Seven standout high school athletes from Seaford and Wantagh high schools signed letters of intent late last month signaling their commitments to continue their playing careers next year at the college and university level.
Lacrosse players dominated the field, which also included two soccer stars and one softball player. All seven said they were excited to have the opportunity to continue their academic and athletic careers in a range of settings as varied as the players themselves.
At Seaford, Trey Connolly signed to play lacrosse at Molloy College; Caitlyn Costello will play lacrosse at the New York Institute of Technology; Julianne Hilcken was recruited to play softball for Cornell University; Max Pedone will play soccer at Pennsylvania State University at Altoona; and Gina Toscano inked a lacrosse commitment to LIU Post.
Wantagh senior Danielle Carson has signed to play lacrosse at the University of Southern California, and classmate Erin Murphy will continue her soccer career at SUNY Buffalo — both Division I schools.
Seaford’s Toscano started playing lacrosse as a child and chose it over soccer because “I love the stick. I’ve never been that good with my feet,” she said, although she is a triple threat, playing on her school’s basketball and soccer squads in addition to lacrosse. Besides her outstanding performance on her high school team, Toscano also plays attack for the Long Island Wave travel club, where many local players hope to be spotted by visiting college scouts.
Like most of the athletes at last month’s signing, Connolly started playing lacrosse at an early age. He said he plans to study business at Molloy. As a veteran goalie for the Team ’91 travel team, he was spotted at a tournament by the Molloy coach, who expressed his interest. Connolly hadn’t been thinking about Molloy, since it was a late entrant in the bid for his talents. “But once I saw the campus,” he said, “I knew it was where I wanted to be.”
Cornell-bound Hilcken, a shortstop, started playing softball when she was young, following her older sister, Christine. She plays for the New Jersey Inferno travel team and hopes to study biology, with an eye on medical school. The Cornell coaches “emailed me and came to watch me a couple of times,” she said. She hit .450 at Wantagh last season, with six home runs, 26 RBIs and 21 runs scored.
Wantagh’s Murphy has some reservations about the harsh upstate winters at SUNY Buffalo, but said she looked forward to the experience of playing for a Division I team with 26 national soccer titles. The senior goalie had 138 saves last season and set her school’s single-season record for minutes played, with 1,412. “Erin comes from a great club background, and will give immediate depth to our goalkeeping core,” SUNY Buffalo head coach Shawn Burke said. “The growth we watched from her over the past year is exactly what we’re looking for from a goalkeeper looking to push for time.”
Murphy plays for the Yellow Jackets travel team, and was originally contacted by Buffalo recruiters while still in ninth grade — under old New York State Public High School Athletic Association rules — and made her commitment then. Current rules no longer allow colleges to recruit such young players.
Distance, not weather, will be the challenge for Wantagh Lady Warriors lacrosse star Carson, who is headed to Los Angeles. Besides the distance from home, Carson, who mainly covers the back part of the pitch as a defender, wanted to know more about the city and its famous freeways and traffic jams. USC, a former Pacific-12 powerhouse, lagged last season, finishing with a 10-8 record, including a 14-10 loss to SUNY Stony Brook. The Trojans squeaked through to postseason play, but fell to Stanford in the second round of the conference tournament. They are looking for an infusion of new talent to boost their performance next season, according to head coach Lindsey Munday.
Seaford soccer goalie Pedone said he was pleased with his choice — Penn State at Altoona, his first choice among the schools that had scouted him. Like his classmates, he started his sport early: He was in kindergarten when the soccer bug bit him. Pedone had 16 saves last season.
Costello, who also starred as an outside back on Seaford’s soccer team, shared her Long Island Wave teammate Toscano’s love of the competitiveness of lacrosse. “I grew up with it,” she said, having started in third grade. She said she and her teammates are “really close. We’re friends outside of sports, too.” She plays midfield and attack and hopes to study health science at NYIT. Though teammates now, Costello and Toscano will have a chance to see how they have grown when East Coast Conference rivals NYIT and LIU Post clash in the upcoming season.