BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston Highlander Volleyball opened the 2019 season with a Championship title in the Jersey Classic Tournament against Bogota, last year's Group 1 champions.

The win against Bogota gave the Highlanders a first-place finish in the silver bracket and much-needed momentum in the season’s early goings.

“Competing against such highly-regarded teams in the Jersey Classic forced us to step up and fight for every point,” Hilaire told TAPinto.

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Junior Leah Dooley recorded 29 kills, 1 block, 4 aces and 11 digs in the tournament. 

"Leah is a great role model for what it means to have a positive attitude," said Gov. Livingston head volleyball coach Dana Hilaire. "While most might see her strongest skill being her attack, I think it's actually her ability to maintain upbeat during some of the more difficult on-court moments. Leah's positive energy allows her to play calm and controlled, so that she can step up as needed but also let mistakes roll off and have her mind on the next play. She was a force at our tournament, and I think we'll see much more from her as our season progresses."

For her winning attitude and results, Leah Dooley is named Valairco Heating and Cooling Highlander Athlete of the Week. 

The following are comments from Leah about her past, present and future:

TAPinto: When did you begin to play volleyball?

Leah: I began playing volleyball in 6th grade.

TAPinto: How did you hone your skill? Do you do outside clinics or belong to a club team? Which one?

Leah: I just kept practicing the techniques and proper forms until it just clicked for me. I used to play Crush Volleyball which was a program for starters. Soon after that I went straight to club and played at CJHeat for two years, then CJVA for two years, and now I’m on my fifth year of playing national volleyball at SideOut Sports!

TAPinto: The volleyball program has seen tremendous growth and success over the past few years. How have you seen the program grow? What would you tell younger athletes about getting involved in the sport?

Leah: I believe that more and more students have been exposed to a new level of volleyball that just continues to increase every year. This helps encourage the younger athletes to pursue the sport and grow up to be like some of the older and more experienced athletes.  

I believe the most important thing to practice is the correct technique. Even if it does not work right away, it will eventually click. Poor technique causes injuries and bad habits that are hard to stop when you have been playing for a long time.

TAPinto: What are your goals for the team this year?

Leah: My goals for the team this year is to get more involved and close to each other. I believe that the team we have this year already has such a close bond and I my goal is to get even closer. One of my favorite memories was winning the silver bracket at the Paramus Tournament. 

TAPinto: Do you have a game or play that stands out as a favorite game/team moment?

Leah: I feel like in every game we have our own moments like running new plays we learned in practice, or winning against a really hard and competitive team. 

TAPinto: How has your coach impacted the team and growth of the sport? 

Leah: My coach impacted my playing significantly. She helped me grow and become an incredibly strong player. 

TAPinto: Are there any other players or coaches that have influenced you? (Doesn't have to only be in sports.)

Leah: Yes, my first ever volleyball coach. Her name is Amber and she taught me everything I know about volleyball today. We stayed in contact after her years of coaching me and now we are like sisters. 

TAPinto: Do you have a pre-game ritual?

Leah: My pre-game ritual is usually just hanging out and connecting with the team.  

TAPinto: What's your favorite high school memory so far?

Leah: My favorite high school memory is hanging out with all of my friends. 

TAPinto: Do you plan to play in college?

Leah: Yes, I plan on playing volleyball in college and I am currently talking to a few coaches. 

TAPinto: Who is your favorite professional athlete?

Leah: I don’t know if she is a professional but one of my favorite volleyball players is Kendall White, the libero on the Penn State College team. She will do anything it takes to get the ball up. I went to a Penn State training program a few years ago and met her there. 

TAPinto: Other comments:

Leah: I am so glad and proud of where I am today and I would not have been able to be here without the support of my friends and past coaches!

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Valairco Heating & Cooling is the proud sponsor of the Highlander Athlete of the Week. Kevin McHugh, Valairco Owner and President and Berkeley Heights resident, is an alumni of Gov. Livingston High School.

Valairco Heating & Cooling is celebrating 50 years in business. They are family owned and operated and know that keeping your HVAC systems running smoothly is important to the comfort of our customers, their families, and their guests. That is why their family is dedicated to taking care of yours, no matter what the issue may be. Using only top-quality parts to perform a higher-standard of service and all their services are backed by their 50 years of professional experience and 5-year comprehensive warranties. This means that when you call our team at Valairco, you benefit from their total commitment to your complete satisfaction.