Muzones signs to play volleyball at FDU

Secaucus standout becomes 37th player to go on to college, 13th Division I product

When Justine Muzones was a freshman at Secaucus High School, she just happened to stumble into volleyball tryouts by accident.

"It was totally unintentional," Muzones said. "I really didn’t like volleyball. I was only there because my friend wanted to try out, but she didn’t want to go alone, so I went with her."

The result? The friend soon became uninterested, while Muzones went on to become one of the best all-around performers in the history of the school.

"I just started liking it a lot," Muzones said. "I joined a volleyball club [DIGGS in Bergen County] and I guess I became pretty good at it. I wanted to learn more and more."

Muzones’ remarkable high school career came to an end last November when she led the Patriots to yet another NJSIAA Group I state championship – the school’s seventh straight state crown.

Last week, Muzones was rewarded for her hard work and dedication to the sport by signing a national letter of intent to play volleyball at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, beginning in the fall.

Muzones becomes the 37th player in the history of Secaucus volleyball to move on to the collegiate ranks and the 13th former Patriot to earn an NCAA Division I scholarship, under the tutelage of former Secaucus coach Maria Nolan.

"I think it’s awesome that Justine is getting a chance to play volleyball in college," said Nolan, who stepped down as the head coach last month after a storied 26-year career. "She worked very hard to get where she is and she put in a lot of time, playing club volleyball, trying to improve. It was a tremendous sacrifice on her and her parents. She just loves playing volleyball and I’m happy to see that she’ll continue to play in college."

Muzones was considering an offer from the University of Scranton, but when FDU came along with the Division I scholarship offer, it was hard to refuse.

"I was just hoping to play volleyball on the intramural level in college, maybe join a club or perhaps play at a Division III school," Muzones said. "I never thought I could take it this far. It’s like a dream come true, especially with a Division I school. I was very surprised when they showed interest in me."

Muzones wants to study nursing in college, so FDU is a perfect fit.

"I’ve always been interested in the medical field," Muzones said. "I have an uncle who is a doctor and other family members who are nurses. I wanted to be involved in sports medicine, maybe physical therapy."

FDU is also close enough to home that her friends and family, namely mother Christine and father Ferdinand, can get a chance to see her play.

"I think it was important to be close to home," Muzones said. "My family has always been there for me. Playing club volleyball was such a big commitment to my parents. I can repay them by getting this scholarship and doing the best that I can. I’m helping them anyway I can. But it will be nice for them to see me play."

Nolan believes that Muzones will be a good addition to FDU’s program.

"She has a tremendous vertical leap," Nolan said. "And she has great hang time when she jumps. It’s a very good ability. Her best match was the state finals and that’s when she showed what she was really capable of doing. She’s a very effective player."

Muzones said that she is excited about the opportunity to play at FDU.

"I can’t wait," she said. "I’m really excited to get the chance to further my volleyball career."

She certainly is an athlete to watch…

Hudson County athletics will be worse with the losses of two outstanding coaches, namely long-time Hudson Catholic soccer coach John Cruitt and St. Peter’s Prep wrestling coach Rick Gronda, both of whom announced their respective resignations last week.

Cruitt has been a staple of the Hudson County soccer scene for the last two decades, leading the Hawks’ program to a place of statewide prominence. His dedication to the sport had no peers. He moves on to a new position at a school in Staten Island and we wish him well in his future endeavors.

Gronda has been a part of Prep athletics for several years, since his days as a standout athlete. He continued the work of former wrestling coach Keith Kelly and helped lead the Marauders to two consecutive NJSIAA Parochial A North state championships.

I’ve known both John and Rick for a long time and they will be sorely missed. Best of luck in your new positions…

I was saddened by the news that Willie Banks was demoted by the Red Sox to Class AAA Pawtucket. The Jersey City native will be back in the big leagues very shortly…

People close to the local track scene are all abuzz about the showdowns between Memorial standout sprinter Bryan Durango and up-and-coming star Kevin Thompson of North Bergen, who is only a freshman.

Apparently, the two locked horns for the first time in the recent North Hudson championships and will do so again in the next few weeks. It’s a rivalry that deserves watching…

Congrats to Felix Urena of North Bergen in helping Kean University win its first-ever New Jersey Athletic Conference championship last weekend. Urena, who delivered several key hits in the NJAC tournament for the Cougars, will now lead his team into the NCAA Division III Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament next weekend…

Also participating in that tourney will be Stevens Tech, which earned its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth last week as well, so that regional will be a meeting of firsts…

St. Dominic Academy track coach John Nagel is raving about the recent performances of Blue Devil discus thrower Nicole Totino, who fared well in the recent Catholic Conference Relays…

If you are caught up with New Jersey Nets’ playoff fever, like many locals are, catch out the antics of the SuperFan in the upper deck, blowing his whistle frantically and encouraging the fans to cheer on the Nets in the playoffs. If he looks familiar, he’s John Hester, the former St. Peter’s Prep baseball standout who also does high school sports television broadcasts for Cablevision of Bayonne. Hester is something to behold at the Continental Arena, pumping up the fans… — Jim Hague


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