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Student-Athletes

Julianne Soviero is a Ward Melville High School graduate. Photo from Julianne Soviero

By Joseph Wolkin

Julianne Soviero is focused on developing young softball pitchers throughout Long Island. The 1998 Ward Melville High School grad and 2002 valedictorian at Manhattan College is attempting to make a difference for young athletes, searching for ways to educate them about the recruiting process and keep them savvy of the sharks swimming through the competitive waters.

Julianne Soviero is a Ward Melville High School graduate. Photo from Julianne Soviero
Julianne Soviero is a Ward Melville High School graduate. Photo from Julianne Soviero

In May, Soviero self-published her second book, “Empowered Recruiting: The Student Athlete’s College Selection Guide.” In her latest work, the now Ronkonkoma resident said she attempts to convey multiple messages to student athletes, with chapters about knowing one’s options, eligibility, signing and more.

“I have been working with elite athletes in my business for well over a decade,” Soviero said. “What I was finding that was very challenging is that, by the time they decided they wanted to play competitively, it was like there was way too much information for them to acquire to do that because it’s become too complicated to do that. Usually, to get this kind of information and to sit down with them — the amount of time it would take to do it thoroughly — is astronomically expensive. I wanted to create a way to make all of this information accessible to anyone, anywhere, at any time.”

Soviero is president of Flawless Fastpitch, an organization dedicated to instructing how to pitch in softball, along with learning the anatomy and physiology of properly delivering the ball. Guiding numerous athletes to successful Division I and II collegiate careers, she said she wants to continue expanding her influence with the book.

“I don’t get any joy in telling people that consult with me that if they want to play in Division I, they have to start super young,” Soviero said. “But it’s just the truth. When you’re in seventh or eighth grade, you don’t know what you want to do. Some people don’t even know what they want to do until after they graduate college. At least if you begin the education process at that time, you can say that maybe Division I is too much for me, and you can go to Division II. A lot of people assume that Division III offers athletic scholarships and they do not.”

Growing up, Soviero went to Setauket Elementary School, P.J. Gelinas Jr. High and pitched for four years for the Patriots varsity softball team, graduating from Ward Melville High School in 1998. Her pitching success led her to become the recipient of the 2001 NIT Student/Athlete Award. Come 2010, she became a consultant for LIU Post’s softball team, staying with the team through 2013.

Among those who stand out in Soviero’s eyes include Seaford’s Lindsay Montemarano, who completed her junior year with the Michigan Wolverines, and Brightwaters’ Liz Weber, who attended LIU Post.

Compared to Soviero’s other book, “Unleash Your True Athletic Potential,” she said she hopes student athletes and parents will not only come out with a better knowledge of the recruiting process, but also have a better understanding of what the process of being scouted by colleges is like.

Soviero said she makes occasional appearances on Fox and Sirius XM Satellite Radio, preaching her company’s work along with athletes that have signed with major teams.

“This book [was written] specifically because I was seeing how many athletes are struggling through this very complicated process to be noticed by colleges and things like that,” Soviero said. “It’s become very difficult for them, and it’s become enormously expensive.”

Her book is available on Amazon.com.

Northport running back Rob Dosch makes his way upfield while he carries Sachem North defenders in the Tigers' 29-22 homecoming win over the Flaming Arrows on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

By Miguel Bustamante

Northport school district is enacting stricter rules for handling student-athletes with concussions.

School board members were informed of new procedures for kids returning to athletics after those injuries during their meeting on Nov. 5, using guidance from New York State regulations.

Northport running back Rob Dosch makes his way upfield while he carries Sachem North defenders in the Tigers' 29-22 homecoming win over the Flaming Arrows on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport running back Rob Dosch makes his way upfield while he carries Sachem North defenders in the Tigers’ 29-22 homecoming win over the Flaming Arrows on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

Paul Klimuszko, Northport-East Northport’s director of physical education, athletics and health, and Cynthia Fitzgerald, director of student support services, made a presentation to the board outlining the new procedures to follow if a student has a concussion.

“A concussion is an injury that changes the ways the cells in our brain function,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s important to understand that a concussion is a brain injury, and can occur in any sport.”

According to Fitzgerald, there are between 70 and 90 concussions in the district every year, including at the middle and high school levels.

The two administrators laid out the “return to play” regulations, which are used across the country and require students to complete a five-stage observational test before full re-entry into school-sponsored physical activities.

The five stages include light to moderate aerobic exercises observed by the school nurse and/or an athletic trainer; a non-contact gym class participation period; and a full-contact gym class participation period. A school district physician must clear the concussed students before he or she can be fully reintegrated into school athletics.

The presentation followed a previous district discussion about student safety in school athletics. That subject has been a hot topic over the last few years, but particularly since Tom Cutinella, a high school football player from Shoreham-Wading River, died after taking a big hit in a game against John Glenn High School in Elwood last year. School districts across Long Island have been making changes to their concussion responses following Cutinella’s death, and there have been new directions from the state on the matter.

Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

New York State’s Concussion Management and Awareness Act of 2011 requires local school boards to develop and promote concussion management policies. According to the act, children and adolescents are more susceptible to concussions and take longer than adults to fully recover.

“Therefore, it is imperative that any student suspected of having sustained a concussion be immediately removed from athletic activity … until evaluated and cleared to return to athletic activity by a physician,” the act said.

Northport school officials don’t take concussions lightly, Klimuszko said.

“The athletic office ensures that all coaches are educated in the nature and risk of concussions and concussion-related injuries.”

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From left to right, Matt Lopiccolo, Jacob Arditti, Maki Stavropoulos, Jeff Towle and Mark Napoli signing their letters of intent. Photo from Chris Boltrek

By Clayton Collier

Five Ward Melville student athletes will continue their football careers after committing to play at the collegiate level — a rare occurrence for the lacrosse powerhouse that they hope will soon become a trend.

All-County quarterback Jeff Towle, center Maki Stavropoulos, guard Matt Lopiccolo, defensive end Jacob Arditti, and tackle Mark Napoli will all move on to play college football this fall.

Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said having more of his athletes signing to play in college is essential in reviving the Patriots football program, largely because it makes the sport more appealing to other athletes at the school.

Jeff Towle reaches back to throw a pass in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon
Jeff Towle reaches back to throw a pass in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon

“To get the football program at Ward Melville to take off, the environment and the image had to change,” he said. “I thought there were plenty of good football athletes in the district that just didn’t realize the potential they had and didn’t realize that playing college football was a real possibility, and instead they gravitated toward lacrosse or baseball or other sports that they thought offered that for them.”

Boltrek, who played college football at St. Lawrence University after graduating from Ward Melville, said the program occasionally gets one player every few years who moves on to the collegiate level. Now having five in one year, he hopes it will bring new life into the program.

“To have five in one year is a pretty big deal for us,” the first-year varsity head coach said.

Towle, who will attend Division II Pace University this fall, also doubled as a talented catcher on the baseball team, but said football has long been his preference.

“I was always a quarterback at heart,” he said. “I just happened to be showing more talent in baseball at the time. Then I got my opportunity on the football field and play well. I’ve been a football guy my whole life.”

Towle was not even the starting quarterback until the final five games of the season. Serving as the reserve, Towle continued to train to ensure he would be ready should he get his chance.

“I worked as hard as I could, knowing maybe I’ll get a shot, maybe I won’t,” he said. “But if I did, I wanted to be ready.”

When Towle got his chance, he thrived, completing 13 touchdown passes and tossed for over 1,100 total yards of offense.

His mother, Jessica Spencer, said her son’s dedication led him to obtaining such an opportunity.

“He hung in there and he did everything they asked him to and it paid off,” she said. “I’m very proud of him and I’m very grateful to have him.”

Stavropoulos, a captain and three-time All-Division honoree, and Lopiccolo, who also achieved All-Division honors, will remain teammates as the pair heads to Division III Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Lopiccolo and Arditti, like Towle, had obstacles to overcome as both were cut from the junior varsity squad in ninth grade.

“I was sad because football is my sport — I’ve been playing since I was five,” Lopiccolo said. “But at the same time it gave me the drive to work harder and hit the gym.”

To ensure that they wouldn’t be cut again, the pair “lived in the gym,” as Boltrek described, working out for 90 minutes a day, five days a week under the coach’s guidance. Lopiccolo said he was thrilled when he and Arditti made the team the following year, crediting the effort they put in  aover the year to improve themselves physically.

“It’s crazy how the tiniest bit of effort can change something completely,” he said.

Napoli, the team’s final commit, was an All-Division tackle who will attend the Division III Stevenson University.

Towle said he, along with his four fellow teammates that committed to play college ball, owe their diligent work ethic and ultimate success to Boltrek for his ambition and guidance.

“To be honest, we probably worked harder than any team in the county throughout the week during the season, and that’s a credit to [Coach Boltrek],” he said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without him; any of us.”