North Jersey Female Athlete of the Week

Ellie Kilgallen

Sport: Volleyball

School: Waldwick

Class: Senior. Age: 17.

Accomplishment: Kilgallen led the Warriors to victory in their first two matches this season. She picked up 12 assists in a straight-set win over Rutherford and 18 more in a three-setter against Saddle Brook.

By Sean Farrell, NorthHersey.com

Ellie Kilgallen has mastered the art of the assist both on and off the court.

The Waldwick senior is the starting setter on the volleyball team and a vocal leader for the Warriors. She used her voice and her precision to record 30 assists and seven service points last week as the Warriors beat Rutherford and Saddle Brook.

Kilgallen comes from a family of teachers and coaches, and has embraced the chance to uplift others. She is one of three presidents in her school’s Global Awareness Club ÔÇô a group that tutors children in Kenya in extreme poverty.

The club communicates with students over Zoom and helped purchase laptops and Wi-Fi in the East African nation. Lessons usually start around 7 a.m. and Kilgallen is counted on to make the schedule.

“We read them books in English and they teach us some things in Swahili,” Kilgallen said. “Seeing their situation was really eye-opening to me. It’s crazy to me so many things we take for granted that other people may not have. It’s helped me become more appreciative of the things in my life.”

The Kilgallen name is well-known around Waldwick. Her two older brothers both played sports in town and her softball coach is none other than her uncle, Mike Kilgallen.

This is Ellie’s third year in the varsity volleyball lineup and second year as the starting setter. It’s a position that requires good technique, repetition and knowing exactly where her teammates want the ball.

“Two of the middles I set for, one of them likes lower sets and the other likes higher sets,” Kilgallen said. “Depending on the player, I do my best to adjust to their needs and what works best for them.”

Kilgallen has come a long way since starting her volleyball career in seventh grade. She admits that she came in freshman year a little quiet and intimidated by the talent atop the program, but developed more confidence by the rep. It all culminated last season when Kilgallen finished sixth in the NJIC in assists (328) while leading the Warriors to a 14-10 record.

What coach Ted Opderbeck appreciates most is his captain’s work ethic and selfless attitude.

“She’s like the heart of the team,” Opderbeck said. “She gets everybody going. The great thing about her too is you never ever see her get down on herself or anybody else on the team. If she misses a serve, it’s like ‘let’s go guys’.”

Kilgallen is a National Honor Society student who is still weighing her college options. She is thinking about a major in education after working with third to fifth graders halfway around the globe.

For now, her goal is to improve her assist numbers on the court and push Waldwick to another successful season.

“Our confidence level is pretty high,” Kilgallen said. “Everyone was a little unsure of how we were going to do, but I think we started off pretty well and I think we’re going to have an amazing season.”