SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — Athletic excellence was on full display on Wednesday in the gymnasium of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, where a staggering 13 Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raider senior athletes signed National Letters of Intent to play NCAA Division I sports.
Representatives from the colleges, friends and families watched proudly as each Raider penned their signature to make their Division I commitments — from sports ranging from soccer to rowing — official.
Leading the way in signees was the girls’ soccer team, which had a four young women sign Wednesday. Christina Rodgers (Providence), Andrea Leitner (Albany), Alyssa DiFrancesco (Wagner) and Sophie Brause (James Madison) all signed a coveted Letter of Intent.
“Every year we always produce a pretty good amount of girls that play soccer and take the next step. I’m very happy that we had four this year because that’s the most in a long time,” Christina Rodgers said. “National Signing Day is very exciting, especially with my best friends and everyone. It’s a great environment.”
Also from the soccer pitch, the boys’ soccer program continued its legacy of mass-producing Div. I talent, as three young men advanced in their academic and athletic careers to the D-I level. Brothers Sean Murray (Monmouth) and Andrew Murray (Duquesne), alongside Ryan Peterson (Delaware), signed their Letters of Intent.
“It’s a great testament to the strength of the boys’ soccer program and the coaching of coach Tom Breznitsky -- he’s had numerous, numerous players go to the Division-I level and it’s just a testament to the program and how good of a coach he is,” said Sean Murray.
“It’s pretty amazing what the soccer team has done over the past couple years, recently,” Ryan Peterson said. “But overall, in the history of the program, it’s just another three guys committing D-I and it’s amazing; it shows that soccer in this town is very much alive.”
The boys’ lacrosse team saw three athletes latch onto Div. I schools — David Walker (Rutgers), Riley Guma (NJIT) and Anthony Magnotta (Marist). The three stars are the only Div. I signees to have a full season of high school ball left, as they will play their senior season this spring.
“It’s just a testament to the kids’ hard work that they put in. We had a big senior class. Playing in college is not the easiest thing; it’s a huge commitment,” said head coach Nick Miceli. “It’s great to set the bar high.”
Christopher Bondarowicz of the boys’ swimming team officially signed to the United States Naval Academy, where he will take his nationally-ranked talents next year. Also representing the Raiders swimming program was Stephanie Judge of the girls’ team, who signed to the University of Massachusetts. She will compete for UMASS next year.
“For the Scotch Plains program, it’s something that I’m honored to have bestowed upon me. Just looking at it, we’ve had a lot of great guys sign in the past -- Greg Baliko, Joe Dunn and people like that -- go to top D-I programs or top D-III programs. It’s really a great experience being a part of that legacy and knowing that I shared the same routes with those guys,” said Chris Bondarowicz.
Maxine Manville penned her signature to row at Lehigh University. Manville is the first ever SP-F student to row at the D-I level. Rowing is not a sport the school currently offers, but Manville nonetheless joins elite company in this year’s Raider Division I club.
In addition to the 13 Raiders advancing in their careers at the Div. I level, baseball’s Peter Yarem (Susquehanna) and Tim Geissel (St. John Fisher) and boys’ lacrosse’s Jake Kloepfer (Frostburg) were honored at the ceremony. Playing Div. III does not require a Letter of Intent.
National Letter of Intent Day is celebrated at virtually every high school in America, as it is the most common date that high school athletes sign on to play sports at the Division I level.