SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Four Union Catholic sports stars gathered with family, friends, coaches and school administrators to sign their National Letters of Intent during a special ceremony in the gymnasium on Tuesday morning.
Track and field star Leena Morant signed her NLI with Penn State University, track and field standout Sydney Tucker signed with Towson State, volleyball star Olivia Szyszkiewicz signed with Jacksonville University, and softball standout Justina Benvenuto signed with the Catholic University of America.
Szyszkiewicz is one of the best all-round volleyball players in the state and in school history. Her greatest strength is that she has no weakness and has a knack for delivering in the clutch.
Combining great court awareness, exceptional leaping ability, and powerful hitting ability, Szyszkiewicz was one of the catalysts that helped continue the tradition of excellence for the Vikings volleyball program.
Whether she was passing, serving or attacking, Szyszkiewicz always found a way to make her presence felt every time she took the court.
Chosen on the All-Conference Team multiple times, Szyszkiewicz finished this past season with 232 kills, 280 digs, 229 service points, and 53 aces.
Szyszkiewicz's great play was a big reason why Union Catholic finished this past season with a 30-2 record, successfully defended its Union County Conference title, repeated as Union County Champion, won its second straight State Sectional championship to advance to the state final for the second straight straight, and ascended to No. 2 in the state rankings.
Morant has put together one of the greatest track and field careers in school history as she blossomed into the fastest half milers in Union Catholic history and one of the best in the country.
Last spring, Morant ran 2:08.91 in the 800 when she finished second at the Meet of Champions, which broke her own school record. She also anchored UC’s 4x800 relay team that finished first at the New Balance National Championships in 8:59.78, which broke its own Union County record and moved the Vikings up to No. 8 in state history.
Morant who has collected several state 800 titles and has been named All-State and All-American multiple times, also ran on Union Catholic’s 4x400 relay that won the Meet of Champions last winter, and anchored the sprint medley relay to victory at the New Balance Indoor National Championships with a time of 3:58.46, which is No. 2 in N.J. indoor history, and No. 18 in U.S. history.
Tucker established herself as one of the best sprinters in Union Catholic history and one of the best in the state during her career, producing several eye-popping performances to help the Vikings maintain its status as the No. 1 track and field program in New Jersey.
During her illustrious career, Tucker has run on two national championship winning relays, captured four Union County individual titles, she’s run on two winning relays at the NJ Meet of Champions,and has earned All-American honors several times.
This past spring, Tucker won the 100 at the State Non-Public A Championships, was fourth in the 100 at the Meet of Champions in 11.97, the fifth fastest time in the state, and ran on the Union County record breaking 4x100 relay that finished first at the Meet of Champions.
Last winter, Tucker led off Union Catholic’s sprint medley relay that finished first at New Balance Indoor National Championships at the New Balance Track and Field Championships in 3:58.46, the second fastest time in NJ indoor history. And in 2017, Tucker ran on the national record breaking swedish relay that finished first at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals.
Benvenuto, a dominant force on the diamond for Union Catholic since her freshman year, has been equally as impressive at the plate as she has been on the mound for the Vikings as she established herself as one of the most best sluggers and pitchers in Union County.
On the mound, Benvenuto has blended a powerful fastball and a deceptive change-up to hurl three no-hitters, compile 32 victories, and she has racked up 380 strikeouts and has averaged more than one strikeout per inning in her amazing career..
At the plate, Benvenuto, who has been chosen as an All-Conference players multiple times, has a career batting average of nearly .400, has hit six home runs, driven in 46 runs, and scored 57 runs.
Union Catholic (1600 Martine Ave., Scotch Plains) prepares a diverse student body to fulfill their college and career goals by cultivating the students' achievement of academic standards of excellence within a value-centered environment, strong in its commitment to our core values (respect, responsibility, honesty, compassion, and community), and to the establishment of a community of faith and love in the Catholic tradition. For more information, call (908) 889-1600 or visit www.unioncatholic.org.