Tuckerton Leader

Time in Spotlight Has Come for Emma Capriglione

To Lead Pinelands Volleyball to More Success
By RICK MELLERUP | Sep 06, 2019
Photo by: Rick Mellerup

Little Egg Harbor Township — Timing is everything.

When Emma Capriglione was entering high school, she was wondering what sports she would play at Pinelands Regional.

“I was originally going to try out for field hockey,” Capriglione said.

But there was a new kid in town: volleyball.

The Pinelands girls volleyball program was young. When Capriglione was entering ninth-grade in September 2016, the Wildcats had played at the varsity level for just two seasons.

But they were good seasons. They had shown promise in 2014, going 9-12 – quite respectable for a bunch of rookies. The team blossomed in 2015, going 17-8, even winning an NJSIAA Group II state playoff game.

The Pinelands program always had a good turnout, even in 2012 when it was launched with a seventh- and eighth-grade team. The success of the 2015 team brought out even more girls the following fall, Capriglione among them.

She saw limited varsity action in her freshman year, but the hook had been set. Capriglione discovered she loved the sport and was ready to totally commit. She attended a summer camp and remembers watching the skills of older girls, and thinking, “They’re so good! I want to be that good!”

So she decided to play volleyball year round and joined a traveling team, East Coast Crush, based in Mount Laurel.

Capriglione, a middle blocker and outside hitter, became a significant varsity contributor on the 2017 Pinelands squad, ending the season with 93 kills. And her love for the sport grew, thanks to her team’s tremendous success that year: a 26-4 record and a Shore Conference championship.

Capriglione will probably never forget the night of Oct. 26, 2017 when Pinelands beat the Rams of Southern Regional and the Griffins of Donovan Catholic to take the Shore Conference crown. The SandPaper reported at the time that those teams “played the most exciting volleyball that night that fans are likely to see for a long, long time.” The ’Cats came from behind to beat the Rams in the semifinals, 23-25, 26-24, 25-21, and it was Capriglione who salted the match away with a block at the net that ended Southern’s tournament. Pinelands took the first set in the title match against Donovan, 26-24 but lost the second, 13-25. The final set of the evening went back and forth like a pingpong ball. Donovan gained a match point opportunity, up 25-24, but Capriglione responded with a hard kill through a blocker to tie the score. Two service points later and the Wildcats were champs.

Pinelands had many stars that season, including Carly Jannsch, who eventually ended up Shore Conference Player of the Year. But nobody frustrated the Griffins in the championship match as much as Capriglione, who recorded 10 blocks. And remember, she was only a sophomore.

She said it was the most exciting moment of her career.

“It was so tense, I thought I was going to have a heart attack!”

Capriglione had even more success in 2018. She had 187 kills, 45 blocks, 104 digs and 165 service points including 58 aces to help Pinelands to a 27-3 record, another Shore Conference crown and the program’s first trip to the NJSIAA Group II state tournament semifinals. The junior was rewarded with First Team All Shore and Third Team All-State Group II honors. Still, she was overshadowed by the now-graduated Kayla Thornton who, like Jannsch before her, was named Shore Conference Player of the Year.

Capriglione will be the Wildcats’ leader this fall. She is quiet, very different from Jannsch who was as demonstrative as they come. At 5-foot-8, so doesn’t enjoy the height advantage of Thornton, who was over six-feet tall. Capriglione will be a leader by example, a dedicated hard worker.

When asked what her future plans are, Capriglione merely said her goal is to play college volleyball, hopefully at Stockton University. The 17-year-old didn’t know what her college major would be but her favorite subject in high school is math.

“It’s a very straight-forward subject.”

That figures, because Capriglione is straightforward when it comes to volleyball. Remember what she said after her first summer volleyball camp: “I want to be that good!”

Now she is, and her time has come.

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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