NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — West Essex High School is not often synonymous with girls volleyball, but due to the play of a senior class that includes Dana Stelter, the culture is beginning to change.

“I think this season, five out of the six starters are seniors,” said Stelter. “We really have a great connection, we know how each other plays and we bond so good.”

This season, the Knights are an impressive 13-8, which far exceeds that of previous seasons. The momentum will only continue to grow the grassroots of the Knights program moving forward.

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“It’s really good this year because it’s setting the program up for the future,” said Stelter.

Stelter is a captain on the squad and has worked hard to hone her craft. As a leader, she took it upon herself to help grow the program’s underclassmen into the players that her coaching staff ultimately would like to have for a championship program.

“My goal as a captain is to be an inspiration for the underclassmen and show them how to act and what they can do to have a successful team next year,” she said.

Stelter has been littering the stat sheet with her presence this season. To date, Stelter has 122 kills, 36 blocks, 15 digs, 46 service points and 13 aces. She attributes her success to an increased confidence on and off the court.

“My confidence was always my biggest [weakness], and this year I always have my teammates cheer me up and my coaches help me,” said Stelter. “I was able to better my confidence because now I can show who I am on the court.”

Stelter’s presence was most notably felt in the Knights’ recent match against Rutherford, when she helped the squad to be competitive against an undefeated squad and even with taking a loss was able to improve their play.

“[Rutherford] was an undefeated team, and I think personally and as a team, we all played our best,” said Stelter. “It was one of our best games.”

While some players would be content to rest on their laurels of an already solid skillset, the elite athletes are never satisfied. Stelter is no different, as she made it her goal to become a better all-around player in 2019.

“I wanted to work on playing back row because last year I started back row, and the beginning of this year I didn’t play back row,” she said. “It was just a goal of mine to play all-around…I worked hard in practice, my coach eventually put me in, and now I have that full rotation spot.”

The Knights are continuing to focus on the upcoming state tournament and have high aspirations moving forward. Stelter has made it her personal goal to continue to guide the team down a winning path.

“For the rest of the season, we definitely want to make it far in the state tournament,” said Stelter. “We’re just going to do what we know how to do and use our practice time wisely to get farther in the tournament and prepare the team for next year so they can be successful then also.”