VERONA, NJ – Though it was a loss, Verona girls’ basketball had one of their best games yet against undefeated Newark Academy on Jan. 26.  With 15 points and 10 rebounds, Caroline Kirnan helped keep Verona in the game and prompted Coach Jessica DelVecchio to nominate her as TAP into Verona/Cedar Grove’s Hillbilly Athlete of the Week.

 “Her defense and offense helped keep us in the game and keep a team that averages 60 points per game to 48,” DelVecchio said of Kirnan in her nomination. 

“It feels really good to know that my hard work has paid off,” Kirnan said on being named Athlete of the Week.  “I am really honored to be recognized.”

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As for the Newark Academy game, Kirnan, credited her coach with preparing them well as they took on the No.2 team in the county.  Using film, the team studied up on Newark Academy and practiced extensively to take on their 3-2 zone defense.

 “Our coach really prepared us for the game.  We knew what we were going into and we had our scouting tapes to prepare,” Kirnan said.  “I knew what I had to do and the rest of the team knew what they had to do.  We were serious and everyone kept their composure.”

Indeed the Hillbillies did keep up with the Minutemen, and were down by only five points at the end of the half.  They were outscored 16-6 in the pivotal third quarter, but rallied in the fourth to outscore Newark Academy 13-8 making the final 48-38. 

“We are a young team so I think we are doing pretty well this season.  I definitely think the Newark Academy game was my best game and our best as a team,” Kirnan added.  “We all really stepped up and ran through the plays strong.  We didn’t hesitate.”

The game seems to have given the Lady Hillbillies a boost in momentum as they defeated American History 42-15 on Thursday and took out Caldwell on Tuesday 41-26, a game in which Kirnan had a game-high 21 points.

With several freshmen on the roster, the young team has had to work hard and as a senior Kirnan must step up and lead, and lead she has with 58 rebounds and 73 points for the season thus far.  She will continue to lead as her team enters the Essex County Tournament seeded No. 21 and hosting No.24 Glen Ridge in their first game.

Kirnan said she is looking forward to the county tournament and to seeing how far her team can get in the states.  “Going forward we plan to make it as far as we can in the counties and the states,” she said.  “We just want to continue to play to the best of our ability.“

Verona will take on Glen Ridge at home on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the first round of the Essex County Tournament.

The stats in this story do not include the Caldwell game which was played on Feb. 2.

Editor's Note: The "Athlete of the Week" is a weekly reoccurring feature story that highlights an individual student-athlete's success. The Verona High School Athlete of the Week is selected with the assistance of the school's athletic director and coaching staff.