country, the Red Hawks’ chemistry has been at a high level. Teammates were able to meet and get together at national tournaments to start getting familiar with each other before the semester started.
“The first couple of days, it was like they knew each other for weeks,” Stawinksi said. “Some of them did have a chance to play at a national qualifier and they actually got together and met. Sophia [Lopez] who’s from New Jersey, Gabby [Konrad] from Pennsylvania, Lilly [Thomas] from New Jersey, and Gianna from California, they were all at the same tournament. They were all able to connect there and that kind of made it all easier when they actually got here. The chemistry has been great, it seems to be a really good group and they’re having a lot of fun and right now it seems like they’ve been playing for years.”
The team has been able to bond very quickly and form the same goals for this season. The Red Hawks are 8-5 with the majority of the season still left to play and are ready to keep improving with each day. It is not easy coming from somewhere far out of state and starting new, but when much of the team has that in common, it makes it that much easier.
“We’re all very driven,” Horn said. “We all kind of want the same thing and it’s just about finding that union right now to be a team because we have so many new people coming in from all over the place. Finding our harmony is where we’re at but it’s a special thing.”