SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Following Saturday's home victory over Hamilton West High School, the Spotswood High School girls basketball program hosted its first-ever alumni game. The event brought 11 former Chargers back to the court including four members of the Central Jersey Group One State championship team. Former Chargers head coach Jill Hetzler was among the players that suited up for the game.
In addition to Hetzler the alumni roster included Memorial Middle School Physical Education teacher Meaghan Koppel, Megan Faust-Taylor, Denise Shanabrook-Pagano, Colleen Duffy, Melissa Kukoda, Ally Herring, Jenny Marrazo, Olivia Hellerich, Amber Meagher and Brielle McCoy.
The group split into two teams as current Chargers watched from the bench, cheering the group on.
"The idea of hosting an alumni game really stemmed off the amazing and continued support our alumni show to our current program," explained Chargers head coach Vincent Vizzi. "In the past there has always been an alumni practice and the turnout is always great. This year we hoped that our alumni would come watch our current team in action before they took the court themselves."
Hetzler used the power of social media, reaching out to past Chargers via a Facebook post to help get the word out about the alumni game.
"I think this is a start of a great tradition," Hetzler said. "The weather and flu season got in the way of more people being able to make it to play, but it was a success for the first year. It’s really amazing how so much changes over time for everyone, but the playing together and cheering one another on and all that competitiveness and team support turn right back on."
"This event seemed to mean a lot to our alumni," Vizzi added. "We received great feedback on the game and we will be looking to make it an annual event. A few alumni went to social media following the game posting pictures with former teammates and writing captions like 'some things are forever'."
"Hosting this event gives many successful women a chance to come back and share their experiences, memories and advice to our current student athletes," Vizzi continued. "Having the opportunity to spend an afternoon back in their high school, seeing all the wonderful upgrades and possibly reconnecting with former friends and teammates is the goal of this game. It is also very important for our current team to have a sense of who played before them, learning our Charger family is impressive and always growing."
Hetzler is the Physical Education teacher at the Spotswood School District's Schoenly School. Before passing the head coaching reins on to Vizzi, Hetzler celebrated her 100th victory as varsity head coach in 2018. The Milltown native was also a member of that special 1999 state championship winning team.
"Really the best highlight overall was having women who have played over the years get together and have fun on the court," Hetzler said. "It was like some of us never skipped a beat. Colleen Duffy and Melissa Kukoda are still stands like they always were and I was ecstatic to have my point guard, Denise Shannabrook, back on the court with me like back when we won the state championship in 1999."
"For me it’s a lot more than just playing, it’s being with the girls I made so many memories with years ago, seeing their parents and now their own kids in the stands too," Hetzler added. "Having my own children on the sideline and running around during halftime on the court is the best. It’s also catching up with a large group of girls I was so fortunate enough to come back and coach for a number of years. They are all in college and or in their careers and it’s so wonderful to be able to still connect with them through basketball."