VERONA, NJ - Verona High School junior Sean DeCandia is this week’s TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove’s Hillbilly Athlete of the Week.  DeCandia has been a varsity player all three years in high school with the Verona/Glen Ridge team.

Skating since he was four years old, DeCandia first started playing hockey at the age of 7 and plays left wing for the Hillbillies.  Coach Ken Lilien noted DeCandia's work ethic and dedication to the sport.  

“I think it’s a well-deserved honor for Sean, he works extremely hard at every practice and every game." Lilien said.  "He gives an honest effort; a hard working kid that gets better every week.” 

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According to DeCandia the team had a rough start this season, but things are starting to turn around.

“We are starting to do better and are on a winning streak. We got our energy back," DeCandia said.  "We didn’t come to every game with energy but now we are hyped up with energy and are coming into the game more prepared."

Being a veteran player, presents a challenge for DeCandia this season as he feels he has a lot to live up to.  

"It’s been a challenge as an older player as well as a team player, to take over the place of the really good players from last year,” he explained.

So far Verona/Glen Ridge has won three games and lost 10.

“The record is not great this year, we are a young group, but are beginning to win," Lilien noted.  "We won two in a row and starting to turn it around."

“[As a team] the challenge is coming together with the best of our ability, but now we are accomplishing that,” DeCandia stated.

DeCandia’s highlight of the season so far is when the team played Governor Livingston High School, allowing the Highlander’s to gain only one goal that game. The final score was 4-1.

“It was unexpected, they had about 100 fans and we had zero, and we beat them, putting all their fans down,” he said with excitement.

DeCandia’s goal is to be a team leader and help his teammates. Coach Lilien already believes DeCandia achieved this goal.

“Sean grew into being a very important part of the team. He does all the little things that don’t show up on the score sheet that help make the team better.  He is a leader on and off the ice,” said Lilien.

“DeCandia scored the game winning goal against Montclair Kimberly Academy last year to earn the team the McInnis cup,” added Lilien.

Defending that cup is the ultimate goal, according to DeCandia.  

“Our overall goal is to defend the McInnis cup this year,” he said.

Editor's Note: The "Athlete of the Week" is a weekly reoccurring feature story that highlights an individual student-athlete's success. The Verona High School Athlete of the Week is selected with the assistance of the school's athletic director and coaching staff.