GLEN RIDGE, NJ--Their 2020 season never materialized, on the field at least, but the Glen Ridge High senior softball players will graduate in June, and move onto college, with plenty of good memories.
Like so many other head coaches in New Jersey, Rachael Hogan had hoped beyond hope that her team could get the chance to play this spring.
"We have eight returning seniors, and one first-year senior," said Hogan. "When those kids were freshmen, they were a part of our rebuilding program. It's a void in my life, not coaching them in the usual way this spring. I've always said I spend more time with the team than I do my own family during the spring. It's difficult, and it does move me."
The sad news was made official, on May 4, when the NJSIAA announced the spring season was officially canceled, as schools will stay close for the rest of the academic year.
The GRHS senior softball class was led by four captains, Ava Rollo, Ali Cerruto, Sarina Robik and Taylor Townson. The senior class also featured Leah Chodosh, Hannah O'Connor, Catie Lamberson, Emma Levy and Angelie Roy.
Rolo, a shortstop, hopes to play in college. She'll attend Wiliam Paterson University this fall.
"Coach Hogan has known my family for such a long time and playing varsity softball has really helped me as a player and as a person," said Rollo. "The coaches helped me through everything and helped me to be a better player, in every game and practice. My teammates are one of a kind. We always support each other, no matter what. This team has made me into a different person. They have helped me through every season and I have gained a lot of friendships."
Cerruto, a pitcher, will attend Drexel University, in Philadelphia.
"The Glen Ridge softball team has been my entire life for the past 10 years," she said. "The past four years on the varsity team, I have been able to experience resilience, courage, and so much emotional love, that all of my teammates and coaches and I share for this sport. The act of picking up the ball and stepping onto the pitching mound is a feeling that I only am able to experience through softball.
"The pure rush of power and light that comes through my body every time we score a run, or I strike someone out is incomparable. Even though I wasn’t able to carry out my last season as a captain, I need to say how much I adore everyone on the team, players that have graduated, and those that are younger all make up a community of the strongest people I have ever met. Coach Hogan has become almost a second mother to me, she’s seen me in my lowest points, and during my proudest ones as well. Hogan, alongside the other coaches, my teammates, and my father have shaped me into the player I am today."
Robik, a second baseman, noted the special bond of being on a team. She is headed to Binghamton University, in Vestal, New York.
"Softball has been a pillar of my life since I was eight, but it has been very special throughout these four years of high school," said Robik. "With the mindset that each player is an essential piece of the team, that turf diamond has never felt more like home. Not everyone is lucky enough to have an outlet where they can forget about the world around them and just play ball. Softball is a world of its own, that I have been so lucky to be a part of. Throughout my softball journey, I have learned patience, perseverance, sportsmanship, and determination. Every player starts as a beginner, but a great player is built through hard work, self-discipline and dedication. The start is usually unknown, but the finish is always unforgettable. Softball holds a special place in my heart filled with coaches, memories, and all the amazing people I was lucky to meet along the way."
Townson, who played centerfield, will attend Boston College in September. A versatile all-around athlete, she remembered all the good times, outside of just playing softball.
"The Glen Ridge softball team is quite literally my second family," said Townson. "The support and motivation of my teammates extends both on and off the field. Whether I need a cut off during a game situation or advice in school, my teammates are constantly by my side. I have made some of the best friends on this team; our bond strengthened by team trips to Disney World, pasta dinners on game nights, and late night trips to Holsteins.
"The program is special because it not only fosters friendships, but it teaches players how to be open-minded and see the game. When I first tried out for the team, freshman year, I was competing for a spot at shortstop, however, there was an open position in centerfield. Besides never having played outfield prior to high school, my coaches encouraged me to try the position, and ever since I have grown to love it. The valuable instruction I received from my coaches has brought me great success, and allowed me to make unforgettable memories. But most importantly, the enthusiasm and dedication exhibited by the coaching staff, especially coach Hogan, has shown me the importance of pursuing what you love. As I say goodbye to the softball program, and begin my college experience I hope to discover my passion and pursue it with a similar devotion."
Chodosh, a right fielder, will attend the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst.
"I always loved playing softball," she said. "I tried playing other sports, but my parents had to drag me to practice; I don’t remember that happening for softball. One of the best choices I made in high school was to play softball, because it gave me a team and a little family to work hard with, and share our losses and wins together. It was never one person’s fault if a game went sideways, and the excitement was always for everyone to share when we won. I think that’s part of what I loved the most. Everyone was dedicated to the game and worked hard, but I also solidified great friendships during the season."
O'Connor was the team's third baseman. She will be a freshman at Ithaca College.
"Softball has been one of the biggest parts of my life, and I’ve been playing close to eight years," said O'Connor. "This sport has shaped me into the person that I am today and I was lucky to gain so many friends along the way. During these four years, I have learned so much from my coaches and friends and I am forever grateful for them and their impact on my life. I’m most thankful for Coach Hogan.
"She has taught me so much about softball, and was always so supportive of me and the rest of the team. And to my team, thank you for the best four years, and even though our last was cut short, we made the best of what we had. Nothing felt better than stepping onto the field, surrounded by the people that I've been playing this sport with for the longest time. I’m incredibly sad that it is over, but very happy that I got to do what I love with the people that mean the most to me. Thank you to everyone for some of the best years of my life!"
Lamberson, a left fielder, will attend Wheaton College, in Illinois.
"Softball was one of the best experiences in high school for me," she said. "Even when I was stressed, and when covid came around, softball was a way to forget about all of that for a few hours. That’s irreplaceable, to have a few hours to just enjoy playing softball and spending time with friends. While we may not have a season this year, these past four years have been such an invaluable experience for me."
Levy, an infielder, has played softball for the last seven years.
"Ever since fifth grade, I have been a part of softball," said Levy. "While at the time I was joining to try something new, as my friends told me I should play, I did not realize how much it would mean to me. So when I got to my freshman year of high school, I eagerly joined the softball team. This sport has meant so much to me for the past seven years, and I have met some of the most amazing people. What I love about softball is not just the sport, but the people, and I love that we were considered a family.
"From the after-school practices to sometimes extremely long bus rides, I have always been so happy to be a part of this group. I am sad that our senior year was cut short, but I am so thankful for all the memories, Thank you to Coach Hogan for always being there for us, and supporting us along this journey. She has always encouraged us and she is one of the main reasons that we have become a family. Thank you to this softball team for everything. I know this will always be something that I can look back on, and will remember all the amazing times that came with it."
Levy will attend Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pa. this fall.
Roy, an outfielder, was new to the team this season. A native of Canada, she was also a member of the varsity basketball team.
This was Angelie’s first year playing softball, as she had moved from Canada," said Hogan. "While she only was with us a short while, she was hard working, inquisitive and dedicated. She really enjoyed being part of the team and was a pleasure to know. She will be attending Marie-Victorin in the fall."