Carly Jannsch led the Shore Conference in aces and helped her team make program history twice during her senior season at Pinelands Regional High School.

The 17 year-old from Tuckerton finished first in the Shore Conference and tied for second in the state with 97 aces. Jannsch also helped the Wildcats win the Shore Conference title for the first time and led her team to the farthest it has ever been in the state Group II tournament this year.

Jannsch, a 2016 first-team Press All-Star and a Press MVP of the Week winner in October, was a dominating force with 339 digs, 224 kills and 246 service points this fall.

She is The Press Girls Volleyball Player of the Year.

“She really has refined some of her skills,” Pinelands coach Kathy Bennett said. “It’s been fun to see her just flourish more and more.”

The outside hitter went on an 11-0 serving run during the second set of the Shore Conference semifinals against rival Southern Regional. Jannsch had 19 digs, 14 kills and nine aces to help the Wildcats advance to the finals against Donovan Catholic.

Jannsch led the Wildcats to victory with 23 digs and seven kills, giving the fourth-year program its first conference championship.

“I can’t even express to you in words how amazing that was,” Jannsch said. “It was just a classic underdog story and an amazing feeling. I loved every minute of it.”

After beating Pleasantville in the first round of the playoffs, Jannsch also led the Wildcats, seeded seventh, to victory against No. 10 Rumson Fair Haven 2-0 in the second round of the state Group II tournament last month.

Pinelands lost to No. 2 River Dell in the third round.

“It was a really tough game, and they ended up winning the whole thing overall, but it was still a good game,” Jannsch said.

Bennett said Jannsch was the most vocal and motivating player on the team. Because Jannsch is such a enthusiastic player, the team will feel her absence next year.

“For us here, and the past two years especially, she’s just been the leader on the floor,” Bennett said. “Next year, I don’t know what we’re going to do because we still have a lot of talent, but I don’t have anybody in my mind that can fill her role as far as being that vocal leader.”

Jannsch says she plans to play collegiate volleyball but has not yet chosen a school.

Coach of the Year

Pinelands Regional coach Kathy Bennett is The Press Girls Volleyball Coach of the Year for her dedication to her athletes and her ability to keep the Wildcats on track during a season that had obstacles.

Bennett started coaching at Pinelands Regional Junior High School six years ago. She brought the volleyball program to the high school two years later so her seventh- and eighth-grade players could transition to the varsity level.

“When I went to high school, she followed me, and I was so happy,” Jannsch said. “She is like my second mom. She does everything she can for us. She is overall an amazing person.”

Bennett said, “It’s just so cool they were just little kids coming in all bright-eyed and not knowing anything about volleyball, and then here they are. They’ve just become phenomenal volleyball players.”

Without much prior volleyball experience, Bennett has spent the past six years learning all she can about volleyball from local coaches, referees and clinics to make sure her players can have the best experience with the sport.

“We try to make it fun, but the girls know what we have to accomplish,” Bennett said. “We like to have a lot of structure initially and we expect the girls to want to work really hard. It’s got to be fun for them, too, because if its not fun for them, then they don’t want to play. We try to blend hard work and fun into one.”

Bennett’s dedication paid off this season as she guided her team to school history. The Wildcats became the second Pinelands sports team to win a Shore Conference title since 1984.

Team of the Year

Pinelands Regional finished first in the Shore Conference with a 26-4 record despite the chaotic practice schedule they endured with their high school closed due to construction and asbestos contamination.

Pinelands closed indefinitely in October, forcing the high school students to attend the junior high and share the facility with the younger students through a split schedule.

“It was a lot of ups and downs throughout the season with the high school being renovated, constantly missing school days, but it didn’t deter us at all,” Jannsch said. “We stayed strong, and it was an awesome season.”

The Wildcats went on the road for most of its season but still won the the Moorestown Tip-Off Tournament in September and the Shore Conference title and advanced to the third round of the state tournament.

Bennett, the Pinelands coach, said the players “were great about it. They really were, and they were just excited to play. They weathered the storm really well.”

Because Bennett started coaching most of her players when they were still in middle school, she tried to keep their spirits up by telling them it was as if they had come full circle.

“It was nice to go back to where we all started, but don’t get me wrong, it was hard,” Jannsch said.

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