The Class of 2020 abruptly left “Kansas” and was thrown into a whole new “Oz” of remote learning and unprecedented graduations. One group of soccer seniors demonstrated heart, courage, and brains to achieve the amazing.
This school year, Kittatinny Regional High School (KRHS) saw one of its most successful girls’ soccer teams in its history. The team was one of those celestial combinations of exceptionally hard-working, determined athletes, a stellar coaching staff, and an uncanny will to win. The stars aligned. Their “heart” and their courage on the field was clear to see, but there was something else about this team: brains. Three of the team’s seniors will be attending Ivy League schools in the fall, and another will be going to Fordham University on a soccer scholarship.
KRHS valedictorian Alyssa Amorim will head to Dartmouth College, Zoe Lickburner will be off to Cornell University, Ava Brook will be heading to the University of Pennsylvania, and Olivia Redden will be pulling out the books and lacing up her soccer cleats at Fordham.
“It has been a pleasure to watch these girls on the soccer field,” said Kittatinny principal Brian Bosworth. “They have had so much success and have elevated our girls’ soccer program to one of the top programs in the area. But their work ethic in the classroom was even better. It is always nice to see our students be able to continue their academic careers at their dream schools. To have three seniors on the same team attend three different Ivy League schools and a fourth attend a prestigious school like Fordham to play soccer is an incredible accomplishment.”
Jeanette Spooner is a health and phys-ed teacher at Kittatinny. This past season, she was the assistant varsity girls soccer coach and head JV coach. This year, she will take over the helm as head coach as Matt Majka steps down to spend more time with his budding young soccer players at home.
“The KRHS girls soccer team has taken three league titles over the past four years and won two league Sportsmanship Awards in the past three years,” Spooner said. “The impact these seniors have had on the soccer program is immeasurable. They are the definition of scholar athletes. They never step down from a challenge on or off the field and have paved the way for younger players leading by example and always putting the team first. We have been very fortunate to have players of this caliber not just in terms of their athleticism but speaking on their character and ability to exude positivity, kindness and support for those around them all while hitting the books hard and maintaining excellent grades.
“They are the players you want on the field when the game is on the line because you know you can trust them to go to battle until the final whistle blows. Their resiliency, focus and determination has propelled them forward academically as well throughout their time at KRHS. These athletes are working out when no one is looking, when practice is over and they are studying in their free time. It is what sets them apart from the rest. As multi-sport athletes and members of many school clubs, National Honor Society etc. these ladies have truly left their mark on KRHS and now we get to cheer them on as they enter challenging collegiate programs.”
Majka agrees. “The post high school success of these girls is just further proof of how easy my job was over the past few years,” he said. “When you have kids in your program that demand perfection of themselves in every aspect of their lives, it is easy to motivate them. These girls are all very intelligent, which really helps in soccer, but they are also willing to do the work necessary to ensure they accomplish their goals. Being student athletes, who performed at such a high level both on the field and in the classroom, required a total commitment from each of them. I know for a fact that they sacrificed time with friends, social gatherings, and most importantly, sleep “
“One thing that really stood out to me about this year’s season as opposed to my other seasons at KRHS was the team unity,” Amorim said. “We all really connected personally, and I think that definitely showed on the field. We worked for and with each other constantly, in practice and during games. We played our hearts out every single time we stepped on the field. I definitely had some of my most memorable moments and games this year, specifically the penalty shoot-out win against Kinnelon.”
‘A killer season’
Redden agreed this season was unique.
“We may not have won states, but we had a killer season,” she said. “Our freshmen had a huge role this season walking into a small program and they stepped up to the challenge Our leadership this year was great and we really came together as a team.”
Lockburner concurred that the team had a lot of talented players and said it was an honor to mentor the younger players.
“The senior class this year was eager to mentor the younger players and create a positive, exciting team environment,” she said. “Everyone had so much fun this year and made unforgettable memories, such as winning very important games and our celebration dances on the bus rides home.”
Brook called the season the best of her four years. “We weren’t just a team. We were a family,” she said.
Brook will be trading in her cleats for oars and plans to row for the University of Pennsylvania crew team plus is considering playing on a club soccer team. She intends to major in molecular biology and biochemistry or major in business administration.
“No matter how steep the hill is she is going to climb it, and she will lead the way extending her hand for her teammates to follow,” Spooner said
“Getting into Dartmouth meant the absolute world to me,” Amorim said. “I was completely shocked when I got the acceptance letter and cried tears of joy for about 20 minutes (no exaggeration).”
Though she won’t be playing soccer at Dartmouth, she plans to join the water polo club while majoring in psychology and going on to pursue her doctorate in that field.
“Amorim is was extremely fit and ready to work on the field as a versatile player,” Spooner said. “Academically, she has gone above and beyond to set up her path to success.”
Redden said she worked extremely hard since she began playing soccer to earn an athletic scholarship
“I am very thankful to have amazing coaches, teammates, family and friends who have supported me through everything,” she said. “This opportunity means the world for me and I can’t wait for Fordham.”
Though she is undecided as to a major, Redden is seriously considering a business major. She said she is going to need to stay focused and work hard to balance the academic and athletics.
Spooner said Redden is “supportive, caring, inclusive and respectful with all of her peers, teachers and teammates. Her drive to always do her very best in all aspects of her life has helped her crush her goals throughout high school.”
Lockburner said her acceptance to Cornell has “opened doors to so many new opportunities and will provide me with an experience that will support me in achieving my goals. I am so excited to meet my fellow students and continue to play club soccer.”
She plans to major in agricultural sciences.
“Lockburner worked hard to perfect her skills year after year and her senior year she was a warrior on the field for us,” Spooner said. “She has that same focus academically and has achieved high grades throughout high school managing her time wisely in order to give her all in each area of her life.”
Teammate Jordan Boersig has signed to play soccer at DeSales University, and Katie Callahan will also be attending DeSales to play lacrosse.
“On the field, this is the most accomplished class in the history of the program,” Majka said. “To think that they accomplished all of this while excelling academically lets you know the caliber of student-athlete that we were working with.”
“We weren’t just a team. We were a family.” --Ava Brook