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Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Once a hobby, volleyball now sends JJ Stoff to college on a scholarship

FORM: JJ led the Firehawk boys volleyball team to the CIF 2024 quarterfinals. He will play for Bard next year.

When senior Jonathan Stoff, more commonly known as JJ, played Firehawk volleyball during his junior year season, it was just a hobby. Now he has a college scholarship to play the sport at Bard College in New York where he is undecided what he will be studying. 

“I started playing sophomore year – I played for fun,” said JJ in an interview with the Boiling Point. “I wasn’t super serious about it.” 

After sophomore year JJ started to put his all into the sport, joining a club team and putting aside other sports such as basketball. He couldn’t get enough.

“I became addicted to the grind, I became addicted to the whole game in general,” said JJ. “I just, I love the sport. I think it’s just so fun. So I was playing like six days a week.” 

At Bard, a liberal arts college with about 2,500 students located in Annandale-on-Hudson N.Y., he will play volleyball for the Div. 3 Raptors. 

He was recruited through an app called NCSA, where an applicant can post film. Bard recruited JJ.

Bard plays in the Liberty League, an athletic conference in the Northeast.


When he thinks back on how it started, JJ says his interest in volleyball came from the grades ahead of him.

“I always liked volleyball and it was really the seniors, when I was a sophomore, who got me into it,” said JJ.

The seniors always pushed him to be at his best and they made volleyball fun.

But JJ’s mom, Ms. Vanessa Stoff, recalled him falling in love with the sport before high school, saying he first found it in eighth grade at Pressman and got into it very quickly.

He always set a really big example for everyone to follow. Without him, we wouldn’t really be a team. He’s kind of the glue that holds us all together.

— Yuri Steuer, 11th Grade, Firehawk volleyball team

Then March 2020 happened, and his new passion was put on hold.

“Fast forward a couple years to Shalhevet where,” Ms. Stoff said, “and you know, he was great at basketball. But he really found his calling with volleyball. He really took to it quickly.”

Just when he was about to commit fully to volleyball when something made it easier: he did not make the Firehawk varsity basketball team. Now his decision was set. 

And the decision eventually benefited him greatly, JJ said.

JJ credits the game of volleyball for having a positive impact on him beyond the court. He started to see improvements in his work ethic and his grades, becoming more focused on schoolwork because he would not go play volleyball until all of his work was done. 

“So that kind of became my motivation to get through school,”said JJ. “And I saw improvement in my grades and my GPA in general.”

In between JJ’s junior and senior seasons, he played club volleyball for Southern California Volleyball Club, a high-level volleyball club.with many awards. Clubs help players improve their game outside of their school teams. 

JJ’s game took a big leap as he played against better competition and had extra practice, improving his skill set and adapting to the speed of the overall game. It also got him extra reps in the faster-paced club games, making high school volleyball easier.

“And being put in high-pressure situations,” JJ said, “when you’re put into a faster game, a club- level game, when you come back to high school and the game is kind of more organized and slow down and more play-oriented, you’re gonna see yourself thrive more.”

“Junior year, I was very, very unorganized, for sure,” said JJ “Didn’t have a great work ethic. And volleyball kind of came into my life very fast. Club volleyball. Just started playing,

“I became addicted to the grind, I became addicted to the whole game in general,” JJ said. 

Going into his senior year JJ was tasked with being captain of the Firehawks Volleyball team. As captain he ingrained a different mentality into the team.

“The goal and the culture I wanted to kind of instill in these guys is keeping that intensity and that sense of urgency at all times,” JJ said. “Consciously thinking about that is the difference between those CIF teams that you see go super far, and the teams that are stuck in league.”


JJ says that high-pressure moments, including hitting the ball from different angles and making plays that are not routine, are where he thrives. 

“I like to be thrown into situations where I need to make moves on the fly,” said JJ “And situations I haven’t been in before because I’m pretty good at it kind of working my way out of those situations.” 

As captain, JJ led his team to the best year in Shalhevet boys volleyball history, guiding the Firehawks to an undefeated regular season.

His teammate, sophomore Yuri Steuer, described JJ’s leadership as critical to those wins.  

“He always set a really big example for everyone to follow,” said Yuri. “Without him, we wouldn’t really be a team. He’s kind of the glue that holds us all together.”

The season eventually came to an end after losing in the CIF quarterfinals to California Academy of Math & Science.

He credits his teammates for the team’s success.

“Yuri Steuer had a great impact on me and my work ethic,” said JJ. “Seeing his passion for improvement, and expecting excellence of himself and others inspired me to be a better leader.”

He also singled out freshman Levi Brous-Light and junior Eli Schwartz. 

“Levi Brous-Light probably the most progressive year of volleyball I’ve ever seen, consistently swinging by the end of the season,” JJ said. “And transfer Eli Schwartz was a key factor in going this far.”


Overall, JJ says volleyball has taken him to places he did not know he could go – personally as well as geographically.  Especially regarding seriousness and organization.

Bard College’s volleyball team went head-to-head against three Div. 3-ranked opponents last season, and even played the No. 2-ranked team in all of Div. 3. This next step for JJ will introduce him to a new level of volleyball.

“Volleyball really affected my life — work ethic in general — to create a lot of discipline,” JJ said. “A lot of understanding that you need to go through a ridiculous amount of repetitions before you even feel comfortable doing those reps. I think volleyball helped me in that way as well as gaining that discipline.”

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