It wasn’t until last Friday when Emily Drew found out how close she was to reaching a career milestone worth celebrating. Going into Hunterdon Central’s matchup with Warren Hills, Drew was told that her next assist would be No. 1,500 for her career, a number not attained by many in New Jersey history.
Against the Blue Streaks, Drew had a team-high 14 assists, pushing her career total to 1,513, in a 2-0 victory that upped Hunterdon Central’s record to 12-1.
“I actually found out the day before that I was one away,” Drew said. “I had no idea that I was that close. But it was just like any other game: I was prepared and excited to go out there and play.”
Drew, a 5-foot, 6-inch senior setter for the Red Devils, has been perfecting her craft since she was in the 5th grade. But she knows that she’s just a part of the equation that helps Hunterdon Central rack up the victories.
As a setter, Drew is normally positioned in the middle of the Red Devils attacking formation for Head Coach Stephen Fenton, receiving passes from the defenders in the back of the court and setting up lobs for her hitters to crush onto the hardwood.
In the win over Warren Hills, nine different Hunterdon Central players finished with at least one kill, most all of them being set up by Drew. And when the competition has been at its highest this season, Drew has played some of her best volleyball.
In Hunterdon Central’s fifth match of the season against Cherokee High School, Drewfinished with a season-high 31 assists in the three-set victory. Five games later, Hunterdon Central lost for the first time this season, but it wasn’t because Drew didn’t have a big night. She finished with 29 assists in the three-set defeat to West Morris, which is 13-1 this season.
For the season, Drew is averaging 19.7 assists per contest, helping Hunterdon Central win all but one of its matches in 2-0 sweeps. They’ve played the maximum three sets just three times, the victory over Cherokee, the loss to West Morris and a 2-1 win against North Hunterdon on Sept. 21.
Drew began playing for Fenton last year, when he took over as Hunterdon Central’s coach. But in the two years that they’ve been working together, Fenton has seen Drew grow into a real leader on the court.
“She’s developed a great work ethic since she got here,” Fenton said. “She’s a leader on the floor and she’s a leader in how she plays the game. Due to her tremendous athleticism and her experience, we’re able to rely on her in the middle. We wouldn’t be able to do the things we’re doing without Emily.”
The Red Devils have seven games remaining on their regular season schedule, with the state tournament looming large afterwards. With their current 12-2 record, Hunterdon Central should be a force to be reckoned with, with Drew leading the way. For those remaining games on the slate, Drew has high expectations for her squad.
“I expect to play to my fullest potential and I expect that we’ll get to states and win it,” Drewsaid.
Fenton echoed his star’s words, saying that reaching the championship of the state tournament is the ultimate goal for the Red Devils.
“We’re looking to do well in the county tournament and to get a good seed in the state tournament,” Fenton said. “Anybody can beat anybody in volleyball, but if we’re playing well, we can beat anyone.”