NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — In a season filled with growth and experience, West Essex softball star Jess Coia continues to be a presence as a varsity veteran.

“This year, we wanted to focus on competing at the level that we knew we could,” said Coia.

The West Essex squad has been impressive this year with a 13-8 record. The record is a major reflection of the performance that Coia has made batting out of the three spot for the club.

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“I really wanted to improve on my hitting and making sure I was a presence and getting good at-bats in,” said Coia, who has worked tirelessly to improve at the plate this season.

Working with assistant coach Christina Galese, the junior honed in on her strength as a skillset to improve her facilitation of hits throughout the field.

“[We were] focusing on how to use my power and making sure I was getting the best at-bats that I can,” said Coia.

The results were astounding for the junior, who has led the team in most of the offensive categories this season. Coia is the team leader in runs batted in (RBI) and runs scored while also having the second-most hits and homeruns for the squad. To date, Coia boasts a batting average of .295 with 20 RBI and 12 runs scored.

Coia, who is a natural first baseman, was moved to left field this season for the good of the lineup. In a more labor-intensive position, she has settled in as a mainstay in the outfield.

Despite the seamless transition, however, Coia spent extra time with teammate Gianna Waack to make sure she had her fundamentals down.

“[We were] going over the basic drills that [the outfielders] do all the time: going back for balls, breaking down into our dives and working constant reps to make sure I was at the level I needed to be at,” said Coia. 

The junior continues to be a tough out for opposing pitchers. As recently as Thursday, she added another notch on her belt as an offensive threat.

In a tough matchup against Teaneck, Coia collected a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the seventh to send West Essex onward in the North 1, Group 3 state playoffs.

While the homer was a sweet feeling, Coia reiterated that she and the team are far from finished if they keep up their momentum and level of play.

“We really want to make a presence [in states],” said Coia. “We know that we can perform to a high level if we just stay strong and do what we know we can do.”

The Knights will have the chance to continue their playoff push when they take on second-seeded Passaic Valley on Tuesday in the section quarterfinals.