The last time SJV lost a game in the state of New Jersey was three years ago. What is even more remarkable about this streak is who they have beaten… EVERYONE! There is simply nobody left at this point. In the last three years SJV has taken everyone’s best punch. Name the place and time and Coach Karpell and crew will be there. Which gets us to what is becoming a annual question… CAN ANYONE BEAT SJV?
The last time SJV lost a game period was two years ago on the road vs National Ranked Long Island Lutheran. But LiLu had a edge that New Jersey teams WON’T get when playing SJV. LUHI had played 12 games prior to playing SJV; while due to NJ rules, SJV only had a few games under their belt. Since that day two years ago SJV has been invincible. Some believe this is the greatest run in New Jersey girls basketball because of who they have beaten along the way in the past 3 years. It’ basically been a who’s who of girls basketball. Certainly the Shabazz teams of the late 90s would disagree. Either way SJV clearly has set a standard that will be hard to match for years. That’s why we ask the question yet again before another season, can SJV BE BEATEN?
Let’s be honest, anyone can be beaten on any night. The best team these eyes has ever seen. The Sy Davis and Shakeena Richardson Neptune team went two years and blew everyone out by double figures. That was until there final high school game together when they somehow lost in the TOC CHIP game for their only lost. So anything is possible, especially in high school sports. Last year SJV was unbeatable, some even called them the best team in girls basketball history, sorry that part is not true. But they are clearly in the conversation. The real question is where does this team stack up now? Do they have the pieces to first even win a third straight TOC AND SCT? I have my thoughts regarding this and it just may surprise you.
The most important part of the SJV machine is the one constant. Coach Dawn Karpell, is simply the best in the business. No high school coach boys or girls in the entire Tri State area is doing what she is doing. She is that rare high school coach who can COACH TALENT. Sounds easy and fun? Folks there is nothing harder than coaching talent. The expectations are higher, the egos are bigger and getting them to play as a unit while sacrificing for each other… TAKES A MASTERFUL COACH. Coach Karpell may be the only coach that can manage this type of talent and keep everyone relatively happy. Dawn Karpell gives SJV that Championship edge every night. Now close your eyes and think, when has a Dawn Karpell team under achieved?
There is not anything she has not seen over the years.
Madison St Rose, is the most decorated player in New Jersey history. That is not debatable as she is working on becoming the first three time player of the year in the state as well as the Shore Conference. She returns for her senior year and will want to cement her legacy as the best player player in state history.
Megan Cahalan is by far the best post player in the state of New Jersey. She also is one of the most improved players in New Jersey. Her toughness and ability to adjust and adapt is as rare as her upbeat personality and remember this… “moody post players kill your locker room”. Megan Cahalan gives the SJV locker room wings and toughness like no other player in the state.
ASHLEY O’Connor was Hoop Group 1st Team All Shore. Ashley O’Connor was 1st Team All defense. Ashley O’Connor is going to Fordham U of the A-10. She is also bigger, stronger and more confident than ever. There is no question she is one of the best two way players in the state of New Jersey.
This is a upgrade from a year ago. Why you say? They are the same players. How is that a upgrade? Because all three are now more experienced seniors and know what it takes to win big games. All three are not playing for personal glory, they are playing for history and want to leave as the greatest class in SJV HISTORY… that is real motivation
This is where SJV may surprise everyone. That because what is old is actually new. By that I mean Janie Bachmann, right now is the best returning junior in the Shore Conference. What’s new, is she is going to be a All State player one day. Sarah Karpell right now looks like a major upgrade to the SJV offensive game plan. She is one of the best sophomores in the entire state. Bri Delaney would start for every other team in the entire state, not named SJV… no exceptions and is a D1 that nobody knows about. 6’2” MIKAELA HUBBARD just may be the 2nd best post player in the Shore and 6’4” ASHLEY SOFILKANICH may have more upside that any post player in the state.
This group is deeper and more talented than a year ago. They also did something that nobody talks about. This got real minutes in real big games. This group is more experienced than people realize.
ZOE BROOKS playing for SJV almost makes for a unfair fight. Not because she is one of the 5 best players in the state. But rather because she has played in big games. She also is unselfish and that makes her a fit for the SJV program. She gives SJV something else and trust me it matters…. the Intimidation factor!
Baby ALEENA DINKER most will think is along for the ride. Once again, this is a talented impact baby. She is one of the 5 best freshman in the shore.
SJV has picked up to major impact players. They are high IQ players. But more importantly talented gifted team players. Two players who will not disrupt there culture
That’s a lot of guns on that roster, is that what your thinking? Well your right and SJV talent wise is better than a year ago. That’s because of player development, experience and then they got a shot of new blood in the arm. But everyone should be careful assuming they will go undefeated again. That because you have to factor in a few other things. Some they can control and some they can’t.
THEY CANNOT REPLACE KATIE HILL
SJV improved talent wise but they have not and will not be able to replace Katie Hill. She was All State, 1st Team All Shore. Many believed she was SJV’s most important player. Her leadership, scoring, defense and her big game performances can’t be understated. She did things and made sacrifices few kids of her ability can or were willing to make for the team. She was not a box score junkie but rather a winner. Take all that into consideration when talking about SJV’s team chemistry and mental toughness.Two must needed things when you talking about going undefeated.
Last year SJV took on all comers at least anyone who wanted to play in a timely fashion. Paul VI was very good but lacked the overall talent to compete with SJV. Saddle River Day was maybe a year away. RBC while talented did not have the mental makeup to play in such intense games. Manasquan gave SJV their most competitive game in the Shore and still lost by 17 points. Trenton Catholic had maybe the best chance anyone has had in the last three years but came up short because they hadn’t played in enough tight big time games. In the end SJV took out every true legit contender.
This year SJV will find the road to be a bit different. In fact going undefeated might not be the question, we should be asking. The question we should be asking, might be CAN THEY WIN THE SCT OR THE TOC. That’s because the competition has gotten deeper and better. Let me explain to you why.
Manasquan High School just might be the biggest threat to the SJV unbeaten season. That’s because they are the one team that can match their talent level and have a championship mentality. They have TOC and SCT winners on the roster and they also have a championship coach who can match wits with Coach Karpell. Lisa Kukoda has won every title one can win at the high school level. She also has two of the best players in the Shore Conference and the state in Mary Donnelly and Georgia Heine. Dorothy Lofferdo is one of the most experienced big game player in New Jersey not in a SJV uniform. But it’s the development of Katie Collins, McKenna Karlson and the arrival of Freshman Olivia Shaughnessy that make things interesting. Now throw in a healthy older Faith Masonius and stud D1 guard(Dartmouth) Brooke Hollawell and it’s game on because they will not admit…but MANASQUAN BELIEVES THEY HAVE THE BETTER TEAM.
RUTGERS PREP didn’t play SJV last season. They had their chance at the start of last season to book a game and covid prevented that matchup. But Coach Karpell is no rookie and knows Rutgers Prep are mega talented and have a transfer much like SJV. Antonia Bates who will attend Rutgers University, will be a welcome sight especially since Prep lost D1 player Kay Donahue who transfered. Mikayla Blakes returns and many people feel she is the best 2024 in the entire state and is a future Power 5 star. Lyela Castro is a pit bull and winner who fears no one. Katie Ledden has the potential to be a game breaker. Rutgers Prep is a talented crew and Mary Kingler is one of the best coaches in the state. This is a team that does not fear Shore Conference teams. If Rutgers Prep and SJV meet, it will be fireworks, if the fall league game at No Boyz Allowed is a sign of things to come. RUTGERS PREP BELIEVES THEY WERE SHORT CHANGED LAST SEASON
SADDLE RIVER DAY, your asking? I bet you think old Tiny Green has lost his mind. Well here are some things you may not know about Saddle River Day. The best 2024 in New Jersey just may be playing at Saddle River. Julianna “the gift” Almeida had a summer to write home about. The name Dakota Corey may not right a bell, but make no mistake folks, she is a problem. The best freshman in the state? Well guess what? She plays at Saddle River Day. Faith Williamson is the most polished ready freshman in the state. If that is not enough Paulina Paris wants to be a Player of The Year Candidate. The future UNC guard has played against the best competition and will want to prove she is a winner. But the entire SRD hopes may lay on the return of Saniah Caldwell. The future UPENN guard is a born leader and has been in the wars. SJV would have their hands full with the Saddle River day who last year got some real learning lessons in preparation for this season. THEY WILL BE WAITING CONFIDENTIALLY AT THE DOOR FOR SJV THIS YEAR!
RED BANK CATHOLIC has two power 5 players in the lineup in Justine Pissott and superstar freshman Tessa Carman. Ally Carman is also a P5 player off to Boston College and if RBC has any chance of being the team that knocks off SJV they will need Ally Carman to just be solid. Coach Montano has Casey Prior and Molly Kelly, two well seasoned juniors who shouldn’t fold against SJV after witnessing last year blowout lost. Emma Carman is off to Quinnipiac and is much improved. Freshman Christina Liggio has seen what SJV pressure looks like and may be able to provide some help off the bench. They are trying to shake the fun bunch label and become the winning bunch. This team certainly has enough talent… IF THEY CAN FIND FOCUS AND CHEMISTRY THEY COULD TAKE A TRIP BACK TO THE FUTURE
Last year I told you nobody could beat SJV. I thought Katie Hill and Emma Bruen were serious different makers at the high school level. Emma Bruen was the best defensive guard we have seen in years. Katie Hill was one of the best players to ever wear a SJV uniform. Her leadership and willingness to play any role on any given night was rare stuff. Many people point to Zoe Brooks replacing Katie Hill. While Zoe Brooks may be known as a star and may be more talented. Remember this, Katie Hill was in the SJV system 4 long years. She knew the SJV system and way of doing things inside and out, she knew her teammates weakness and strengths. She was part of the very fabric of the SJV culture, people please do not underestimate what that means at SJV. Next, the competition this year is tougher than it’s been in years. While the Shore is down and the state only has two real contenders. They are legit contenders and teams with as much talent as SJV and more importantly. The contenders all have proven championship winning coaches. SJV wants to win a the triple crown, meaning the SCT, TOC and they are #10 in the country right now. When they come back from Florida they could be #1 in the country. Now of course all those teams have played as many as 10 games, so SJV will need to get it together quickly… they also need to get healthy in a hurry. So here is what I believe in my heart.