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Stepping Up to the Plate

By Tina Torre

Nassau County athletes were recently recognized at ceremonial dinners for their accomplishments during the fall sports season. At New Hyde Park, varsity athletes in field hockey, football, cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball who received a Nassau County award were invited alongside their respective coaches to a semi-formal dinner. These NHP student-athletes joined award recipients from other high schools spanning the county.

The girls varsity soccer award ceremony was the first to occur, taking place on November 28 at Crest Hollow Country Club. The team was well represented at the ceremony, with five players receiving Section VIII awards. In addition, the girls soccer team received the Conference A2 Sportsmanship award.

“We had a great night. There was a special guest, Jasmyne Spencer, and we were able to see everyone from all schools receive their awards. Then at the end, we took photos. As a team, we won the sportsmanship award, which made us so proud,” junior Sarah-Rose Dempsey said.

Source from Emily Cohen

Coach Bursig, Sofia Bigeni, Lauren LoCascio, Maliea Saccheri, Emily Cohen and Sarah-Rose Dempsey represent NHP girls varsity soccer.

Also held at Crest Hollow in Woodbury, the Nassau County Field Hockey Coaches Association Dinner took place on Friday, December 2. Seven athletes on the field hockey team were honored, and the team celebrated winning the League 4 Championship.

“We were seated by team and were given programs so we could see the order of events and who won which awards,” junior Rosie Zehnter said. “Everyone attending was super respectful…They also gave out scholarships, raffles and all the players attending got a mystery prize at the end as well as the awards…Although the food wasn't what we expected, it was still good, and I can confidently say my teammates and I had a great time.”

Source from Caley Caleca

Gabby Scardapane and Caley Caleca carry their awards before exiting Crest Hollow; Coach Brocking, Gisu Park, Caley Caleca, Gabby Scardapane, Coach McKeough, Alison Leontis, Kaitlyn Neu, Ava DeLisse and Rosie Zehnter gather at the field hockey awards dinner.

On Monday, the following week, two NHP seniors in Leaders physical education were selected to attend a dinner at Crest Hollow. During the Outstanding Physical Education Dinner, students were seated at tables and individually announced based on the high school they attend. Short videos where students explained the role that physical education has had in their lives were played during the ceremony. Award winners received medals and certificates for their leadership, character and enthusiasm in physical education.

“It was amazing to receive such an award. It was an honor to be able to represent NHP at the award ceremony,” senior Kevin Reilly said.

Source from Ms. Jacqueline Rizzuti

Leadership students Tina Torre and Kevin Reilly show their pride for physical education.

The next day, athletes were recognized at the Nassau County Boys Soccer Coaches Association Dinner, which took place at the Marriott. Eight players on the NHP boys varsity soccer team received awards.

“We were served food and every school from Nassau County was there. All of us got announced by the speaker based on the awards we won. What we talked about was the recap of the season and how hard we worked to win each award and how fun the season was,” senior Shawn Carlson said.

“My experience at the soccer awards dinner was awesome. I got to meet some new people and saw some familiar faces. Being one of the younger people there and seeing all these older players winning these awards, I could only imagine myself being in their shoes one day,” sophomore Christopher Hijar said.

Source from nhpathletics Instagram

Varsity soccer players (back row) Alan Sikora, Jake Gruosso, Shane Antao, Shawn Carlson, Sean Rodgers, (front row) Chris Hijar, Eamon Griffin and Abdul El Mohtadi display their awards at the Nassau County Boys Soccer Coaches Association dinner.

“While attending the dinner, I saw players and coaches I met on the field,” sophomore Eamon Griffin said. “The awards dinner recognized both team and individual accomplishments. There were over 700 guests, representing every high school in Nassau County. To receive an award, each player was voted by the coaches in their respective conferences.”

On December 12, awards were presented at Crest Hollow to girls varsity volleyball athletes. Along with four athletes receiving Nassau County designations, the team finished their season as Conference 4 Champions. The varsity volleyball coach, Ms. Rizzuti, was awarded 2022 Coach of the Year.

“It is the best feeling ever to get an award from Nassau County. The fact that coaches and officials can see you improve throughout the season is amazing,” senior Sarah Mathew said.

Source from Ms. Jacqueline Rizzuti

From left to right Ms. Rizzuti, Kristen Schneider, Sarah Mathew, Nikki DiMartino and Tina Torre surround the 2022 Conference 4 championship plaque.

A dinner was not held for boys varsity volleyball. However, there was one All-Conference student-athlete, Hunter Dunn, from the NHP team.

Eight athletes on the varsity football team won Nassau County awards, three of whom played in the Nassau County All-Star game. The winners were invited to attend Crest Hollow the day after the volleyball awards ceremony.

Source from nhpathletics Instagram

Award recipients Jake Rodgers and Walter Reyes hold their All-County plaques beside the varsity football coaches.

Nassau County recognized one athlete, junior Vallerya Rojas, from the NHP Varsity Cross Country team during a ceremony held on December 14.

“At the cross country award ceremony, there were many familiar faces that consisted of officials and other athletes I saw on the starting line,” Rojas said. “It was a nice experience with a special speaker who was once a Section VIII athlete and went on to accomplish many things in college through her sport and academics. She inspired and motivated me more to continue to work hard and continue loving this sport. The ceremony had raffles where they were giving away running apparel from events such as NXN. Winning the award was something I was super proud of myself because it was something I worked hard for throughout the summer and during the season. It also made me very thankful for my coach and teammates who pushed me to be able to get the award. I wouldn’t have been on that stage without them.”

Source from Vallerya Rojas

Vallerya Rojas takes home a Nassau County award at the cross country awards ceremony.

Some of the NHP award winners shared their experiences and advice for young athletes aspiring to achieve a Nassau County designation.

“I think the best way for aspiring athletes to try to win an award is to train in the off-season and to understand that the only way you can win as an individual is to win as a team first,” Zehnter said. “The off-season is often the determining factor in how your season goes. If you don't train, you'll be unprepared for your actual season, which can slow down your progress. There's a saying that you can only be as strong as your weakest player. So, trying to advance yourself while leaving the rest of your team to figure everything out themselves will only hurt yourself. I think we did so well this season because we had great team chemistry. We all felt comfortable around each other…which helped us get better as a team. This was definitely my best season, all thanks to my team.”

“Winning All Conference meant a lot to me. Although I wasn't expecting anything, once I found out I was voted to get an award, I was in pure shock,” Hijar said. “I have been playing soccer (for) a little over 10 years, and now I know what it feels like to be recognized and awarded for my athletic performance. I feel like the most important thing is to show myself and other people that size doesn't matter. Walking onto the field as a varsity starter, I've been the smallest player on the pitch every game. Me as a person, has always been a goal-oriented person…my purpose is to show people it doesn't matter about size, it matters about heart and determination.”

“I believe that coaches recognize my hard work, individual skill and team contributions during each game,” Griffin said. “Although I was not a team leader in points, I always tried to be the hardest worker on the field. What I lack in, I make up for by determination. Coach Bello once said this quote by William Arthur Ward: ‘I set high, but attainable goals, work toward those goals with determination and persistence and never stop until I reach them.’ In many ways this quote summarized my season.”


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