Bishop George Ahr High School softball coach Missy Collazo is hesitant to call her team what it is: really darn good.
So she lets her assistant coach of 11 years, Mark Fiore, do the talking for her.
And Fiore is not shy, though he does want Collazo and the players to get all the credit.
“We’re getting great pitching, great defense and the offense is off to a hot start,” Fiore said of the 7-1 Trojans, who have outscored opponents this spring, 76-26.
“But we should say that Missy said all this,” Fiore added, with a straight face.
“Oh stop,” Collazo said. “You said it, not me.”
The coaching partners and longtime friends were sitting on a bench together after a practice at Bishop Ahr on April 11 in Edison. A senior standout, Colleen Cronin, was standing next to the bench.
“We have fantastic coaching,” Cronin said, looking at Collazo.
“Oh stop it!,” Collazo said, laughing.
The humble, no nonsense coach is not in the business of smelling herself, or her team. As San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would say, she is actually over herself. And that’s probably why she is able to keep these talented Trojans focused and on track.
“Just win the game in front of us,” Cronin said, looking at her coach and smiling.
Bishop Ahr did a lot of that last spring, going 24-2 and winning the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship, a 4-3 decision in the final over Old Bridge High School.
The Trojans also reached the semifinals of the NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A Tournament, falling to Saint John Vianney High School, 8-3.
Most of the same players are back to lead this squad, so the team’s ambitions are lofty. The Trojans are going game by game, as Cronin said, but they are also willing to be honest about what they want in the end.
“Win the county,” Fiore said.
“Advance further in states,” Collazo added.
Almost every high school sports program in New Jersey sets those goals. But for the Trojans, they are more like expectations.
Collazo’s lineup is loaded.
Ryan Howard was the Philadelphia Phillies’ “big piece,” as manager Charlie Manuel called him, during the team’s run of five straight National League East Division titles from 2007-2011. Junior Megan Herka is Collazo’s “big piece” in the middle of the batting order.
As a sophomore last spring, Herka broke the program record with 12 home runs. This year she is hitting .714, yes .714, with four homers and 16 runs scored, both team highs.
Herka and fellow juniors Alyssa DeJianne and Rebecca Irizarry all lead the Trojans in runs batted in, with 11.
Another junior, Allison LaRochelle, is hitting .476 with 12 runs out of the two hole in the lineup. Four other Bishop Ahr starters, Jenna Schwartz, Allie VanDemark, Cronin and Paige Tidaback, are hitting .360 or above.
“If someone is having an off day, the next batter picks her up,” Fiore said. “It’s just everybody.”
“Everybody,” Collazo added.
The coach said that Bishop Ahr’s goal is to advance “further” in the state tournament. But the Trojans got to the semifinals last year, and you know Collazo doesn’t expect to just lose in the championship.
These Trojans are relentless enough to win the program’s first state sectional title since 2009.
“But there’s a lot of good competition this year,” Cronin said.