Coach Jim Bucko started the girls volleyball program at Pleasantville High School 14 years ago.

Bucko since has witnessed a steady growth of the sport, not only at his school but all around South Jersey.

"We were the first program in the Cape-Atlantic League," said Bucko, who also coaches the boys team at Pleasantville. "We used to play in the Olympic Conference up in Burlington and Camden counties, but now it's becoming a lot more popular."

"Now we have the CAL, and now we have a boys program. So boys teams are starting to get into it. Middle schools have teams now. All and all, I would say it's on the move."

Pleasantville (6-0) is one of the strongest teams in the nine-member CAL. The Greyhounds most recently defeated rival school Cedar Creek 2-0 Thursday in a matchup of undefeated teams.

The Greyhounds have seven seniors on the roster, most of whom are four-year varsity players. With an experienced team, Bucko said this season is shaping up to become one of the program's best.

"We were very successful for a good part of my career," Bucko said. "Six times in a row we made it to states. We've had a couple down years, but we always picked it back up."

"We've been very competitive throughout the years, but our program right now is the strongest it's ever been."

Absegami is another top team in the CAL. Braves coach Kerry Flukey is in her 10th season with the team after starting the program. Absegami has won the CAL in all four years since girls volleyball became a league sport.

"Volleyball in South Jersey has definitely been growing over that time," Flukey said. "Mainland added a team since then, (Atlantic County Institute of Technology) added a team last year, so it's done nothing but grow."

Flukey says there are several reasons.

"We've been getting some press, and more and more people have been reading about it," she said. "An Olympics year is also always a good year for volleyball. Many of the girls love it because it's an exciting sport, and you don't have to play it year-round."

Absegami is 4-2, having lost to Rancocas Valley and Pinelands Regional.

The Braves field a young team after graduating six seniors from its 2015 CAL championship team.

"Every single team has been different. Some are young, some are not as talented as others," she said. "Last year's team was super talented, and they were a lot of fun to coach, and this year they're really young, and it's totally different."

Even with all the departures, Flukey had no difficulty filling the junior varsity and varsity rosters.

"This year, we had the biggest turnout for freshmen we've ever had," she said. "We have 10 freshmen on jayvee, so that's definitely improved. I love these freshmen, and it's been fun starting them out right from the beginning."

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Sports clerk

Started at The Press in Aug. 2014. AC Weekly internship Summer of 2013.