Weren’t we just getting ready to start the school year?
Seems that way, but the 2021-22 school year is nearing the end, which means it’s time to hand out our awards for the spring and the overall awards.
Every year is difficult, but this year, we spent many late nights kicking around potential winners. The problem is we just have way too many great athletes who are better people in this area. But we did our best to break down the top athletes thus far in the spring season, as well as hand out awards to our overall winners.
All winners will be honored May 12 at 6 p.m. at the annual sports banquet.
Catholic League Player of the year
The Crusaders are hanging tough in the Catholic League, and their ace pitcher has carried them thus far. Rodriguez, a sophomore, is 2-0 with a 1.75 earned run average for Judge, which is fighting hard for a playoff spot in a top-heavy league.
In 16 innings thus far, he’s struck out 29 batters and allowed just six hits..
Also an infielder, he has verbally committed to St. John’s to continue his career.
Public League Player of the Year
Philadelphia Academy Charter
The Philadelphia Academy Charter junior is having a historic season. He’s yet to allow a run and has struck out 43 batters. Opponents are hitting less than .100 against him and he’s won two games on the year.
He’s also excelled at the plate, hitting .364 with a double and an RBI.
Overall, Philadelphia Academy Charter is 7-0, and he’s pitched in three games. With him on the mound, the team will be tough to beat in the playoffs.
Coach of the Year
Taking over a new program is never easy. Former coach Tom Juhas left the new coach with a lot of talent, and Sean Diviny has come in and picked up right where Juhas left off.
The Vikings are 6-0 and have won most of their games in comfortable fashion in Public League play. There are many stars on the squad, but Diviny has pushed all the right buttons in keeping the team perfect against some tough competition.
Northeast has found ways to win with pitching and also had little trouble scoring runs in his rookie year as the head coach.
The Vikings should be one of the teams competing for the Public League championship later this season.
Catholic School Player of the Year
The Bambies have a well-rounded team, but when it comes down to it, their leader is senior catcher Sarah McLaughlin.
McLaughlin is hitting close to .500 with three doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs and five runs scored. She’s also been a beast behind the plate, throwing out four baserunners and working hard to be the leader on and off the field.
Also a volleyball player, McLaughlin is in the National Honor Society and a member of Athletes Helping Athletes. She’s also the president of the student council for her senior class.
She’s leaning toward not playing sports in college, though she does plan to go and is eyeing a career in nursing or veterinary.
Public League Player of the Year
Philadelphia Academy Charter
Whether it’s with the bat or the ball, Olivieri has been the Chargers’ leader for years, but this year, she’s brought her game to a whole new level.
Olivieri has helped PACS win its first five games. She had hits in her first nine at-bats of the season and drove in 13 runs. She also has two doubles and a home run.
But her specialty is pitching. In the circle, she’s 3-0 with an ERA just over two. In nine innings of work, she has 21 strikeouts.
Next year, Olivieri will continue her career at Holy Family.
Coach of the Year
The Ragdolls enjoyed an incredible 2021 that brought home a Catholic League championship. But once graduation hit, Ryan had very few softball players with experience.
The Ragdolls are once again one of the best teams in the Catholic League. They won their first six games of league play and should be in the mix to once again compete for the championship.
Kidwell has just two seniors and two juniors. All four are key players, but the rest of the team consists of talented, but raw underclassmen. Kidwell got them playing Ryan softball in a hurry.
Holy Family Male Athlete
The Archbishop Ryan graduate was a star in high school and he only got better when he moved on to college.
Playing for his father, who is the head coach, Montag put together a strong career. The midfielder scored three goals and added four assists this year to help the Tigers go 6-4-1 in conference play.
Last year, he was selected as a member of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Men’s Soccer All-Tournament Team.
Holy Family Female Athlete
It didn’t take Maura Kilkenny long to become one of the top players at Holy Family. The Little Flower graduate was a star defender for the Tigers, who allowed the least number of goals in the CACC. Holy Family gave up 14 goals during the regular season and only six in 11 CACC games.
Kilkenny, who scored two goals and added an assist, was selected to the All-CACC first team, receiving all-conference honors.
Holy Family went 12-5-2 overall, 9-2-0 in the CACC, qualified for the CACC Tournament for the 23rd consecutive season and advanced to the semifinals for the 19th time since joining the conference in 1999.
Most Courageous Athlete
Playing football is hard no matter what. But when you’re almost always the smallest guy on the field, it’s even harder. But Tyler McClain, a 5-foot-7, 140-pound running back, never looks out of place.
He recovered from a host of injuries that cost him time during his first three seasons to become one of the best weapons in football. He even broke a school record for rushing yards in a game with 311 against Kensington.
McClain also runs sprints, relays and hurdles in track.
The season didn’t start out the way Emily Wright wanted it. The senior defender on the Ragdolls’ soccer team expected to be a starter, but when the lineup was announced, she wasn’t on it. She didn’t let it get her down, instead she just worked hard, supported her teammates and clawed her way back into the starting lineup. Once she was there, she never left, and was a big reason for the Ragdolls’ success this year.
She’s also on the board of Athletes Helping Athletes and is one of the top students in the school.
Ella Verello came into high school a soccer player. To improve her game, she joined the track teams. That’s where she discovered her true athletic passion, and became one of the top distance runners in the area.
Verello made the tough decision to turn in her cleats and switch her fall sport to cross country, where she again became one of the best in the sport.
It wasn’t an easy decision for her to give up soccer. The Parkwood native had played her entire life, but because rules say she can play only one sport per season, she turned her full attention to running.
It worked out well. She’s headed to La Salle, where she will continue her running career.
Braedon Hart had a huge legacy to live up to at Father Judge. Both his grandfather Mike Dufner and his dad Tim were star players for the Crusaders when they were at the school. It’s safe to say he kept the family tradition alive.
The honor student not only wore the same number 64 as his grandfather and dad, he was the same great leader as those men. Hart helped anchor an offensive line that more than held its own against top teams in the Red Division.
Not only was Hart a leader in football, he was a great leader on the Crusaders’ lacrosse team.
Unsung Hero Award
The Raiders had one of their best years ever, winning three postseason games, two in the Catholic League playoffs that got them to the Catholic League championship and another in the state playoffs.
One of the main reasons for that was Jalen Snead. Although he didn’t always have a great night in the box score, Snead was one of the best defenders in the area. But when the Raiders needed a big bucket, particularly in the Catholic League playoffs, Snead was their man.
Snead was not only a top player this year, but was huge last year when the Raiders went to the state finals.
Whenever the Eagles needed a pick-me-up, Mark White was there. The big lineman spent his grade school days cheering on the Washington sidelines when he was a water boy. He has that same enthusiasm when the two-way tackle is on the field.
The Eagles had a young team this year, and White was the guy they all rallied around. His leadership helped Washington make the playoffs. He hopes to play football next year, and while he won’t be in high school, his leadership will help next year when the guys he led this year move up a grade.
Teammate of the Year
Brianna Buckley was a three-year starter at point guard. But when a better option popped up, Buckley was happy to change positions. She moved to center, and while she was undersized, she worked hard to help the team succeed.
The Panthers won 18 games this year and advanced to the 3A state basketball tournament.
This was likely Buckley’s final year playing for her school. She’s headed to college where she’ll major in engineering.
Northeast Philadelphian Award (Male)
Just like his older sisters did at Little Flower, Ryan McHugh turned himself into one of the best swimmers in the area during his high school career and he leaves having just finished his best one yet.
Despite battling COVID during the season McHugh swam the 500 freestyle race at the state swimming championships, finishing in ninth place. It was a personal best for McHugh.
McHugh was a top swimmer all year for the Cahillites and the Fox Chase native was All-State in two events, the 500 free and the 100 butterfly.
Northeast Philadelphian Award (Female)
Villa Joseph Marie
It didn’t take Tori Nigro long to make an impact at her new school. The former Basil’s star came to the Jems for her senior year after her former school closed. She immediately took over the role of point guard and team leader.
Nigro was the Most Valuable Player in the Catholic Academies League. She averaged 15.1 points per game and ended her career with 1,074 points.
The Jems won 18 games this year, advanced to the District One championship game and went on to win a game in the state tournament.
She’ll continue her career at Jefferson University.
Whatever Mackenzie Reed was asked to do, she did it and did it well. An honor student and one of the top students in her senior class, Reed was also a star field hockey player. Despite getting a late start on the sport, she was an All-Catholic performer and scored a school-record 51 goals during her career. She also was like a coach on the field, helping her newbie teammates pick up the game while playing tough Catholic League teams.
Reed was also a great basketball player, but more than that, she was the leader of a young Ragdolls team that showed great improvement. She was a captain in both her sports.
Next year, she will attend college where she looks to get into either nursing or occupational therapy.
It would be hard to imagine anyone being more important to their school than Mike VanHorn was to Judge. He was the quarterback. He was the class president. He was the manager for the basketball team. And he’s one of the top students in the school, ranked among the top 20 in his senior class.
VanHorn led the Catholic League Red Division in rushing and helped the Crusaders have a fantastic season that ended in the Class 5A city championship game a week before playing Lincoln on Thanksgiving. He was the captain and heart and soul of the team.
Next year, VanHorn will continue his football career at Lycoming.
Female Athlete of the Year
It didn’t matter the season, Gianna Grassifulli was a star. She was one of the top scorers in the area in soccer, she did the same in the winter, where she was an All-Catholic basketball player, and in the spring, she is the shortstop on the Bambies’ softball team.
In soccer, she scored 30 goals on the year in helping Hubert reach the Catholic League semifinals. In basketball, despite playing the toughest teams in the area, she averaged 18 points per game.
She was also a star in the classroom, consistently earning honors.
Next year, Grassifulli will play soccer at St. Peter’s.
Male Athlete of the Year
Football was Fabian’s top sport, but it was far from his only sport. In fact, Fabian was running all year long. When he wasn’t helping the Vikings in football, he was starring on the school’s basketball team and running sprints for the Northeast track team.
But his greatest accomplishments were on the football field, where he played wide receiver and was a shutdown defensive back. He helped the Vikings win the Public League 6A championship, and hung tough against St. Joe’s Prep in the city championship.
He’ll continue his football career at Delaware State.
This winners, along with fall and winter athletes, will be honored at a banquet, held at the FOP on May 12 at 6 p.m.
Fall athlete winners are, in football: PCL player of the year Joey Mastrangelo (Ryan), Public League player of the year Ken Talley (Northeast), coach of the year Damon Brockington (Frankford).
In boys soccer: Catholic League player of the year Joey Phillips (Ryan), Public League player of the year Carill Asanji (Lincoln) and coach of the year John Dunlop (Judge).
In girls soccer: Catholic school player of the year Gianna Rivera (Ryan), Public League player of the year Jenna Slavin (Franklin Towne Charter) and coach of the year Deb Ounan (Franklin Towne Charter).
Winter athletes are, in boys basketball: PCL player of the year Thomas Sorber (Ryan), Public League player of the year Rashan Locke-Hicks (Lincoln) and coach of the year Joe Zeglinski (Ryan).
In girls soccer: Catholic school player of the year Charlotte Pugh (St. Hubert), Public League player of the year Bendu Borbor (Frankford) and coach of the year Jon Michels (Frankford).
In wrestling: Catholic League wrestler of the year Sean Logue (Judge), Public League wrestler of the year Nasir Rahming (Northeast) and coach of the year Mike Siravo (Northeast).
In swimming: Boys swimmer of the year Matt Gonzalez (Ryan), girls swimmer of the year Zoe Steinmetz (Little Flower) and coach of the year Sean Clothier (Little Flower).
Former coaches Mark Heimerdinger (Cardinal Dougherty, Fels) and Theresa Gorman (St. Hubert) will be honored for their outstanding coaching careers.
For tickets, visit https://nmg.ticketleap.com/hs36. ••