Nine Warwick student-athletes sign letters of intent
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Nine Warwick senior student-athletes were finally able to breathe a huge sigh of relief on National Signing Day last Wednesday, Feb. 6.
In the Large Group Instruction room at Warwick High School, they put pen to paper and officially put an end to the recruiting process. Those who signed a National Letter of Intent included Emily Cameron (University of Georgia), Kiersten Cepeda (Lock Haven University), Madi Derr (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Emily Griest (Florida Southern College), Ericka Griffith (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Ryan Gruett (Southern New Hampshire University), Tyler Morris (Liberty University), Adam Polett (Limestone College) and Maddie Schouten (Radford University).
üCameron will head to the University of Georgia to compete for the Lady Bulldogs swim team after re-writing the record books during her career at Warwick. A five-time PIAA State champion, she holds seven of the eight Warwick individual records.
As a freshman, she became the first woman in PIAA history to break the 2:00 barrier in the 200 I.M. That is one of four PIAA State records that she shattered in her career. She was named the L-L League Swimmer of the Year three times, in addition to being named the PIAA Women’s Swimmer of the Meet in 2010 and she qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials in four events, placing 21st in the 200 I.M.
Cameron also was a member of the Warwick girls cross country team in 2010 that won the L-L and District Three championships and placed fifth at the PIAA State meet. She was named an L-L League All-Star in cross country as a freshman.
üCepeda was a First-Team L-L League All-Star with the Warwick field hockey team and the All-Star Game Offensive MVP as a senior. She will now take those credentials to play at the Division-One level at Lock Haven.
She also visited Temple and LaSalle, but the Lady Bald Eagles provided the best fit.
“I figured out quickly that I’m not a city kind of girl,” Cepeda said. “I liked the small school, small area. I really just loved the school (Lock Haven). I went there and I automatically knew that’s where I wanted to go. I only went on a day visit there so far, and I just could tell that’s where I wanted to spend my next four years.”
With Lock Haven also having the major that Cepeda wants to study (sports managment), it made her decision an easy one.
“It definitely was a combination for me — I definitely wanted to play field hockey,” said Cepeda, a three-year letter winner in both field hockey and lacrosse, and a member of Warwick’s L-L champion and PIAA State runner-up team in 2011, “but I definitely wanted to study what I was looking to study, so that was important.”
Cepeda played both forward and midfield in her career at Warwick, but she is uncertain where she will play at the college level.
“It doesn’t matter to me — as long as I play,” Cepeda said. “I like both (forward and midfield). I like switching up because you get bored with one position, so I like to move around and be good at all of them.”
Warwick field hockey coach Bob Derr said that both Cepeda and Griffith got a good fit with their college selections.
“With both of them, I think the choices they made are good,” Derr said. “They’re good fits and the key thing, I know that both of them are getting what they wanted academically. I think both programs are ones that they can not only grow and develop as a player, but also I think they can be a major contributor early. It’s a good fit for them because that’s what they wanted — they wanted to go somewhere that they could step in and be a contributor right away. I’m happy for them. It will turn out nice for them and both are in-state, so they’re not that far away from home.”
üFor Griffith, she was also looking at St. Joe’s University and Monmouth University. But she liked the location of the IUP campus and it was a solid fit with them offering Pre-Physical Therapy as a major.
“I liked the campus a lot,” Griffith remarked. “The campus is pretty nice and they just recently re-did a lot of it. It has my major and I got into Honor’s College, so that worked out pretty well.”
The opportunity to play field hockey with the Lady Crimson Hawks was a bonus.
“I really wanted to play field hockey, but if it wasn’t going to work out, then it wasn’t going to work out,” she said. “But I’m happy that it did.”
The Lady Warriors were certainly happy to have Griffith as a senior anchor on their defensive unit this past fall. She received L-L League First-Team All-Star honors as a senior and in 2011, she helped to lead the Warwick girls to the L-L League finals and the PIAA State championship game. Prior to playing defense for the Lady Warriors, she spent the rest of her high school career in the midfield.
“I think in college, (coach Gary Agard) is going to have me in midfield, which I’m happy with,” Griffith said. “I love midfield. I’ll probably end up playing there, but again, it changes depending on the team dynamics, so I’ll just do whatever I have to do for the team.”
üDerr has been a mainstay at shortstop for the Lady Warriors’ softball team while helping them extend their Section One championship streak to eight in a row last spring.
A Section One All-Star in 2012, she will also play in the middle infield at IUP. Derr also looked at PSAC rival Millersville University and Philadelphia University of the Sciences, but it didn’t take long to picture herself wearing the Lady Crimson Hawks’ colors once she visited the campus at the end of her junior season.
“I fell in love with the campus as soon as I got there,” Derr said. “I love how everything is kinda like its own little town. The nursing program is great there, the softball coach is awesome and I really connected with the girls. It was really fun when I went up there.”
Warwick coach Don Miller said, “I think it’s a good fit for her. I think she will do well there. With Madi and her fielding, she can play anywhere. We’ve played her at shortstop every year she’s been here. Obviously, I think she’s been the best defensive shortstop in our league since she’s been here. I think she’s kinda gotten under-recognized in our league. But she can play anywhere defensively and her hitting, she’s been a little streaky for us over the years, but she’s got a really nice swing and I think she will just get better and better with her hitting. So I think it’s a good deal for both her and the school.”
Under head coach Bill Graham, IUP won its second straight PSAC championship and advanced to the NCAA Tourney in the spring of 2012. Derr would certainly like to contribute to that success and she is working hard to be more steady at the plate.
“My hitting has always been on and off and when I get into a slump, it’s hard for me to get out of it,” she said. “So this year, especially with Warwick the season before I go to college, I really want to work on my hitting and hopefully be consistent.”
üThe lacrosse team at Southern New Hampshire University got a strong recruit when Gruett selected them over Marymount University, Salisbury University and Chestnut Hill College. He received scholarship offers from all of them, but felt most comfortable at SNHU, where he visited in mid-January.
“I like the coach (Paul Calkins) and the team and where they’re headed,” Gruett said, “and I really like the ski hills and all that around there.”
During his career at Warwick, Gruett earned L-L League Second-Team All-Stars at close defense in 2012 and L-L Honorable Mention at longstick midfield in 2011. He also was a member of the 2012 Brine National All-American Team.
“I think it’s great (seeing Ryan go to SNHU),” Warwick lacrosse coach Wayne Hummer said. “Obviously, I’m going to be happy about a player that I have matriculating to a good university, but to be getting an athletic scholarship, that’s great. That’s incredible. It speaks volumes about the work that both he and Adam put into the sport.”
With defender Corey Hamilton and middie Mike Balaschi among the seniors graduating this year for the Division-II Penmen, Gruett will be in the mix competing for one of those spots.
“They’ve got a lot of recruits and they should be going up,” he said. “It looks like we’ll have a good team … I’ve got to work on everything — stick work and all that stuff. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I think I’ll be able to do fine.”
Hummer added, “I think (it’s a good fit). I know he likes to ski and there’s areas up there for him to ski. I’m not saying that did or did not have anything to do with his choice, but it didn’t hurt that he’d be able to kinda go somewhere that he could engage in the extra-curriculars, like going skiing or something like that that keeps you fresh for the sport. I mean, a lot of D-I schools, you hear about guys that go there and just weren’t ready for the pace, that lacrosse, or any sport, became a job. And the fact that Ryan has a good level head on his shoulders where he can find places to do those extra-curriculars, like skiing, so he can keep lacrosse fun for himself, that’s important.”
üPolett will have a lot of work to do this spring stepping in at goalie for the Warwick lacrosse team, where Jake Watson earned All-American honors in both his senior and sophomore seasons prior to moving on to Florida Tech. But Limestone College, located in Gaffney, S.C., clearly saw the talent that he brought to the table. He was also considering Marymount and Florida Tech among others.
“The school is very small, it’s like 800 kids, and the education there is very individualized,” said Polett, who plans to study criminal justice. “There’s a 13-to-1 faculty to student ratio and the team is really good. They’ve been to the Final Four 10 years in a row and their coaches are really nice, they’re really approachable and they really promote their school and the academics.”
Hummer said, “Limestone has been a national power in Division Two. I think they’re currently ranked fourth in pre-season. They’re always at the top of the Division Two and that’s awesome for Adam to be able to go a team that’s always going to be in contention like that. And I know he’s ready to get there and do the work that’s necessary because he’s not just content to go. He wants to see the field. I’m confident that he’s going to put in the work it’s going to take to actually make that happen.”
Additionally, Hummer likes the choice from the standpoint that Limestone has the major that Polett wants to study.
“I know (Adam) was really interested in (criminal justice),” Hummer said, “and that’s the big thing too — these guys aren’t just making choices based on how the team is there or if their uniforms are cool or something like that. They’re looking at academics too because I think (Adam and Ryan) both realize there’s a shelf life to being a player in the sport. And they want to be sure that they’re going to be set up with career pursuits based on graduation and not just pursue athletics alone.”
In addition to earning two varsity letters with the Warriors, he has played with the Blue Mountain and Low and Away lacrosse teams. While Polett knows that Watson definitely raised the bar, he is ready for the challenge.
“There are a lot of great goalies that are coming out of this region right now and it’s definitely a humbling position,” he said. “The shoes I have to fill are probably one of the biggest on the team, so it’s going to be stressful. But I believe that my team will support me and my coach will support me.”
üMorris heads to Liberty University having earned three letters in both baseball and basketball through his first three years of high school. He was a Section One All-Star in both his junior and sophomore seasons playing baseball. The outfielder/pitcher shattered the school record as a sophomore for most RBI’s in a single season and he had the highest batting average on the team in 2011.
Morris, who plans to major in education with a minor in coaching, has played for the Evo Shield Canes summer team and Perfect Game ranked him nationally as one of the top 500 high school players. He also received an ESPN Top Player Ranking in Pennsylvania.
üGriest has been a consistent performer in the distance freestyle events at Warwick, and she is hoping to continue that success at Florida Southern College, a Division-II college located in Lakeland, Fla. She chose the Lady Moccasins over the University of Tampa.
“I love Florida,” said Griest, who plans to study art education. “My grandparents used to live down in Florida and we used to go visit them and I was like, ‘I don’t ever want to leave.'”
Warwick swim coach Mark Daum said, “(Florida Southern) has been on her radar for years, that’s her dream school. I think every student-athlete always hopes that they can get in and also be able to compete in their sport at that given level at their dream school. So in the case of Emily, all the stars were aligned and it’s a dream come true from that standpoint.”
Another big plus in her decision was the fact that Florida Southern has the world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright’s arcitecture.
“I first came there and I was in awe of the beauty of his architecture,” Griest said. “He built the church the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel and it’s so pretty. I was able to go in there on my recruiting trip. (Florida Southern) just felt like home too. When I was on campus, it just felt right. I fit in with the girls on the team very well and it just felt like home.”
Under coach Duncan Sherrard, the Lady Mocs ranked in the top-15 in the latest Division-II polls.
“Duncan is a great coach,” Griest said, “and I can’t wait to swim for him next year.”
When Griest arrives on the Florida Southern campus, she will likely be swimming the mile and 1,000-yard freestyle.
“I swim the mile in club swimming, so it’s not like I’ve never swam it before,” Griest said. “It’s not going to be a lot different training.”
“In my humble opinion, (Emily) will continue to get better,” Daum said, “and she’s got going to go in instantaneously as the big fish in a small pond, so to speak. But she’s definitely going to go in (as a) contributor and if she chooses to do so, her best years are ahead of her.”
üSchouten will leave big shoes to fill with the Warwick girls swim team after this season, but she is excited about her opportunity at Radford (Va.). She was also looking at Marymount and Mount St. Mary’s College.
“Nothing could compare to Radford, in my opinion,” said Schouten, who is considering studying speech pathology. “I loved it. I really bonded with the team and the campus is really nice … I just loved it all.”
Daum added, “Maddie looked at a number of schools, and I think the process that she went through was real good as far as looking at the pros and cons of every school. She just didn’t jump at the first school. I think she had a couple offers from schools, so to speak, and this was the best fit for her.”
Lady Highlanders’ coach Ian Coffey was previously at the helm of Mansfield University. While recruiting Warwick’s Morgan Heckel last year, he also took notice of Schouten and one thing led to another.
“He saw Maddie swim, so he had Maddie on the radar,” Daum said, “and then when he left Mansfield to go to Radford, he followed up and pursued her.”
While swimming with the Lady Warriors, Schouten won L-L gold in the 100 breaststroke as a junior and then won silver as a senior. Indications are that Lady Highlanders coach Ian Coffey will look for her to contribute in the breaststroke events in college.
“I’ll swim 100 breaststroke and 200 breaststroke and maybe fly,” Schouten said. “It depends where he puts me. But he said mainly I’ll work on breaststroke.” More SIGNINGS, page B-3