Sarah Pintel Cherry Hill East’s all-time leader in kills, is the first player in the program’s history to earn a full athletic scholarship to play Division I women’s volleyball.
Cherry Hill High School East girls volleyball has never had a player quite like Sarah Pintel.
Standing at 6-feet, 4-inches tall, Pintel has been the Cougars top player for the past three seasons and has broken down a number of barriers since joining the program in 2015. Pintel is the all-time program leader in kills, became the first player in school history to record 500 career kills on Sept. 13 against Washington Township High School and achieved another first earlier in the year when she verbally committed to play volleyball at George Washington University next fall. Pintel is the first player from Cherry Hill East to obtain a full athletic scholarship to play women’s volleyball in college.
Pintel recalled when coaches first started noticing her a few years ago while she played in tournaments with Cherry Hill Volleyball Club. She believes her height was what originally attracted attention, but admitted she never believed she’d one day accept a Division I athletic scholarship.
“As a little freshman, I didn’t think I was that good,” Pintel said. “I think I had the potential to be good and I think that’s what coaches saw in me in the recruiting process.”
Cherry Hill East head coach Scott Mooney also recognized Pintel’s talent when she first joined the program. Realizing she had the ability to play at a level few other former Cougars had, Mooney wanted to put Pintel in a position to succeed and decided to play her at outside hitter.
“As an outside hitter, she can really use her verticality to really do some damage out there,” Mooney said.
Pintel admitted hitting was a difficult skill to pick up right away, but she was able to improve in a number of ways.
“I did a lot of weightlifting to get my vertical up,” Pintel said. “Nutrition also played a role. I did everything I could to transform myself into a Division I athlete.”
From a recruiting standpoint, Mooney reached out to former University of Pennsylvania girls volleyball head coach Kerry Carr to help Pintel with the process. Mooney credited Carr with working with Pintel on sending emails to coaches and telling her story to schools.
“She has the arms, she has the ability, she has the hand-eye coordination,” Mooney said about Pintel. “For the coaches, when you talk about recruiting, how do you convey that story to other people?”
“Scott and Kerry were a really big help,” Pintel said. “Kerry would help me schedule phone calls and she would communicate with the coaches.”
At the start of the process, Pintel sent out general emails to about 50 to 60 schools. By the end of the process, Pintel narrowed her choices to a few schools, including American University, Pepperdine University and George Washington University.
“I had already received an offer from American and I was also talking to Pepperdine,” Pintel said prior to deciding to commit to George Washington. “I visited out there in California. The coach, Scott Wong, and I talked for a half hour every week, pretty regularly.”
“When I visited George Washington, it was the whole experience for me, when I went there, it was like home,” Pintel continued. “I could see myself going there.”
Mooney said Cherry Hill East has had two players previously play Division I in the Ivy League, but never before has a Cougar obtained an athletic scholarship in volleyball, making Pintel’s commitment a true milestone for the program.
“She just turned 17 (last Monday),” Mooney said. “Even as a senior, she was 16 for the first month and a half of the season. When you look at that and where she’s at in her learning curve, it’s possible she’s still two to three years from her peak.”
Pintel hopes to see other volleyball players at Cherry Hill East and across South Jersey obtain athletic scholarships in the future.
“You have to give a lot of work early,” Pintel said. “My freshman year, I was thinking about where I was going to be in four years. You have to have the correct mindset and think about where you want to be in the future.”