National Signing Day touts football players making official the college or university of their choice, and that was the case last week at Maine South, which celebrated sending five players to the next level at an 8 a.m. ceremony.
But student-athletes from other sports at Maine South signed on the dotted line, too.
Nina Anderson, who leads the Hawks girls basketball team in several categories, including scoring and rebounding—she’s also a standout softball player—signed her letter of intent to play basketball at Illinois Wesleyan University in downstate Bloomington.
Anderson’s father, Bill, played baseball at IWU in the 1980s.
“The first time I visited, I was not expecting at all to like it, I’ll be honest,” Anderson said, “But I fell in love with it right away. All the other schools I visited, I could see myself there, but at Wesleyan I just clicked.
“The coach is awesome, coach (Mia) Smith, she’s great. The program is really strong.”
Also signing were state qualifying cross country runner Paul D’Ambrosia (Washington University in St. Louis), two year soccer all-sectional center-midfielder Michael Banas (Northern Illinois), outfielder and pitcher Hank Schau (Madison (Wis.) Community College), girls lacrosse player Bianca Loza (Davenport University) and boys lacrosse players Sam Daly and Nick Gallo (both will be attending Augustana College).
CSL South Lineman of the Year Davis Neilands and co-Defensive Player of the Year Justin Fahey head a list of five signees from the 2014 Maine South football team which went undefeated until the second round of the Class 8A playoffs.
Neilands, who ended up with nine sacks and 15 tackles-for-loss last season, is going to Gardner-Webb University, located in Boiling Springs, N.C., west of Charlotte. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are coming off a 4-8 season. They compete in the Big South Conference and are part of the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), which is considered Division I-AA. (FCS teams are limited to 60 scholarships and do not have to meet minimum attendance requirements.)
“It’s a really nice school and a nice campus,” said Neilands, who also was looking at Butler, Dayton, Army and East Tennessee State which, like Gardner-Webb, offered him a full scholarship. “The people there are extremely nice. It’s in North Carolina, warm weather. I love it there. It’s not as big as I wanted with 5,000 kids, but when I went there, I learned about how things are there.
“The education is very nice and the business program especially is really good. The online (business) program is No. 1 in the nation. That’s mainly the reasons why I chose to go there.”
Fahey, who in addition to being a defensive standout combined last year for 1,037 rushing and receiving yards, will be suiting up for the Panthers of Middlebury College in Vermont—a Division III school which won its last six games in 2014 after a 1-2 start.
“No. 1 is academics,” said Fahey, explaining his decision to attend Middlebury. “Also the location. I like the mountains, I like to snowboard and I like the chance to get away a little bit. Any chance that I get to play football is somewhere where I’d like to be at.”
Asked where his new coaches at Middlebury might utilize him next season, Fahey replied, “They talked about offense, running back, maybe slot. They said they like my hands and they said they could use me at defense but only if I couldn’t handle the offense.”
Guard Tyler Bolger and safety Dan Ellsworth will continue to be teammates as both chose Butler University, which went 4-7 last season. Hawks right tackle Pete Szymanski is venturing east to Columbia (N.Y.) University. Butler and Columbia are, like Gardner-Webb, in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
All told, each of the five was instrumental in helping the Hawks go 19-4 the past two seasons while the Hawks extended their streak of CSL South titles to 14 and their consecutive winning streak in the conference to 71 games.
“We’re extremely proud that we have five guys signing and we’ll probably have five more that are undecided at this point,” said Hawks coach David Inserra. “That’s a huge class of guys that want to carry it on to college and that means a lot to the coaching staff.
“We got a lot of mileage out of this class of seniors. Most of these guys are two-way players; a couple of them are three year starters. They will be definitely missed for everything they’ve given.”
Brandon Costantino, an all-CSL running back who exhibited breakaway speed during his varsity career with the Wolves, is one of 37 freshmen who’ll be joining the Northern Michigan football squad next fall. NMU is a Division II school coming off a 3-8 campaign in 2014.
The Pignato twins, Adam and Jeremy, are taking their talents to Division III Wisconsin-Stout. Adam played linebacker and Jeremy was a running back for the Wolves, who’ve qualified for the Class 8A playoffs each of the past three seasons.
MAINE EAST, NOTRE DAME
Neither the Demons nor the Dons had any football players sign last week. However, Maine East has announced that four-year varsity volleyball player Hannah Farley, who had 232 kills and helped lead Maine East to the CSL North crown, has verbally committed to playing at Graceland University, an NAIA school in Lamoni, Iowa.
Meanwhile, Alex Lulek, one of the top defenders for Maine East’s 2014 boys soccer team, has verbally committed to Dominican University.