Final toll sounds for some athletes, as others look ahead to next level

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

All across the state, high school senior athletes were holding out hope that somehow they could put the finishing touches on their high school sports career. When the word came down from the state that the remainder of the school year is canceled, it really came as no surprise, but it served as the final toll for countless athletes who were hoping to put on the uniform just one last time.

For many senior athletes, the cancellation of the spring season brought a premature end to their athletic careers.

Naugatuck seniors Brielle Behuniak and Hailey Russell won’t get the chance to defend their Naugatuck Valley League doubles tennis championship. Behuniak, who also played volleyball and basketball for the Greyhounds, will attend Quinnipiac University in the fall, but won’t be playing sports.

“As much as I would like to play sports in college, unfortunately the volleyball roster is full,” Behuniak said.

Woodland senior basketball player Jill Barbarito, who got to play two home games in the state tournament before the CIAC pulled the plug on the winter season, will attend Purdue University in the fall to study biochemistry.

Some athletes will get a chance to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level, but that doesn’t take the sting away from losing out on the moments and memories that come during senior year on and off the field.

“It’s just so sad that we are missing out on some things that we have looked forward to our whole life,” said Naugatuck’s Jordyn Hunt, who will play volleyball in the fall for the University of St. Joseph.

Hunt, who is vice president of her senior class and ranked second academically, is a two-time All-Division player on the volleyball court and was preparing for her final season of softball. She will take with her the lifelong memory of winning the NVL volleyball championship in the fall, and she’s thankful that school administrators are working to hopefully give all seniors some more memories.

“We have some amazing teachers who are working hard to try and help bring us some of these events, like our prom and graduation in July,” she said. “It’s definitely different than anything we could have imagined, but I’m so thankful for the teachers, administrators and everyone in the community that has helped the class of 2020.”

Getting ready to play sports in college presents some challenges as the state seeks to slowly lift restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Woodland’s Alek Tolboe, an All-State and All-NVL defensive lineman who helped the Hawks to back-to-back state playoff appearances the last two seasons, will head to Western Connecticut State University to play football in the fall.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity to play football in college,” Tolboe said. “It’s very unfortunate that this shutdown has taken place. I understand we want to be safe but I have a lot of friends who played baseball and track that were really looking forward to the season. As far as getting ready for the football season, I just need to do what I can to keep myself in shape and ready to go in the fall.”

The Connecticut State American Legion Baseball Committee announced this month it won’t be involved with any teams this summer, and the National American Legion has shut down all sponsorships.

The 2020 American Legion season would have been a final tune up for some baseball players before going on to college.

Naugatuck senior Derrick Jagello, an All-Division and All-NVL baseball player for the Greyhounds who also played basketball, was instrumental in helping American Legion Post 17 reach the Super Regional last season. He led the team in ERA (1.30) for the second year in a row.

Jagello was also looking forward to his senior season for the Greyhounds. He will now get ready to play baseball at Southern Connecticut State University.

“This isn’t an easy time for anyone,” Jagello said. “I wish I could have played baseball my senior year, but I feel this pandemic has taught me a lot about life and what is most important. I will continue to stay hopeful and have a positive mindset, and with that everything else will fall into place.”

The following is a list of Naugatuck and Woodland senior athletes who will continue playing in college.

NAUGATUCK

Hector Alejandro

Baseball, University of Connecticut

Malachi Gatison

Football, University of New Haven

Jordyn Hunt

Volleyball, University of St. Joseph

Derrick Jagello

Baseball, Southern Connecticut State University

Elizabeth Krooss

Track and field, Southern Connecticut State University

Fred Longo

Soccer, Western Connecticut State University

Paul Marsh

Football, (school undecided)

John Mezzo

Football, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Kylie Neretich

Track and field, Southern Connecticut State University

Jeff Schebell

Football, Norwich University

Herve Tshibamba

Football, Bentley College

Isaiah Williams

Football, Bentley College

WOODLAND

Cole Barrows

Soccer, Albertus Magnus

Tyler Bulinski

Football, Anna Maria College

Molly Hussey

Soccer, University of St. Joseph

Olivia Kotsaftis

Soccer, Western Connecticut State University

Ryan Lamb

Soccer, University of New Haven

Dante Polletta

Soccer, Elms College

Devon Polletta

Soccer, Elms College

Emma Slavin

Track and field, University of Hartford

Mike Szturma

Baseball, Southern Connecticut State University

Alek Tolboe

Football, Western Connecticut State University