SOUTH PLAINFIELD - As the weather changed from hot and humid to brisk and windy, the fall interscholastic sports season of 2016 was kind to South Plainfield High School. Many athletes - boys and girls - enjoyed team and individual success in a variety of sports.
In this article, TAPinto South Plainfield runs down the list of Lady Tigers who were named to the Greater Middlesex Conference teams from all-conference to divisional honors.
Heading the list is field hockey’s Caity Hughes. Hughes was named to the All-Conference team and was awarded the Player of the Year distinction by the GMC after leading her team to an 18-3 record, highlighted by an overtime goal in the GMCT Final to lift South Plainfield over Old Bridge, 4-3, for the first tournament crown in four years. The senior and Georgian Court University signee for softball scored 32 goals and recorded 13 assists. She was an All-Conference Team member last year and was named Offensive Player of the Year with 41 goals.
“It was really an awesome feeling,” Hughes told TAPinto South Plainfield about her prestigious honor. “I couldn’t have accomplished it without my teammates. They were a huge reason why not just me, but our whole team was so successful this season. It’s a special title to be given and I’m very grateful that I earned that this year.”
Speaking of her teammates, senior Nicole Zultowski was named the 2016 GMC Offensive Player of the Year after netting 24 goals and passing out 14 assists. Zultowski made the All-Conference Team in 2015 as well.
“It feels awesome to be named Offensive Player of the Year,” Zultowski said. “I’m really honored to have gotten that. We had such a great season. We all put in so much hard work and it really paid off when we won GMC’s because that was a huge goal for us.”
Head coach Melissa Szeliga credited their drive.
“I’m so proud of the work those two put into the season,” Szeliga told TAPinto South Plainfield. “They came out with a goal in mind to get a county championship. They worked so hard to not only improve themselves but to push our team to be the best we could be as a whole. They were both dominating forces. Their intensity and presence on the field will definitely be missed next year.”
Zultowski gave props to her teammate, and good friend, Hughes, congratulating her on her award as well.
“Playing with Caity was really great because we work so well together. She definitely deserved POY. We’re really close on and off the field and I’m going to miss playing with her next year.”
Two others, Mary McNeil (eight goals, seven assists) and Lynda Farinella received All-Conference honors as well. Angela Sanchez and Ashley Veliz were named honorable mentions.
“It’s very exciting to see so many people on your team succeed,” said Hughes, who also is a standout on the basketball and softball teams. “They definitely all deserve it.”
Szeliga offered comments as well on her talented bunch.
“Having six girls acknowledged as top players in the county is an amazing recognition not only for how hard they’ve worked individually, but how talented our team is and how determined they were going into this season,” Szeliga said.
As for girls soccer, although they did have the season they had hoped for (6-15), senior Claire Nagel was named to the GMC All-Conference and All-Blue Division teams.
“I’m extremely honored and thankful to have been named to the GMC All-Conference team,” said Nagel, who posted a 14 goal, five assist statline this fall. That fact that my hard work has been recognized by others is a great feeling!”
Nagel, a Gettysburg College commit, said the goal was to improve on the 3-15-1 record they posted in 2015 and she is proud the team accomplished that. Nagel recieved help by All-Blue Division member and teammate Grace Ochoa.
In gymnastics, Allison Graves was named to the All-GMC team in the Floor Exercise. In the Central Jersey, Section 2 tournament, Graves put on a display with a 9.35 score in the floor exercise. The junior captain guided her Lady Tigers to a 6-1 record, good for second place in the GMC and in Central Jersey, Section 2. Graves was joined by Brianna Spadavecchia (At-Large) on the All-Conference team while Elyse Kanaley was named Assistant Coach of the Year.
The girls volleyball team saw two members, senior Bryahna Shaw and freshman Mackenzie O’Brien, make the GMC All-Blue Division squad. O’Brien totaled 10 service aces, 26 kills, one assist, one block, and 72 digs. Shaw registered 32 aces, 97 kills, 24 blocks, and three digs.
And last but certainly not least, freshman phenom Julianne Ferraro was named to the GMC All-Conference Girls Cross Country team. Ferraro finished third at the GMC Cross Country Championships, fourth in the Central Jersey, Group 2 Sectional Championships, and finally 11th in the Group 2 Cross Country Championships. Ferraro broke both the school record of 18:54 and the course record for a female at Spring Lake Park of 18:36 with a fast time of 18:27 in the school’s last duel meet versus North Plainfield.