HORSEHEADS - Eight athletes from Horseheads High School signed to play in college Wednesday at Horseheads High School. Three softball players, four lacrosse players, a soccer player and a basketball player made college decisions for the Blue Raiders with seven out of the eight heading to Division I schools.
Therese (Tess) Cites: Villanova University (Division I) – Softball
Tess has been on the varsity softball team for three years and played first base last season, making zero errors. Tess also played varsity basketball last year, earning the Coach’s Award. Cites made all state the last two years in softball and was part of sectional championship team in 2018. Cites a grand slam in the sectional finals in addition to two home runs in the regional finals.
"It was just so amazing to see all of the hard work paying off," said Cites. "All the hours of practice and going to lessons and tournaments every weekend. All of the relief. Now it's just about having fun every day."
Cites said the coaching staff at Villanova was a big factor in her decision to choose the university along with other factors.
"When I first met the coach, we just clicked," said Cites. "I loved the student life, the campus is amazing. The support for the students at Villanova, the up and coming softball team, all the players and the academics. I just loved every part of it."
Cites has high hopes for the Blue Raiders softball team in the spring after falling to Corning in the sectional finals last season.
"Definitely sectional finals," said Cites. "I don't think a state championship is out of reach at all. I think that if we come together with teamwork, hard work and leadership, I think a state championship is definitely in view."
Gavin Elston: Manhattan College (Division I) – Lacrosse
Gavin has scored 99 goals and 53 assists for 152 points going into his senior season as a midfielder for the Blue Raiders. He is a two time 1st-Team All-League Midfielder, and led Division II in goals scored in 2019 and was named to the All-State 8th Team in 2019. Elston also has been a key contributor on the Horseheads football team.
"It was amazing," said Elston of signing. "I just can't wait to move on, to start a new chapter at Manhattan College. It felt great to sign and getting that over with today. It was a great feeling."
Finding a coaching staff that he like was important to Elston in choosing a school.
"I fell in love with the coaches talking to them," said Elston. "That was big for me, finding a nice coach."
Elston will join former Corning Hawk Nik Nickerson at Manhattan College, which will help ease the transition.
"I think going down there and having Nik already be down there, I think that will help me a lot getting used to the team and being down there."
Abigail Packard: University of Massachusetts Lowell (Division I) – Softball
Packard has earned 9 Varsity letters along with three years of Varsity softball. Packard made the All STAC West Team 2018 and 2019. Packard is also a member of the National Honor Society, Vice President of student Council, and 2020 Varsity H President. Packard was part of the the Horseheads sectional championship in 2017.
"I was so excited," said Packard about signing. "It felt like everything I've been working for is just paying off and it's a dream come true. It's something I wanted since I was a little kid, so it's just a really big day."
Packard plans to study physical therapy while at Massachusetts Lowell.
"It's a beautiful campus," Packard said. "They a great physical therapy program and I love the coaches and it's a great team."
Maiah Skakal: Saint Peter’s University (Division I) - Softball
Skakal has been the starting catcher for varsity softball for the past 3 season and didn't commit an error last season. Skakal has been a STAC All-Star the last 3 seasons and received the Wayne Coburn award last season and Scholar Athlete Award in 2018.
"It felt great honestly," said Skakal of signing. "Just knowing that now it's official, it feels so real. I can't wait to go to St. Peters and live the college life."
Skakal was one of three total members of the Blue Raiders softball team to sign to play at the next level.
"I think we have a lot of good softball coaches in the area," said Skakal. "This high school specifically we have so many talented players. We work so well together, the chemistry on the team is great. Everyone works hard. There's a lot of leaders in the program and we get the job done when we need to."
Skakal had multiple reason for choosing St. Peter's.
"I loved the coach, the campus is beautiful and being right out side of a big city and just the change in scenery, I'm really excited for it," Skakal said.
Avery Snyder: Coastal Carolina University (Division I) – Girls Lacrosse
Snyder, a three sport athlete at Horseheads, Avery was also awarded The Elmira Kiwanis Club award, Bee Stephens Female Athlete of the Year Award, was on Under Armour All America Team, US Lacrosse National Team and was a 2018 & 2019 Section IV ALL team selection. Snyder scored her 100th goal this past season for the Blue Raiders.
"It was awesome being here with all of the other seven people singing was great" said Snyder. "I've grown up with them, so it's amazing to be by their side signing."
Snyder knew when she stepped on campus that Coastal Carolina would be her choice.
"I knew I was in love with the whole lacrosse program, the coaching staff and the academics there," said Snyder. "I really love everything about coastal."
Snyder is a key member of the Horseheads volleyball team that is playing in the regional semifinals Saturday after knocking off Corning in the sectional finals.
"This week has been pretty hectic, but it's been amazing," Snyder said. "All the energy that's been around with my friends and family, it's been a great week."
McKenna Woodworth: Gannon University (Division II) – Girls Lacrosse
McKenna was awarded the Elmira Kiwanis Club award, Outstanding Spring Female Athlete, 2018 Section IV All Star Second team, 2019 All Star First team and team MVP in 2019. Woodworth has won three sectional titles with the Blue Raiders.
Signing to play at Gannon in front of family and friends put everything into prospective for Woodworth.
"It was just kind of surreal moment," said Woodworth. "Just hearing what my coach had to say (about me) and all my hard work has paid off to get me to this moment. I'm really excited to continue to play the game that I love."
Academics were a big factor in Woodworth's choise of Gannon University. Woodworth plans to study occupational therapy.
"I really loved the campus and I got an opportunity to meet with all of the academic advisors there and I loved the program that I would be majoring in," said Woodworth. "That's what attracted me."
Jillian Casey - Quinnipiac University (Division I), Basketball
Casey has been a focal point for the Horseheads girls basketball offense for a while and has been a part of BNY Select, an elite training and AAU program.
Horseheads head girls basketball coach Andy Scott called Casey the 'most dangerous and most prolific shooter to come out of Horseheads.'
"She has played every position based on the team's need, and never has complained. She is true team player, and a class act person," said Scott.
Casey picked the Division I School after a visit to campus.
"When I got there, it was such a beautiful campus and I felt like I fit right in," said Casey. "The coaching staff was amazing, the players were amazing and I just felt like I could live there and have a great career there."
Miranda Novitsky – Canisius (Division I), Soccer
Novitsky has been a four-year starter on the Girls Varsity Soccer team in addition to playing with GPS in Binghamton for travel soccer.
Novitsky felt a connection to Canisius after a visit to campus.
"I really liked the coaches and I had a bond with all of the teammates and when I was there it just felt like home," said Novitsky. "I loved the atmosphere."
Novitsky had 11 goals in the most recent season for the Blue Raiders.
"She has exceptional foot and ball skills, can play anywhere on the field, and is an excellent one-on-one defender," Horseheads head girls soccer coach Lee Spencer said. "Canisius is getting not only a great soccer player but an outstanding individual."