For a setter on the volleyball court, everything funnels through them in order for the offense to work and in turn for the defense to be in the right position. It’s important to have a setter that is comfortable in his role, and in that respect, Hillsborough High School senior Joe DeLuca is as comfortable as comfortable gets.
The University of Delaware-bound star led all of Somerset County in assists this spring, racking up 680 in total in helping the Raiders defend their Skyland Cup title and advance to the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Tournament. He finished his career with 1,489 assists and he went over 40 in a match three times this season, with a season-high 43 coming in April against Old Bridge.
DeLuca is The Courier News’ Player of the Year.
“I started going to volleyball camps in seventh grade and that’s when I got my first taste of it and during my freshman year of high school, I fell in love with the sport,” DeLuca said. “I knew that it’d be one of my main sports, because I’d played soccer all my life, but once volleyball came around, it just changed my whole priority list, sports wise.”
Thankfully for Hillsborough, DeLuca focused on volleyball. His sure handedness made him an obvious choice for one of the two co-captains for the Raiders this season, but the difference from four years ago to now has been DeLuca’s vision on the court.
“It felt great (to be a captain), because I’ve been with these boys for the last four years and being able to rally them up after every point and keep everything strict and on-point,” DeLuca said. “From freshman year to now I think the thing I learned the most is being able to read the play and know when to run certain plays for our team and that’s something the coaches and I have figured out to use to our advantage.”
The Raiders went 19-7 in 2013, winning eight of the final 11 matches. During that run, Hillsborough retained their Skyland Cup title from a season ago, taking out rival Bridgewater-Raritan in straight sets on May 11. The two teams had split their pair of regular season meetings and DeLuca knew what was at stake in the third meeting.
“Bridgewater-Raritan is a great team and they’ve always been a rival for Hillsborough in all sports, not just volleyball, and we split with them in the regular season but found a way to beat them in two sets in the Skyland Cup and that was a really great moment,” DeLuca said. “That was one of the things we wanted to do the most, prove to ourselves and prove to the team that we were able to beat Bridgewater-Raritan when it mattered most.”
One year after finishing second in the state with 809 assists, DeLuca credits the work of the eight seniors on the roster with playing top-level volleyball in 2013.
“There was a lot more senior leadership this year,” he said. “I think all of us worked together to keep the practices at a high competition level and in general, our communication was better and the chemistry between the players was a lot better. Practices were really fun this year and when you win a match and see everyone following with you is really a great feeling for a captain because you’re helping lead them to success.”