This season, the Middle Township High School girls volleyball program was in rebuilding mode, and helping the coaching staff complete their mission were team captains Alaina Young (senior) and Sarah Hughes (sophomore).

“These two players were chosen to be the leaders of our team based on some highlighted qualities that they have shown us,’’ Middle Township head coach Nicole Robinson said. “Both Alaina and Sarah show the quality of calmness on the court. They never crack when the heat is turned up during a match.

"They help their teammates shake off the stress and anxiety that comes with the game. Another reason for picking them as our captains was their positive attitudes, not just cheering on the team, but always having the mentality that a captain should have.

“They work very hard in practice to master new positions and become all-around players on the court. They are constructive when helping their teammates, and are both very intense when it comes down to it. The focus, concentration, and commitment in their eyes showed us that they're a perfect fit as leaders.

"Volleyball is a game that involves recognizing and trusting your teammates’ abilities. Both Sarah and Alaina find ways to build their teammates up, encourage them to be confident, and set them up to succeed.’’

Young began competing in the sport as a sophomore.

“My biggest strength is my serving, but I also play well on defense,’’ Young said. “This season, my goal was to improve my sets, so I can play every position on the court comfortably.’’

The action-packed aspects of the sport attracted Hughes to volleyball.

 “The major influences in my career are my parents and the coaches that I’ve had over the years,’’ Hughes said. “I would like to improve on my skill in the front row when I’m setting.’’

 The Panthers defeated Lower Cape May Oct. 15, 2-0.

“We’ve had three players that have been a huge part of this team - Trinity Anderson (sophomore), Morgan Kern (junior) and Rebeca Ribeiro (senior),’’ Robinson said. “Good volleyball players must be mentally tough. The game presents numerous opportunities for failure.

"Good players don’t let mistakes rattle them. They learn from the failure and move on, always focusing on the next rally. These athletes are not afraid to take chances, make mistakes, and learn from that, and that’s what makes them stand out.

“Stacey (Hand) and I are rebuilding the program, the girls have made so much progress in the short time that we took over as coaches. They all train hard, and we can see them loving the sport and learning more every day. We are improving and getting stronger as a team every practice.’’