CEDAR GROVE, NJ - She’s only in her sophomore year but has already proven herself as a valuable teammate, great pitcher and overall outstanding softball player. That is why Mia Faieta has earned this week’s TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove Panther Athlete of the Week honor.

“I feel really happy to be athlete of the week. It's a great honor,” Faieta said of the title. “I know that I got this because of my coaches helping me and Coach Nikki calling great games. Knowing that my team is always there behind me helps me be more confident on the mound because they play great defense to help back me up.”

An important part of any game is passion, and that is something Faieta does not lack. Her love for softball is what helps her succeed.

Sign Up for E-News

“What I love about softball is the thrill of a great game. When my teammate makes a diving play to save an inning, or I strike out a girl with runners on in scoring position,” Faieta said. “I love the feeling I get when the game is on the line and someone from my team hits a double scoring in a run, or we get out of a tough inning late in the game.”

The star 10th-grader has played four games and pitched 27 innings so far this season and has had an impressive 62 strikeouts. Besides an excellent record early in the season, Faieta said playing Mount St. Dominic and leading the game going into the seventh inning has been a highlight so far. Although the Panthers ended up losing the game, Faieta said playing a powerhouse team like Mount St. Dominic gave the girls confidence that they can compete against teams of such high caliber.

The Lady Panthers hope to overcome their challenges and win every inning in all aspects of the game, Faieta added.

“We do not want to fall behind in the game,” Faieta said. “We play inning to inning, not looking at the overall outcome until we are sitting in right field in our huddle and the game is over.”

Personally, Faieta wants to get and stay ahead in the count for every batter she faces.

“It will give me more control on the mound, and help my team stay in games,” she said.

In addition to her skill, it is Faieta’s positive mindset that helps her succeed, Coach Nicole Velardi said. Not only does she use that positive energy to perfect her own game, but also to help the whole team by motivating her teammates to be the best they can be.

“’You’ve got to knock that negative voice out as soon as it pops in. That's the type of teammate Mia is,” Velardi said. “No matter what is going on off the field or on it, she always has a smile on her face. She is an excellent example of a role model for our team. She prepares, she sacrifices, and I know every time she walks to that mound she gives everything she's got and her teammates recognize that.”

Faieta’s work ethic is also what makes her a great athlete, Velardi added. She works on both the physical and mental parts of the game and is always striving to turn her weaknesses into strengths.

“Mia plays with great desire,” Velardi said. “She has a ‘can do’ attitude from the moment she steps on that field. The reason I believe she will dominate that circle is because she is relaxed, confident and focused. Regardless of the game situation she plays at a consistent, peak level.”

As a coach, Velardi said she will continue to encourage Faieta and instill in her the confidence it takes to succeed. In softball, it’s about taking the game one step at a time and one pitch at a time, Velardi added, and that is something she wants to continue to teach Faieta and the rest of her Panthers.

“There are always going to be people who are going to tell you what you can’t do, or who you’ll never be, or what you won’t do,” Velardi said. “But I believe in Mia and so does the rest of her team. She will continue to strive for excellence.”