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VHS Athletes In Quarantine


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For soccer players like Declan Maisano, seen here last fall, spring is the best time to get recruited to play college soccer. But now that spring soccer is canceled, he has to stay sharp for when games resume.

With the closing of all gyms, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it much harder for many people to stay in shape. But for many Verona High School athletes, quarantine stands no chance against their drive to get better.

“I see this time as an advantage to me because I am getting stronger and gaining the weight I need to be before my summer starts,” said junior left-handed pitcher and University of Virginia commit Pierce Coppola. This summer travel season is important for Coppola and the rest of the prospects around the country who have dreams of hearing their name called in the 2021 Major League Baseball draft. They will be heavily scouted by MLB teams throughout the summer. The draft is held every June and high school seniors are eligible. But if Coppola decides to enroll at powerhouse Virginia, he would have to play three years of college ball to be eligible for the draft again.

Like many young athletes, Coppola has a makeshift gym in his garage where he lifts regularly which he may not have been able to do during the daily grind of the high school baseball season which has been postponed. Along with lifting, Coppola is working to keep his arm sharp everyday.

“I have been throwing weighted balls five times a week, throwing two bullpens a week in his yard, and long tossing two times a week which all helps with arm strength and velocity,” he said. Last year, Coppola struck 101 batters in 61 innings, allowing only 23 earned runs. According to Prep Baseball Report, Coppola is the #7 ranked junior in New Jersey and the #2 ranked left-handed pitcher.

For junior Melanie Naeris and the softball team, Coach Patricia Hemsley-Cartotto is sending the girls softball-specific workouts to stay in shape.

“At least twice a week, I hit off the tee and pitch in my backyard,” said Naeris. She led the Hillbillies in at least eight different offensive categories according to NJ.com last year, including hits(30), RBI(18), and home runs(5).

Along with running as much as she can, Naeris’s club team, the Morris County Belles, holds workouts on Zoom three times a week.

Sticking to spring sports, the Super Essex Conference has been holding a team weekly challenge competition for golf, senior Christian Dionisio tells us.

“It includes different putting and chipping challenges that can be done inside,” said Dionisio. New Jersey opened up golf courses this past weekend, which will allow him and other golfers to break out their drivers and work on their complete game.

Along with practicing golf, Dionisio is also working towards basic training this summer at the United States Military Academy.

“I have to show up on the first day and be able to meet certain physical fitness standards,” he said. To prepare, Dionisio is working out everyday in the gym in his garage and running three times a week. After working out, he enjoys a banana and peanut butter protein shake.

For junior soccer player Declan Maisano, the spring season is the best time to get recruited to play college soccer. But now that spring soccer is canceled, he has to stay sharp for when games resume.

“I constantly am doing drills outside whether it be passing a ball off the wall or shooting on a backyard net,” said Maisano. Along with these drills, Maisano works out daily in the gym in his basement. He also goes on a run or bike ride every other day. Quarantine has also changed the way he eats.

“I usually eat out often but because restaurants are closed I’m actually able to eat home prepared meals that are healthier and better for fitness,” he said.

Finally, junior Jessie Loudon who is a defensive specialist for the volleyball team has been staying active while quarantined.

“When it’s nice out I do try to go outside and pass a volleyball to myself or play with my sisters. We also have a volleyball net that we also use to play mini games which helps to keep my family moving and just doing something,” said Loudon.

This past season, Loudon led the team with 318 digs and was third on the team with 182 service points. Like the rest of the dedicated VHS athletes, she has been doing exercises every night to stay in shape.

For a month and a half, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) was hoping to resume all spring sports at some point later this spring but Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday that New Jersey schools will remain closed for the school year. This means there is no hope for sports to resume this spring. This surely won’t stop these athletes in their preparation for the 2020-21 school year.

Declan Maisano photo copyright Jack O’Neill. Used by permission.

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