Rachel Vellis, a Wayne Hills alum, is loving life at Long Island University, in the classroom and on the field hockey pitch

Beginning her junior year at Long Island University, Rachel Vellis couldn’t be happier with the direction of her life as a student-athlete.

Vellis, 20, is a 2017 graduate of Wayne Hills High, where she excelled in three sports, field hockey, basketball and softball. She’s the youngest of three born to Maria and Charley Vellis. The family originally resided in Wallington, NJ before moving to Wayne before Rachel’s freshman year of high school.

When Rachel made her college decision, there wasn’t a doubt as to what sport she’d pursue.

“I enjoyed playing all three sports in high school, but I knew that field hockey would be the sport I’d pursue in college,” said Vellis, the starting goalie at LIU. “It’s the most natural sport for me. I started playing in high school and I gained a confidence that if I worked hard at it, I’d excel.”

She sure has.

Earning a starting berth as a freshman, Vellis, who is majoring in Criminal Justice, had the opportunity to play in the NCAA Division II championship game, for LIU-Post, against Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, in Louisville, Ky., after the Pioneers captured an East Coast Conference championship.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Vellis of playing in the championship game, which LIU-Post dropped, 4-1. “It was almost surreal, one of the most amazing times of my life and being a part of that team was something I’ll never forget.”

Rachel Vellis is the starting goalie for the LIU Sharks field hockey team, an NCAA D-1 program. (Photo courtesy of Vinny Dusovic)

The athletic departments of LIU-Post and LIU-Brooklyn officially consolidated into one NCAA Division 1 program for the 2019-2020 season. The program is now a part of the Northeast Conference and field hockey will play its first league game on Oct. 11, against Wagner College. The team plays regular season games through Nov. 3. The conference semifinals are on Nov. 8, with the championship game two days later.

Through games of Oct. 8, the Sharks had a record of 3-5, including a 2-game winning streak, with wins over Lock Haven University, 1-0, and Lehigh University, 2-1.

“We started off slow, but we’re playing pretty well now,” said Vellis, who was named the Northeast Conference’s Defensive Player of the Week for Oct. 1.

According to the LIU press release, Vellis made a season-high 16 saves in a Sept. 27 matchup at Saint Francis University, which was the second most by a NEC goalkeeper this season, at the time.

The 2019 LIU Sharks field hockey team. Rachel Vellis stands in the back row, middle. (Photo courtesy of Vinny Dusovic)

She had seven saves in a scoreless fourth quarter, forcing overtime against the Red Flash. Versus Lock Haven, Vellis registered six saves, including a clutch save off a penalty corner with seven seconds remaining to earn her first shut out of the season.

Vellis earned All-Conference accolades in 2018 and was named to the conference’s All-Rookie team a year earlier. She was also a 2-time conference goalkeeper of the week in 2018 and her .784 save percentage ranked fourth in the conference and ninth, nationally, last season.

Rachel has enjoyed the opportunity to travel to Europe, where she visited Scotland and Italy on two different trips abroad during the summer, along with some of her teammates.

“I’ve seen a lot of the United States over the years, so to get the chance to visit Europe has been so exciting,” she said.

Field hockey, on the collegiate level, is certainly different than what Vellis experienced in high school

“It’s a faster game and more physical,” said Vellis. “The conditioning is intense. I’ll put 6 days a week into training for a season. Working on speed and agility is part of what I do to get ready for a season and we weight lift during the season, as well. I always say if you weren’t in shape coming into a season, you will be soon.”

Rachel (10) with helmet, attempts to stop a shot near the cage. (Photo courtesy of Alan Schaeffer)

Vellis had a tremendous senior year in the cage for Wayne Hills. The team finished 13-6 overall, but it was a stretch of games from Oct 6-29, where she was truly outstanding. Vellis led the Patriots to eight straight wins, seven by shutout, and recorded 60 saves, before the magical run ended in the state sectional quarterfinals, against powerful Northern Highlands. Rachel had 10 saves in that game, but the Patriots lost, 2-1, in overtime.

For the 2016 season, Vellis had nine shutouts. She was also the starting goalie when Wayne Hills won back-to-back Passaic County championships in 2014 and 2015, to secure a three-peat, which began in Rachel’s freshman season.

Rachel aspires to be a police officer, or FBI agent after graduating college in 2021. She has excelled in the classroom, with a GPA over 3.5.

“I just love it here,” said said of LIU. “I’m so happy with where I’m at. It’s a great eniovornment here.”

Rachel expressed her gratitude to her parents.

“Since I was a kid, they’ve been to just about every game I’ve ever played,” she said. “That makes a difference and I’ll always be grateful.”

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By mike051893

Passaic Valley sports recap: Volleyball improves to 10-3 as Rodriguez, DiPasquale and Ostolaza star; Tennis team hopes to finish with winning record; Girls soccer hosts Breast Cancer Awareness game; Boys soccer (4-0-1 in its last 5 games) looks to advance in county tournament

It’s been a good season so far, for the Passaic Valley High girls’ volleyball team.

The Hornets improved to 10-3 on the season with a straight set victory over Passaic Tech, on Oct. 9. It was PV’s fifth straight victory, with all those wins in straight sets.

Hornets are enjoying an excellent season so far in 2019. (Courtesy of George DiPasquale)

Passaic Valley will host West Milford in a county quarterfinal game, on Oct. 11. The Hornets were seeded second in the tournament and are seeking its first championship since 2014, when the program completed a three-peat.

Devyn DiPasquale, Jada Rodriguez, Brianna DeLuccia and Carissa Ostolaza paced the Hornets against Passaic Tech.

Devyn DiPasquale prepares to serve in a recent match. (Photo courtesy of George DiPasquale)

Versus DePaul on Oct. 4, Ostolaza finished with 16 digs and DiPasquale had 24 digs, 16 service points and four aces. Also excelling for the Hornets were DeLuccia (13 digs, 9 kills and 4 service points) and Victoria Pardi had six service points.

Rodriguez had 10 service points nine assists and five aces in PV’s win over Paterson Eastside , on Oct. 2 and turned in another tremendous game against Teaneck, with 25 assists, eight digs and six service points. Ostolaza also had a big game against the Highwaymen, with 17 digs, seven service points and five kills.

TENNIS: The Hornets have played well this season and were 6-7 heading into a match with Fair Lawn, at home, on Oct. 11. The team ends its regular season on Oct. 15, at Lakeland, also at home. Both of those matches begin at 4 p.m.

Passaic Valley had also won five of its last seven matches, defeating DePaul, 4-1, West Milford, 3-2, Paterson Kennedy, 5-0, Lakeland, 4-1 and Paterson Kennedy, again, 5-0.

Among the winners for PV against DePaul were Lia Trewhella at second singles, the first doubles team of Cassidy Baer and Carolyn Rosenberg and the second doubles of Victoria Povolo and Michaela Raguseo.

Emme Nguyen-Tran won at third singles in the West Milford match while the PV doubles teams each won their matches to secure a big win against the Highlanders.

In a victory over Paterson Kennedy, Ella Coronado-Luz led the way for PV with a win at first singles. And in a win against Lakeland, Trewhella and Nguyen-Tran each won at second and third singles respectively while the first and second doubles teams prevailed for the Hornets, as well.

The 2019 PV girls’ tennis team. (Photo courtesy of Cappello Photography).

GIRLS SOCCER: The Hornets were 6-7 heading into a game on Oct. 10, against Lakeland. The team had won two straight and five of its last six. On Oct. 5, PV hosted a wonderful event, to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Read more on that day, here:

https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/10/07/passaic-valley-and-cedar-grove-high-girls-soccer-teams-support-the-fighters-honor-the-survivors-and-remember-the-taken-in-a-moving-ceremony-honoring-breast-cancer-awareness-month/

BOYS SOCCER: The team was playing well, having won four of its last five games (4-0-1) through matches of Oct. 1. PV took a 5-3-1 record into a game, at home against Lakeland, on Oct 10. On Oct. 12, PV will play Lakeland again, this time in a county tournament contest, in Wanaque, starting at 11 a.m.

On Oct. 15, the Hornets visit Paterson Eastside and on Oct. 17, it’s off to Wayne Hills. Both of those games start at 4 p.m.

In a 5-2 win over Hawthorne on Oct. 1, PV was led by Mike Gurrieri and Kairi Cosentino, who had two goals each while Stefano Turano scored once. Dominick Maretta had six saves in goal for the Hornets.

Patrick Lettre scored twice and Andre Grabowski and Matt Sytsma had one goal each in a 4-3 Hornets win over Paterson Kennedy, on Sept. 26. Maretta finished with four saves and Joe Peluso had three stops in the net for PV.

The Hornets also defeated Ft. Lee, on Sept. 19, 4-2, and West Milford, 3-1, on Sept. 17. Gurrieri had two goals and Lettre finshed with two assists in the Ft. Lee game while Cosentino, Gurrieri and Sytsma had one goal each versus West Milford.

By mike051893

Passaic Valley blanks Fair Lawn, 28-0, as Colletti and Giovatto star; Hornets gear for a big home game, on Oct. 12, as Wayne Hills visits

Passaic Valley entered its game on Oct. 5, at Fair Lawn, as a prohibitive favorite. And the Hornets, as its head coach, Chet Parlaveccchio would say afterward, “did what we had to do.”

PV blanked Fair Lawn, 28-0, with Vincent Colletti putting together his second straight 100-yard rushing game.

Passaic Valley improved to 3-2 with the win and will host Wayne Hills, on Oct. 12, at 1 p.m. Wayne Hills, which defeated West Milford on Oct. 4, is also 3-2.

Parlavecchio was pleased with the effort against Fair Lawn.

Gio Giovatto (28) scores a touchdown for Passaic Valley. Gio also added four straight point-after kicks for the Hornets. (Photo by Stacy Meola)

“We played good defense, and our kids got the job done,” the coach said. “

Colletti, who rushed for 107 yards in a 28-7 loss to Wayne Valley, eclipsed the century mark again, this time for 118 yards against Fair Lawn.

“Vinny has been doing a great job,” said Parlavecchio. “And if you think about it, he’s probably left another 200 yards on the ground. That’s how good he’s been. As he continues to play, he’ll learn how to hit holes differently. He’s such a physical kid, but he can also run around guys, too.”

Passaic Valley opened a 14-0 lead after one quarter and added two more touchdowns in the third.

“The only thing that bothered me was that we did fumble and cost ourselves a chance for another score,” said Parlavecchio. “And it’s not that we wanted to score more points, but it’s getting the kids a mindset of playing error-free football. They know that when we play Wayne Hills, mistakes will be costly. That’s what happened to us, against Wayne Valley.”

Wayne Hills last played at Passaic Valley in 2017. Here, PV head coach Chet Parlavecchio (right) and assistant Randy Pfahl confer with then Wayne Hills defensive coordinator Jermain Johnson after the game, which Hills won 28-6. Johnson, who played his high school football for Parlavechio, at Bloomfield High, is now the head coach at Belleville.

Gio Giovatto scored on a 3-yard run in the first quarter, then added the point-after kick for a 7-0 PV lead. Later in the first, Colletti caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Nick Vasta to make it 14-0, after Giovatto’s kick.

In the third, Colletti scored his second touchdown of the game, on a 9-yard run and Christopher Hiel added the final PV touchdown, on a 24-yard run, to make it 28-0 after Giovatto’s fourth straight point-after.

Hiel rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown while Vasta completed six passes for 69 yards and a touchdown pass. The Hornets rushed for 300 yards while accounting for nearly 400 yards of total offense. The PV defense held Fair Lawn to 39 yards of offense.

With Wayne Hills coming to town, Parlavecchio knows his team has another chance for a big home win. Two weeks ago, PV lost to Wayne Valley.

“I’ll tell you what, I watched the film of Wayne Valley playing Wayne Hills (on Sept. 14) and that was a real physical game,” said Parlavecchio. “Hills is like Valley in that they’re real good up front, they have receivers who can catch the football and runners who make plays.

“When you look at the kids Wayne Hills lost from last year’s team, they might not be as explosive as before, but they have guys who can play. And with that said, this is an opportunity for our team to make a statement, against a really good team. But it won’t be easy, and we cannot make mistakes, like we did against Wayne Valley.

“You can’t fumble, the penalties have to be minimal, and we have to be smart on the field. It should be a great day for a football game on Saturday, against a really good team. We’re hoping for a big crowd and a lot of excitement.”

This should also be a big game for Passaic Valley, as far as playoff consideration. While the Hornets will still have three regular season games left after playing Wayne Hills, a win would go a long way for the team’s chances.”

NOTES: Wayne Hills has won the last four meetings between the two teams after Passaic Valley won back-to-back games against the Patriots in 2013 and 2014.

Hills leads the all-time series between the two, 8-3. The teams didn’t start playing each other in the regular season until 2012. Prior to that, there were playoff meetings in 1975, 2002, 2003 and 2006.

PV won the first-ever game, in ’75, 27-2. The Hornets went on to win a state sectional championship that season and finished 11-0. Hills won a thriller in 2002, in overtime, en route to its first-ever championship. The Patriots also won in ’03 and ’06.

Parlavecchio and Wayne Hills head coach Wayne Demikoff get along well.

Chet Parlavecchio and Wayne Demikoff meet after last year’s game at Wayne Hills.

“I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for Chet and the way his teams are always prepared,” said Demikoff. “Chet knows the game as well as anyone. Just look at his background. It’s incredible. And he’s a great guy, too. We enjoy talking football when we can.”

Parlavecchio praised his counterpart.

“Wayne does a real good job at Hills,” said Parlavecchio. “I like the guys on that staff, too. Our kids know they’ll have to play well against Wayne Hills. They’re well coached. They might not have the break away players they had last year, but those kids can make plays.”

Parlavecchio noted the words of the legendary Joe Paterno, when it came to his team’s loss to Wayne Valley two weeks ago.

“Coach would say that there are five big plays that can determine a game,” said Parlavecchio, who played linebacker for Paterno for four years at Penn State. “And I can easily point out five plays that hurt us against Wayne Valley. That’s why we need to play smarter football this time, and if we do, we might have a chance.”

By mike051893

Belleville High sports recap: Football takes 5-0 record into a game with unbeaten Newark West Side as Leigh and Leak lead way past Kearny; Lopez excels for girls soccer team, as Bucs win 5 of last 6; Boys soccer (10-2) advances in ECT as Sanchez and Pesantez star

Belleville High will play probably its biggest football game in 10 years when the Bucs travel to Newark West Side, on Oct. 12, for a 1 p.m. kickoff.

Belleville will take a 5-0 record into the game while the Roughriders are also 5-0. Last season, the two schools played a spirited game at Doc Ellis Field before West Side won it on the last play of the game, 26-18.

West Side has won six of the eight games it played against Belleville since 2003. The Bucs’ last win in the series came in 2016, 15-6.

Last week, Belleville defeated Kearny, 38-15. The Bucs/Bellboys improved to 14-0-1 against the Kards, dating back to 1976. The teams tied in ’77. Kearny’s last win in the long-time rivalry came in 1975.

Belleville and Kearny met just about every year on the gridiron, until 1983. The teams didn’t meet again in 1998, in a consolation game. In 2006 and 2007, there were two games. The schools have met consistently again since 2016.

The Bucs were led by Derek Leigh, who rushed for 210 yards and scored three touchdowns. Leigh has 969 yards rushing through five games and should eclipse the 1,000 yatd mark soon. He would be the first Belleville runner to rush for 1,000, or more, since Trevor Torres in 2010.

Ray Leak also had a big game, with 121 yards rushing and a touchdown.

On the soccer field, the girls team has been playing well of late, with five wins in its last six games.

Head coach Beth Ann Garrett’s team took a 7-9 record into a game at Livingston, on Oct. 10, in a first-round Essex County Tournament game. The Bucs defeated Technology, 7-0, in a preliminary round game. On Oct. 17, the Bucs host Newark Academy, at Doc Ellis Field, in a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Belleville had started the season slowly and were 2-8 at one point, before turning it around.

Derek Leigh, here with head coach Jermain Johnson, is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing for the Bucs.

“As a team, we have struggled to be consistent again this season, however, we are beginning to put the pieces together,” said Garrett. “We played a solid game against Nutley, but unfortunately made a couple mistakes which they capitalized on.”

The Bucs have defeated Technology, Golda Och, 5-0, Caldwell, 2-1, Orange, 9-0 and Cedar Grove, 1-0, during the team’s recent run. The lone setback was a 2-0 loss to Nutley.

Belleville High coaches and team captains.

Versus Technology, Gabi Lopez scored twice and had two assists, while Kiara Diaz-Galloso, Emily Gavidia, Cesia Diaz, Tiffany Escobar and Akemi Kanashiro scored one goal each.

Lopez scored two more goals in the win over Golda Och and Diaz, Miriamm Lema and Sam Doherty scored once each. Lopez had another big game, scoring both of her team’s goals is the win over Caldwell while Belleville’s goalie, Jenny Romero, had 11 saves.

Lopez and Diaz-Galloso had two goals each and Kanashiro finished with four assists in the victory over Orange and in an overtime win against Cedar Grove, Tania Melgar scored off a pass from Escobar for the game’s only goal.

Versus Nutley, Romero played well in goal, with eight saves.

The Belleville boys’ soccer team improved to 10-2 on the season with a 2-1 victory over North Star Academy in a preliminary round, Essex County Tournament game, on Oct. 8.

Belleville, the 12th seed, will play at fifth seeded Livingston, on Oct. 10, in a first-round matchup, at 4 p.m. The Bucs will visit West Orange, on Oct. 14 and play at Newark Central, on Oct. 18. Both of those regular season games also start at 4 p.m.

Jonathan Sanchez scored both Belleville goals while Johan Capellan and Kevin Riera had assists for the Bucs in the win over North Star while goaltender Fernando Pesantez turned back 10 shots in goal.

By mike051893

Passaic Valley and Cedar Grove High girls’ soccer teams support the fighters, honor the survivors and remember the taken in a moving ceremony honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month

They came to play a varsity soccer game, on Oct. 5, in Little Falls.

And while Passaic Valley and Cedar Grove did play on a beautiful autumn afternoon, the message was much more powerful than a 3-1 final score.

The PV soccer players wore this tee-shirt and handed out the swizzle sticks to people in the crowd.

For the fifth straight year, the neighboring schools combined for a Breast Cancer Awareness Game. And the message was simple, yet powerful.

Support the fighters.

Honor the survivors.

Remember the taken.

It seems when it comes to cancer, there isn’t anyone who hasn’t been affected, whether it be a family member, friend or friend of a friend.

These signs were on the field, reminding everyone of the importance of being cognizant of breast cancer.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with it, the color pink takes on a new meaning.

Passaic Valley’s head girls soccer coach, Kathleen Berthold, has worked hard in putting this game together.

“We really appreciate everyone who comes out for this game,” said Berthold. “Every year, we hope for good weather, and this year, especially, it was really nice out. But we’re here to celebrate those who have survived and beaten cancer, and also think of those who we have lost, but who remain in our hearts.”

Passaic Valley and Cedar Grove players gather for a photo, along with coaches, parents and the PV cheerleaders.
Brittany Bove and her mother, Wendy.

Many players lined up with their mom, or a grandparent, or relative, to walk across the field, during the pre-game ceremony.

Passaic Valley’s Madison Leech (center) honored multiple family members.
  • PV’s team manager Madison Chiavola was accompanied by her mom Jessica, as they remembered Madison’s aunt, Maria Chiavola.  
  • Cedar Grove player Noelle Nicosia remembered her grandmother, Mary Nicosia, who passed away from ovarian cancer.  She was also accompanied by her grandfather, Lou Guarino, who beat prostrate cancer this year.
  • Junior midfielder, Taylor Hill, honored her aunt AnnMarie Hill, who is a 6-month breast cancer survivor. Taylor was accompanied by her mother, Kathy Hill, herself a PV graduate.
  • Sophomore defender, Emily Castro, honored her grandmother, Julia Castro, who is on the road to recovery after just being diagnosed with breast cancer last month.
  • Junior goalie Madison Leech honored two members of her Hornet Family. Her mom Dottie Leech, PV Class of 1989, where she was in the marching and concert band, Girls Show and the bowling team, will celebrate 10 years of being cancer free this coming Oct. 26.
  • Madison’s aunt, Janie D’Aloia, also a PV grad, was on the White X and White Cheer Girls Show teams. Janie was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • Amy Niosi, a 10-year veteran member of the PV faculty in the English Department, was accompanied by her daughter Ariel. The two remembered Jimmy Parisi, Amy’s dad, who passed away last November from prostate cancer.
  • PV senior captain Zuania Victoria supported her family friend Valerie Arrabito, who is currently cancer free.
  • The Hornets welcomed back PV soccer alumni and current PV staff member Kayla Campbell.  Kayla was accompanied by her father Ron, a 1986 PV grad and Kayla honored her mom, Vicki Campbell, also a PV ’86 graduate. On November 12. Vicki will be celebrating 5 years cancer free. Ron and Vicki are Hornet high school sweethearts that have been together since the age of 14, and married for 27 years.
  • Brittany Bove, a recent PV grad, returned to honor her mom, Wendy, a 1985 PV graduate and former Hornets cheerleader. Wendy has been battling brain cancer for the last 17 years. She is a very strong and determined woman.  Faith, family, and strength have given her the strength to get through the hard times.  Watching Brittany play sports while at PV is what brought Wendy so much joy, according to Berthold.
  • A 2000 PV grad, Erin Wilks, who now works at her alma mater, was accompanied by her husband Gary and their two future Hornet daughters Emma, Class of 2034 and Cassie Wilks, Class of 2036.

Erin’s dad, Roger McNeill, graduated PV in 1971 and her mother, Wendy was a ’72 graduate. Erin’s sister, Meredith, like Erin, a 4-year soccer player, was graduated from PV in 2005 and Wendy and Roger’s youngest son, the late Colin McNeill, was a 2008 PV grad.

Left to right, Meredith McNeill, Roger McNeill, Wendy McNeill. Cassie Wilks and Gary Wilks.

Wendy McNeill, who was a member of the PV basketball and softball clubs and was also Green Chief for Girls Show, was diagnosed with breast cancer this past February is current cancer free following her surgery. She was honored at the ceremonies.

Read more about the McNeills and Wilks here.

https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2019/10/02/our-hornet-family-fights-together-5th-annual-breast-cancer-awareness-game-by-passaic-valley-high-girls-soccer-program-will-honor-survivors-and-remember-the-fallen-on-oct-5-at-130-p-m-mcneill/

“I was fortunate in that I was diagnosed early,” said Wendy at the ceremony. “I can’t say it enough, don’t put off getting checked. I’m so grateful to the doctors, my family and everyone in this community for being there for me.”

While Passaic Valley came out a winner in the actual game, no team was defeated on this day.

Zuania Victoria kicked off a small soccer ball with pink smoke after the introductions.

And the sentiment among all who participated, or watched from the stands, is that one day, this game will no longer be needed to play, since cancer will be eradicated.

By mike051893

“Thank you, Zach, for choosing us”; A story of the loving Galasso family and a wonderful 4-year-old, who has stolen the heart of his parents, sister and now, the Wayne Hills football team

It literally takes about 5 seconds.

One look at Zach Galasso, with that precocious personality and delightful smile makes everyone around him feel a little better.

And for Zach’s parents, and older sister, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Zach and his pal, Nick Lucarello, during the coin toss.

Zach is a 4-year-old resident of Wayne, who had the chance to share a special night with his favorite high school football team, the Wayne Hills Patriots. He was named an honorary captain.

The youngest of two children born to Sharon and Marc Galasso, Zach has Down Syndrome. But that’s completely irrelevant to those closest to him, as well as the Patriots, who enjoyed their time with Zach during last Friday’s home game, against West Milford, which Hills won, 37-0.

Wayne Hills team captains join their new captain in the lockerroom. before last week’s game.

“I can’t even begin to say how grateful my family and I are for the way they took Zach into their family,” said Marc Galasso. “Coach (Wayne) Demikoff and his staff, the players, everyone really made him feel incredible. Talk about a class act? The entire program is top notch.

“We’re originally from Bogota (NJ) and didn’t move to Wayne until about six years ago. We knew how good the program was on the field, but we learned so much more about a big heart and wonderful kids in that program (last Friday). What an awesome night.”

Zach was one of five team captains, joining Nick Lucarello, Gabe Kuhn, Jack Woodard and Christian Puntolillo, on the field for the coin toss, prior to Wayne Hills’ game against West Milford. Zach knows Lucarello, and felt comfortable hanging out with Nick during the coin toss.

Zach listens in during the official’s pre-game coin toss instructions.

“Nick is a family friend,” said Marc. “And Zach has gotten to know him, so I could tell he would be good going out to the field with him. Zach mixed in well with all the players.”

The Galasso family had the chance to connect with the Patriots after an e-mail from Marc, discussing a fundraiser for the third annual ‘Zach’s Walk’, with the proceeds benefiting research for Down Syndrome.

The Patriots joined their new buddy for a post-game photo.

“I had sent the e-mail out to different groups in town, and I got a wonderful response from Dawn Dellechiaie, who said she had spoken with Coach Demikoff and they’d be happy to have Zach come to a game and to help with raising some monies.”

(Dawn’s son, Peter and nephew, Gabe, were both standout players for the Patriots, and were both key parts of state championship teams).

The Wayne Hills football Booster Club donated its half of the weekly 50-50 to Zach’s Walk. (The team name for the annual walk is ‘The Zach Attack’).

Zach was born on June 12, 2015. His sister, Jillian, is a senior at Hills and a standout softball player for the Patriots. Last year, she played catcher for the team and did well, despite still learning the position.

“There’s an age gap between the two of them,” said Marc with a laugh. “But the two of them are so close. I’m not sure how it will be when Jillian goes away to college next fall. It will be different for Zach, and all of us, when she’s not here every day. They have a great bond together.

“But that’s still a little way off.”

Zach is in pre-school, at Ryerson Elementary School, where he’s adapting well to his classmates and friends. It’s a full-day program.

Nick Lucarello checks with Zach to see if team should kick off, or receive.

“Zach loves school,” said Marc. “He’ll start kindergarten next September. Wayne does a great job with special-needs children, and we think he’ll do great.”

According to the National Down Syndrome Society’s webpage, Down Syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. In every cell in the human body, there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent.

Zach learning early about the fabled ‘Rock’.

This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.

A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm – although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.

(The extra 21st chromosome is now a part of a new venture, Cafe 21, which trains youngsters and adults with Down Syndrome to work in a busy and competitive environment).

‘The Zach Attack’, Buddy Walk, held at the Wyckoff YMCA on Oct. 5, raised $2,669.00 so far, toward Down’s research, in 2019.

“The proceeds from the Wayne Hills 50-50 really helped,” said Marc, who has also taken over the booster club responsibilities for the Hills softball program.

Anyone interested in donating can check out the link to Zach’s page here. https://www.classy.org/team/246814

“Zach’s health is excellent,” said Marc. “He’s a happy 4-year-old child, who is adapting well. He has some physical therapy, but he’s very active, runs around like crazy and has the typical energy of a youngster. Some Down’s children may have some health issues, but Zach doesn’t.”

Zach also enjoys cheering on his sister Jillian’s high school softball team.

“Win or lose, he’s there for every home game,” said Marc. “And when the game is over, he’s supporting the players. Doesn’t matter what the score is to him. The kids really enjoy being around Zach.”

Zach, wearing his Hills jersey, greets the players during pre-game.

When Sharon and Marc had learned their son would be born with Down Syndrome, there was just one thought.

“We always say thank you to Zach, for choosing us (to be his parents and family),” said Marc. “That’s the way we’ve always looked at it. “

And, as for the Hills football team?

“That program just draws you in,” said Marc. “I’ve seen it up close now, and there’s a reason why they’re so successful as team. It comes from within, with great kids, obviously, tremendous parents and a wonderful coaching staff.”

By mike051893

Strong numbers accompany the Passaic Valley High cross country team’s excellent start to the 2019 season

Under the direction of third-year head coach Walter Bleuler, the Passaic Valley cross country team has gotten off to a tremendous start in 2019.

Bleuler has been pleased with the number of student-athletes who came out for the team this fall.

A great turnout of cross country runners for Passaic Valley in 2019.

“The boys have had a record turn out of 38 runners and we’re able to field a full freshman team for the first time in eight years.”

The Hornets have been running in some very competitive invitationals, and have fared well.

“At the past few invitationals, the boys have been placing higher up then ever before, against some tough teams,” the coach said “At our Big North Independence League Batch meet, the boys came home with three wins, along with a tough loss to Fair Lawn by one point.”

Passaic Valley’s team captains for 2019. Left to right Akram Lechguar, Pablo Arias, Krisha Rana, Edward Bennett and Elliot Whitney.

The team’s success has also been, in part, to some talented athletes in other sports, giving cross country a look.

Elliot Whitney, a junior and team captain for the basketball team last season, has been leading the boys on the course. Whitney is also a member of the spring track team at PV.

Juniors Steven Garrity and Eduardo Rodas have been solid additions, as well as sophomore Jesse Spadaccini.

Another sophomore, Jessier Soriano, who is coming off of an excellent freshman spring track season, is among the team’s top seven.

Other key additions are juniors Fernando Lamberty and Javoun Bloomfield as well as senior Justin Idolfonso.

Passaic Valley medalists from the Six Flags Wild Safari Invitational. Left to right, Pablo Arias, Jesse Spadaccini, Katharine Cattone, Steven Garrity and Elliot Whitney.

Seniors Frank Koch, Pablo Arias and Edward Bennett, as well as junior Akram Lechguar are among the top returning runners. The boys captains are Arias, Bennett, Lechguar and Whitney.

The PV girls team returns six athletes from 2018. In addition, sophomore Victoria Collins and freshman Katharine Cattone have also joined the team.

“Katharine has placed and medaled in every meet she has competed in and is one of the leading freshmen in our county and league,” said Bleuler of Cattone.

“Our senior captain, Krisha Rana has been pushing her team day in and out and we’re hoping to see some success in the league and county meets.”

The Hornets were scheduled to compete at the Shore Coaches Invitational on Oct. 5, in Holmdel, with its first race at 1:20 p.m. On Oct. 11, the team heads to the Greystone Invitational.

Some of the invitationals that PV has already competed in this fall include the Roxbury Invitational, Back to the Mountain Invitational, Bernie Magee Class Meet and the Six Flags Wild Safari.

By mike051893

Fightin’ 73’s Phil Cuzzi will umpire in the 2019 NLCS; It’s the 11th year the Belleville High grad and Nutley native has been named to an MLB post-season crew

Phil Cuzzi’s 21 years as a Major League Baseball umpire now includes 11 seasons working in the playoffs.

Cuzzi has been named to umpire in the 2019 National League Championship Series (NLCS) which begins on Oct. 11, in either Los Angeles, St. Louis or Atlanta. He’ll be part of a 6-man crew.

President George W. Bush met up with Phil during a trip to Texas a few years ago.

Cuzzi will be working in the MLB playoffs for the 11th time in his career and for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. He umpired the divisional rounds in 2003, 2004, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2005 and 2014, Cuzzi was an umpire in the NLCS, and in 2013, was part of a crew for the American League Wildcard game between Tampa Bay and Cleveland.

In 2017, he also umpired in his first World Series, including the home plate assignment, in Game #1, at Dodger Stadium, which is a tremendous honor.

Phil, here waiting on a replay ruling, during a game.

When contacted at his home, Cuzzi was very pleased to have been selected to his third NLCS.

“This time of the year, you always hope for an opportunity to work in the playoffs,” said Cuzzi. “It’s a tremendous to be selected. You always hope, but you can’t take anything for granted. When that call comes, it’s really special.”

Two years ago, Cuzzi had umpired in the Divisional round and when the World Series assignments were given out, Phil’s phone rang, with Joe Torre on the line.

Phil, here in Game #1 of the 2017 World Series, chatting with L.A.’s Justin Turner.

“We all knew that the (umpiring) assignments (for the 2017 World Series) would probably be coming out on Oct. 14,” Cuzzi recalled, in 2017. “Joe Torre makes those phone calls. And when my phone rang, and Joe’s name popped up, it looked pretty good.”

Torre delivered the news.

“He kind of said ‘how would you like to work home plate for Game #1,'” Cuzzi said, paraphrasing. “Obviously, it was an incredible moment for me.”

Cuzzi became a full time Major League umpire during the 1999 season, after over a decade of working in the minor leagues.

Cuzzi leaves the field after a St. Louis Cardinals victory in 2019.

Cuzzi has remained very close to his Belleville High School friends. A 1973 graduate, Phil refers to his classmates as the ‘Fightin’ 73’s.’

“We’ve remained very good friends over the years,” said Cuzzi. “It’s what makes moments like this so special, sharing with family and friends.”

Since 2005, Cuzzi has run a very successful dinner in memory of his friend and high school classmate, Robert Luongo, who died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in 2004. The dinner, which includes auctions for wonderful sports memorabilia, raises money for ALS research and has been attended by many celebrities, both in sports and entertainment.

After Phil was named to the 2017 World Series, a group of friends gathered at LaSicilia, in Belleville, to congratulate him. Phil is seated far right, second from front.

Each year, the sold out event is held at Nanina’s in the Park, in Belleville, and draws over 600 people.

By mike051893

Can it be that it was all so simple then? Joe Salters, AKA ‘Joe Salt’, was a Belleville treasure, last of the Bellboys, a tremendous athlete and better friend; Walk in Rhythm my Brother, and keep that Earth, Wind & Fire music going

Memories light the corners of my mind, Misty water-colored memories of the way we were; Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were

Growing up in Belleville, NJ, one of my closest friends was Joseph Salters. ‘Joe Salt’, as most of us called him, LOVED sports. He played for the last Bellboys high school football and basketball teams, from 1976-1978.

Joe’s smile always stood out.

Joe departed this life on Oct. 2, 2019, after a valiant battle with an illness. He was 59 years old.

Scattered pictures, Of the smiles we left behind, Smiles we gave to one another, For the way we were.

As good an athlete as there was, Joe loved the NFL, and was a huge Tony Dorsett fan, too, as well as all that great music we grew up with in the late 1970’s.

Joe, playing basketball for the Bellboys.

Joe, Paul Donohue and I were all pretty good friends back in the day. Joe and Paul were all a part of the Belleville High Class of 1978 while I was a little older.

Can it be that it was all so simple then, Or has time rewritten every line? If we had the chance to do it all again, Tell me, would we?
Could we?

Those were the days before cell phones and computers, where we played basketball and football, hung out with friends and got into the occasional trouble. (Nothing crazy, because our parents would have really let us have it. Those were also the days of fearing our parents and teachers, and rightfully so.)

Joe, pictured front row, third from right #32, was an outstanding running back for head coach John Senesky’s first varsity team, in 1977.

There’s not a day I don’t remember and cherish the memories of growing up with Joe and Paul, along with Tommy Smith, Rich Baker, Teddy Zangari and Mark Veniero, along with so many others.

Memories, May be beautiful and yet, What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
.

Smith, or Smitty has we all called him, was devastated to learn of Joe’s passing.

“I’m remembering Joe fondly on this sad day,” wrote Tom in a text to me. “I had some epic battles with Joe over the years.  I guess he’s in a long line of guys that I battled with – but we always circled back around and knew we had each other’s back when we were over matched (in basketball games) against East Orange, Orange, Essex Catholic etc. I can remember really working with him on ball handling drills when we were seniors – always trying to “soften up” his rock hard hands.

One little distinction about Joe – it’s a funny one and I can remember joking with him about at one of the reunions. He’s the only player I ever saw spin the ball the wrong way off the backboard from the standing position. He was so excitable when he played – He got an offensive rebound and powered it back up and spun it the wrong way off the glass.  The rim was left.  He spun it right.

“As the play went down court the other way – I remember standing there with my hands in the air in disbelief.  I never let him forget that one. He would smile and tease with me right back. 

” Very sad time for his family and close friends.”

When it came to music, Joe, Paul and I LOVED Earth, Wind and Fire, especially the song ‘Serpentine Fire’, but just about any song by E,W andF resonated for us.

Since I used to play the music for the Belleville High varsity basketball team before they came out for warmups, it was especially important to Paul and Joe that the right song would be on.

And with Joe, just about any song from the R&B era of the late 70’s worked.

This was the time of going to clubs like Butterfields, Fire and Ice and Crackers, where disco music reigned. Kool & the Gang would always be on the car radio, and Joe insisted we play the urban station WBLS, an old AM channel that always had some good tunes.

It was either music, or sports, for Joe.

We’d all go bowling at Brunswick Lanes, or to the Essex County Tournament championship game at Walsh Gym, on the Seton Hall campus, and, of course, the Saturday evening parties at someone’s house, in Belleville.

One time, I heard the song ‘Walking in Rhythm’ by a group called the ‘Blackbyrds’, and mentioned that song to him. Joe, with that big grin, said ‘The Blackbyrds are bad’, which, back then, meant they were really good.

Through the power of social media, Joe and I were able to catch up some of the past year. He lived in New York City and, to be honest, still looked the same as he did in high school.

But Joe had become ill, and when I put up a post back in June of 2019, wishing him well, he wrote me back, saying,

” Yaaaay !!! 😄Bravo! Brilliant Mike! Excellent choice and the first time I’ve smiled today listening to that. You were a great joy to have as a friend growing up. Lots of laughter. Cherished times. The sports and all. But your writing has always been thoughtful, insightful and considerate as were the kind words you shared above. Thank you for sharing them and for your prayers. God bless you friend 🙏

Joe’s faith in the Lord was always a part of his nature, and I’m confident he’s in the comfort of the Lord’s Spirit now, and is pain free.

The social media reaction to Joe’s passing was one of sadness, but reflection of a wonderful man. Joe was class personified. He had a smile for everyone.

When Thurman Munson had died, I remember Billy Martin’s comment in the paper, when he said, “I’ll cry again.”

Rest well, my friend. Thanks for all the great times.

Joe, I will cry again, but will also smile at the amazing memories of growing up in the ultimate era for friendship.

Love you, Brother. Walk in Rhythm and keep those tunes spinning. I’ll see you again.

So it’s the laughter, We will remember, Whenever we remember, The way we were.

By mike051893

Our Hornet Family Fights Together: 5th annual Breast Cancer Awareness Game by Passaic Valley High girls’ soccer program will honor survivors, and remember the fallen on Oct. 5, at 1:30 p.m.; McNeill family matriarch, Wendy McNeill, a PV staple, to be honored, along with her family

Passaic Valley High will once again honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as the girls’ soccer program takes a lead role.

Head coach Kathleen Berthold, a PV grad and former standout student-athlete for the Hornets, has done a tremendous job in putting together a special day where the players can honor those who have battled breast cancer, as well as continuing the need for awareness.

Passaic Valley’s girls’ soccer program has done a great job in supporting Breast Cancer Awareness.

“On Oct. 5, we’ll be playing Cedar Grove, in the 5th annual Breast Cancer Awareness Game,” said Berthold. “Cedar Grove has been a part of this event with us since the beginning. This year’s theme is ‘Our Hornet Family Fights Together.'”

The opening ceremony starts at 1:30 pm, according to Berthold, with the game against Cedar Grove to follow at 2 p.m., at the Passaic Valley varsity field adjacent to the school, in Little Falls.

“The National Anthem will be sung by someone from the Passaic Valley community, and the PV junior varsity and/or freshman cheerleaders will be on hand,” said Berthold. “We will then announce our guests and support the fighters, honor the survivors, and remember the taken. We’ll release balloons as a symbol of support, and joining the annual campaign to increase awareness.”

Among the former Hornets expected to be on hand will be Kayla Campbell and Brittany Bove, to participate and honor their mothers.

The McNeill family, left to right, Meredith, Wendy, Roger, Erin and Erin’s husband, Gary Wilks, along with Erin’s two children, Emma and Cassie.

Also participating will be the McNeill family, Roger and Wendy McNeill and their children, Erin and Meredith, along with Erin’s two young daughters, Emma and Cassie, and Erin’s husband, Gary Wilks.

“This part is special,” said Berthold, who graduated Passaic Valley High with Erin McNeill, now Erin McNeill-Wilks. “I  spoke to Erin about it, and she is excited about the event.

“The McNeills are a true Hornet family that fights together.”

Roger McNeill is a 1971 graduate of PV while wife Wendy graduated PV a year later. As mentioned, Erin graduated with Berthold in 2000 and Meredith was graduated in 2005. The late Colin McNeill, the family’s youngest sibling, graduated PV in 2008.


Wendy McNeill was diagnosed with breast cancer this past February. She is currently cancer free, following surgery.

Erin McNeill Wilks, who works in the Passaic Valley High school system, expressed her heartfelt thanks to the community, which has been her home for her entire life.

“As many local people are aware, our family has been through some very difficult times in recent years,” she said. “And the amazing people in this  Passaic Valley community have consistently rallied around us with support, in our times of need.

“That remained true this past year when my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It was difficult news to learn and another challenge to confront, but my Mom is strong in faith and constitution.

“The prayers, love and support from family, friends and the PV community have once again held us up and carried us all through.”



By mike051893