Alan Hodish Is A Long Island Lacrosse Legend!
Dec 02, 2019Posted by james

I have known Alan Hodish for many years and was pleased about eight years ago when he asked me to join him to champion the Hempstead PAL lacrosse program. The program is such a rewarding experience for me, especially when I have the opportunity each season to speak with the young players who are learning this great game.

Before he became involved with this wonderful program for grade school youth, Alan was a successful assistant coach at Levittown Memorial High School and C.W. Post, and then he held the reins for many years as head coach for the Hempstead High School varsity lacrosse program. Alan turned around the Tigers boys’ program, creating one of the best high school boys’ lacrosse programs on Long Island.

After all these years, Alan, an attorney by day, still maintains his personal passion for lacrosse. The Hempstead PAL program is a natural fit for him. As he teaches youngsters about the game, Alan’s message to them is to remain “focused…I want the kids to be focused and I want them to take what they are doing seriously.”

Diversity in the game, whether today or during his earlier coaching assignments, always has been important to Alan.

“You have a lot of role models out there now…all the way back to Jim Brown,” said Alan. “Probably the greatest lacrosse player of all time right here from Manhasset High School. Not a better athlete than Jimmy Brown and he certainly is a role model to everybody, in particular the African-American community.”

Alan proclaims that lacrosse provides every athlete, no matter race, heritage, or family economic situation, with the opportunity to succeed, play at Division I universities and accomplish so much in school, in sports and in any chosen career. Featured as a Long Island Lacrosse Legend in this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKUXzTH86gI&feature=youtu.be), Alan embraces a positive forecast for boys and girls youth lacrosse on Long Island and for the college and professional game.

For the kid who never played the game but wants to give it a try, Alan’s advice is that he or she just needs “to buy a stick and get on the wall…you go up against a handball court and you practice your catching righty, lefty, over the shoulder.”

It’s all about the fundamentals, according to Alan, that will get anyone started in the game.

“Pick up the skills, join a team and have fun,” advised Alan.

Success In Singles! Doubles! How About Triples?
Nov 15, 2019Posted by james

The Svantner Sisters – Nicole, Samantha and Jackie – often are mistaken for each other around Clarkstown South High School in Rockland County. They are triplets, so this is common.

On the tennis court, however, the young ladies are quite distinguishable, and they are helping the Clarkstown South Vikings build a successful program.

Nicole and Samantha are a strong one-two punch, an undefeated tandem in doubles play, achieving a 12-0 record as of this past October. They also have not lost a single set in 20 straight matches dating to last season. The outgoing and boisterous Nicole serves as a vocal presence in practice. Samantha keeps an eye on the smaller details.

Jackie, meanwhile, is a singles player with an 8-3 record as of October. She has enjoyed a number of come-from-behind victories, exhibiting extreme poise during tiebreakers. Jackie found her niche and success on her own.

“I’ve coached twins, I’ve coached brothers and sisters, but it’s the first that I’ve had…triplets,” said Coach Ted Mascola. “They’re also a wonderful family, great kids, they’re great teammates, and they can play tennis.”

The Svantner girls have achieved success despite their late arrival to the sport. They each received lessons at a young age, but all three preferred to concentrate on soccer. Injuries (torn ACL, concussion and other mishaps) convinced each sister to again pick up the racket.

“They played soccer, they ski, they golf, and they came to tennis a little bit late, but they’re athletic,” he said. “All the cross-training they’ve done paid off on a tennis court. … I think soccer helped their footwork. Other sports helped their hand-eye [coordination], and they’ve just worked at it. They also have a lot of intangibles like mental toughness…”

The trio plans to play tennis in college. They have toured SUNY schools and other colleges. Their plan is to attend college as a team.

Nick Varano Has Figured Out All the Alleys
Nov 02, 2019Posted by james

In New York, baseball has Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso while hockey has Henrik Lundquist and Mathew Barzal. As for bowling, we have Nick Varano. At only 17, the North Rockland High School student is the best bowler in the Lower Hudson Valley of any age or gender.

Earlier this year, Nick showcased a 242 average in a local league and a 235 average for the high school season. He threw two 800 series and one perfect game late last year.

Nick’s varsity accomplishments become more impressive when you learn that the Rockland County high school league is spread among three different bowling alleys in three different communities. No home alley advantage for this bowling star.

“He’s like a freak,” stated a former coach who was very successful during his bowling career. “But in a good way.”

The freak analogy must run in the family. Nick’s sister, Danielle, is an eight-time member of Team USA and she currently is one of the leading women bowlers in the world for the Professional Women’s Bowlers Association Tour. Even she stated what has become obvious: “He’s a freak of nature,” she said lovingly of her 6-foot-3 brother.

Though he has been so successful at such a young age, Nick has little interest in headlines and accolades. His personal goal always is a team goal—win the state championship.

Nick has thought about turning pro during the last few years. First, though, he wants to complete college and think about his options not just for bowling but for his life. Many coaches feel that Nick can be a PBA Tour titlist. We’ll just have to wait to learn what Nick decides.

Rugby Player Honored For Off-Field Contributions
Oct 16, 2019Posted by james

Kraig Puccia was completing his junior year at Fordham University earlier this year when he was honored with the fifth annual Penn Mutual Life of Significance award. Presented at the conclusion of the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, the award included a $5,000 contribution to a charity of Kraig’s choice—the Tundra Women’s Coalition of Alaska that helps protect women and their children from domestic violence related to drug and alcohol abuse.

Kraig is an Italian studies/history double major from Queens. As a member of the Fordham Men’s Rugby Club since he entered the school, Kraig impressed the award judges both as a scholar-athlete and for his dedication to multiple off-the-field causes.

Kraig had traveled to Bethel, Alaska, with other Fordham students to work with the Tundra Women’s Coalition. He also had volunteered with the Queens District Attorney’s domestic violence bureau. This past summer, Kraig volunteered at the Urban Justice Center’s Veterans Advocacy Project, providing pro-bono work for veterans throughout New York City. Kraig has been involved in service projects since his first year at Xavier High School in Manhattan.

“The work has just felt like the right thing to do,” said Kraig, “but to get recognized for it was a nice chance to be retrospective. It was a nice chance to sit down and recognize what I’ve done, and not necessarily celebrate it, but to be grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.”

The award was presented to Kraig by Penn Mutual CEO Eileen McDonnell and Fordham alum Joe Jordan. In fact, Joe, a football scholar-athlete member of the Fordham Ram’s Hall of Fame, created this rugby collegiate award to highlight the lessons of his book, Living a Life of Significance, that emphasizes a purpose-driven life in the service of others.

Following graduation, Joe found success in the insurance industry. He was a senior vice president at Met Life and played rugby recreationally for 30 years. He convinced Penn Mutual’s CEO to support the rugby tournament as a way for the company to connect with young people and to show them that a career in the financial services sector can be compatible with living a purpose-filled life.

Kraig, Joe, Eileen and Penn Mutual! Great job all around.

Where Young Patients Can “Just Be Kids Again”
Oct 01, 2019Posted by james

Tim Tebow made a splash on the college football field but he has not enjoyed the same success on the professional football and baseball levels. His good and open heart continues to beat strong, however, and this includes his work with ill children.

Earlier this year, the Tim Tebow Foundation opened its 10th Timmy’s Playroom. This new playroom is located at AdventHealth Daytona Beach, a children’s hospital in Florida. The space allows kids to escape from their medical conditions and enjoy life. Tim gives children in hospitals a chance to “just be kids again.”

“Hopefully, it can bring a brighter day for so many in their darkest hour of need,” Tim said in a video posted by AdventHealth. “That is our goal, to encourage and uplift people, especially when they’re going through such a tough time…”

The playrooms include a football field floor, specialized lockers for seating, tables for arts and crafts, flat-screen televisions, video games, toys, interactive games and other activities. The playrooms also display Tim’s favorite Bible verse: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

The foundation’s mission delivers faith, hope and love to pediatric patients and their families. The playrooms are “creating a space where children can heal in a very unique way,” according to the foundation. Timmy’s Playrooms can be found at other hospitals in Florida and at hospitals in Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas and the Philippines.

Each playroom has been recorded as a huge touchdown in all the scorebooks. Tim Tebow certainly is a star off the field!

Emily Andriello Pursues Her Special Passion
Sep 15, 2019Posted by james

Lacrosse players, according to Emily Andriello, require specific skillsets and mindsets to achieve success. The standout Pearl River (Rockland County) High School scholar-athlete, who now is beginning her studies at the University of South Carolina, immediately has applied her athletic skills and critical thinking from lacrosse (and soccer) to her new scholastic responsibilities. Emily also knows that she must acquire many new and diverse talents for her chosen career.

Emily ranked 14th in her high school class with a 96.4 weighted average. At college, she plans to study biology before attending medical school or physician’s assistant school. Emily hopes to pursue a career in neonatal intensive care. She found her passion when she first studied biology and anatomy a few years ago.

Emily’s world, however, is much more than science and sports. Last year, she helped a teacher with workshops held at Queens College and Hunter College, embracing the Italian language and poetry to demonstrate lesson plans for students who aspired to become teachers. Emily also is involved in her community. She has received many awards and citations for her commitments.

During her high school days, Emily learned a lot about herself. One lesson came about when she worked at the neighborhood ice cream store — with countless choices and combinations at her fingertips, Emily said that she just prefers good old chocolate with “no toppings, nothing special.”

It’s no frills for Emily as she pursues her goals. But, it’s no secret that she does leave room for a few “specials” in her life, including Gus, her bulldog.

I maintain a special interest in high school students who play lacrosse. Whether or not they continue with the game in college, lacrosse already has provided them with a solid foundation of teamwork, specific skillsets and separate mindsets that will become useful later in life. For Emily, the lessons learned on the lacrosse field will create many great opportunities for her in the health care field.

Sonia Citron Draws A Lot Of Attention
Sep 01, 2019Posted by james

Sonia Citron is drawing a lot of attention for her work on and off the basketball court.

Sonia is a junior at The Ursuline School in New Rochelle. She has received numerous college athletic scholarship offers since she significantly contributed to the United States win at the 2019 International Basketball Federation’s U16 Americas Championship in Chile.

Oregon and Stanford made scholarship offers, following others by Maryland, Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Clemson, Texas and Michigan. Harvard and Princeton did not offer scholarships but each has recruited Sonia. She is ranked 17th overall and six among guards in the high school class of 2021 by ESPN.

At the Chile tournament, Sonia averaged 13.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 3.2 steals while playing almost 20 minutes per game. Team USA finished with a perfect 6-0 record and defeated all opponents by wide margins. Back at high school, Sonia led Ursuline to the Section 1 final this year (loosing to Ossining High School). She has scored more than 1,300 points in her varsity career and earned all-state honors the past three seasons from the New York State Sportswriters Association. She was a second-team all-state honoree in Class AA for 2019.

Among Sonia’s other accomplishments are her role on Ursuline’s soccer team and her academic average of nearly 96 as a member of the National Junior Honor Society. Sonia also cherishes her participation in the school’s Warm Hands, Warm Hearts program that provides meals to 100 clients at a community soup kitchen. Sometimes she is the chef and at other times she is the shopper. Everything Sonia touches – academics, basketball, soccer, community service and more — is accompanied by her warm and captive smile.

Ursuline encourages, empowers and inspires young women, and the school certainly has been a magnificent influence for Sonia’s success that is drawing a lot of attention.

“One Goal…One Dream” For Half Hollow Hills Vs. Autism
Aug 16, 2019Posted by james

When he entered Half Hollow Hills High School East, Drew Quinto focused on his classes, new teachers, mingling with old friends, meeting new acquaintances and playing lacrosse. He also remained close to Corey, his older brother.

During April Autism Awareness Month of his freshman year, Drew started a nonprofit foundation – Hills Vs. Autism – to celebrate Corey. Drew looks up to Corey, who has exceeded every stereotype associated with autism, graduating SUNY Purchase with a 4.0 grade average, living on his own in Manhattan and taking care of his personal needs. Drew’s commitment to “One Goal…One Dream” to help make a difference for kids and young adults with autism immediately was embraced by his parents along with the Half Hollow Hills Central School District in Dix Hills.

One of the most successful fund-raising initiatives for the foundation is the annual Hills Vs. Autism lacrosse tournament. As many as 20 Long Island teams participate each July in the day-long event that is capped by the alumni game between the Half Hollow Hills East Thunderbirds and the Half Hollow Hills West Colts. The program has raised more than half a million dollars.

As a Hills East alumnus, I was invited to participate in this year’s program and present a new lacrosse award* that will be part of the event each year. I am honored to again acknowledge outstanding student-athletes who are successful on the lacrosse field, in the classroom and in the community. I’m even more honored to have this award associated with the cause to help our young people who face the challenges of autism. Drew Quinto, another outstanding student-athlete from Hills, and his family have moved mountains in only a few years. Learn more about the accomplishments of Hills Vs. Autism at http://www.hillsvsautism.org/

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*During halftime of this year’s game between Thunderbirds and Colts alumni, the Colts Christian Mulé received the first annual James C. Metzger Mark of Excellence Alumni Cup. The award was established to honor outstanding accomplishments on and off the lacrosse field by a Half Hollow Hills East or Half Hollow Hills West player. Future awards will be presented at the alumni game as part of the Hills Vs. Autism program.

Mulé scored 105 points as a junior, 103 points as a senior and 331 for his high school career. He set district records that included breaking Metzger’s scoring record for points in a season (102 in 1977) that had stood for more than 40 years. Mulé has committed to play lacrosse at Duke University.

The Seawolf Who Became a Met
Aug 01, 2019Posted by james

The New York Mets bullpen has been a huge problem, one of several, the last few seasons. No matter which pitcher is brought into a game, players, coaches, the manager and fans have held their collective breaths and crossed their fingers, hoping to salvage a win.

Daniel Zamora has spent some time in the Mets bullpen. He throws sliders. He continues to work to control his fastball. To start his major league career, he won several battles against the game’s premier players, including Bryce Harper.

Daniel grew up in California, but he didn’t have many opportunities to play for a top-tier college team. Drafted out of high school by Toronto in the 27th round of the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft, Daniel opted for college through a connection between his high school coach and then-Stony Brook University pitching coach Mike Marron.

While playing Division I ball at Stony Brook, Daniel was drafted by Pittsburgh in the 40th round of the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. The organization didn’t move him through the system, so he was traded to the Mets. Within less than a year, he got the call to the big club, becoming the first Stony Brook Seawolf to play in Flushing.

Daniel’s trip to the big club was a proud moment for Stony Brook. The university’s director of athletics, Shawn Heilborn, said Daniel’s journey proves that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

Over the last two seasons, Daniel has made a few round trips between the Syracuse Mets, the organization’s top minor league squad, and Queens. Right now, he is toeing the rubber in northern New York. Daniel hopes to receive another call-up soon, stating that the most exciting moment is when the phone rings and your name is called to join the big club.

Harry Carson — Superstar Who Prefers To Make A Difference
Jul 15, 2019Posted by james

Harry Carson is a Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants. He also is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yet, Harry always states that his greatest accomplishments come from his off-the-field activities.

Harry recently received the John V. Mara Sportsman of the Year Award that recognized his many contributions beyond football. The award is presented by New York’s CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) Club.

“You may not know it now,” Harry told the audience, “but five, 10, 20 years from now, many of these young people currently in the CYO programs will thank you for making a difference in their lives. I’ve been a world champion and have accomplished a lot, but to me there is nothing better than making a difference in the lives of others. That is really the greatest award.”

The recognition was presented by John K. Mara, co-owner of the Giants, in memory of his uncle. Harry played 13 seasons for the family-run Giants and he was selected to nine Pro Bowls. During the presentation, John said that Harry embodies all the qualities of a sportsman and a leader.

Harry has donated his time to many charities, including United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Boy Scouts of America and Habitat for Humanity. He founded Minority Athletes Networking with former Giants teammates George Martin and the late Ron Johnson. Members of the organization serve as positive role models for young people.

As he accepted the award, Harry credited the Giants for providing him with a unique platform that allowed him to connect with people of all ages and all backgrounds. Harry added that he is proud to represent an organization that always encouraged him to pursue his personal goal of making a difference in the lives of so many people.