Recipients Formally Honored at NJYS Awards Dinner
New Jersey Youth Soccer held its 30th Annual Awards Dinner this past Friday night, where it honored many players, coaches and members of the soccer community. Included in the ceremony was the announcement of its 2017 NJYS scholarship recipients.
Earning the Jeanine Willis Scholarship was Giana Pittaro and Ryan Eusebi. The Brett Fenster Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Megan Foley and Kevin Bretz, while the Allan B. Sinclair Memorial Scholarship was received by Jenna Mandell and Vincent Lamina.
JEANINE WILLIS SCHOLARSHIP
This scholarship was established by NJ Youth Soccer to honor the numerous contributions that Jeanine Willis made to youth soccer in the state of New Jersey and beyond. She was NJ Youth Soccer’s first Executive Director, and she also served as a member of the NJYS Board of Directors. Each year, NJ Youth Soccer awards this scholarship to deserving college-bound high school seniors who have participated in the NJ Youth Soccer State Cup Program.
Giana Pittaro began playing soccer at the age of four-years-old. From the recreation fields in Hamilton to the Region 1 Player Pool, her soccer journey has played an important role in shaping her into the person she has become today. Over the past 13 years, she has played for Match Fit Academy, New Jersey Rush and the Hamilton Wildcats, competing multiple times in the NJYS State Cups.
“I have learned from soccer some very important traits such as patience, attention to detail, hard work, leadership, preparedness, flexibility and teamwork,” said Pittaro.
Pittaro says that soccer has instilled in her the drive and passion to constantly work towards being the best player and person that she can be. These values have also carried over to her academic work, where she has excelled with a high class ranking and 4.82 GPA. This fall, Pittaro has committed to play soccer at Yale University.
Ryan Eusebi began playing soccer at the age of four, and he has been involved in recreation and competitive club soccer ever since. He has called the Hazlet United Soccer Association his club home for the past 10 years, and he has enjoyed much success on the field while also learning many important life lessons off the field. One in particular that sticks out to him is that “life doesn’t always go your way.” His approach is to tackle each situation in life by working as hard as possible while having no regrets since you gave it your all. He feels that you learn from each experience and should look to improve upon it the next time around.
Eusebi is known for an extremely strong work ethic. He spends countless hours practicing ball skills and working on his conditioning. A dedicated student, he became the valedictorian of his eighth-grade class and was admitted to the prestigious High Technology High School, where he is both a Commended Scholar and a National Hispanic Scholar. Eusebi is now seeking to further his education at an Ivy League university and has submitted applications to multiple schools.
BRETT FENSTER MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
Brett Fenster played soccer from the age of five until he graduated from high school. He began participating in the Recreation Program in West Windsor before advancing to play travel and high school soccer. His love for the sport soon flourished, along with his interest in the arts and humanity. Fenster passed away in 2010 at the age of 23, at which time the scholarship was enacted.
Megan Foley has been involved with soccer since she was four-years-old. She played for West Windsor Plainsboro Soccer Association, Match Fit Academy and Mercer FC. Additionally, she played high school soccer at West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional High School. Due to some personal challenges, she eventually shifted her focus from player to coach. She is now actively involved in supporting her teammates from the sideline, and she also coaches at the youth level. In the classroom, she has proven to be equally successful. She currently holds a 3.99 GPA and has applied to a number of universities on both the east and west coast.
“Every hardship can be worked through with a bit of optimism and resolve,” said Foley. “Although I can no longer play soccer at the collegiate level, all the life lessons I have learned through soccer have prepared me for college and have ultimately helped shape me into the person that I am today and will be tomorrow.”
Kevin Bretz began playing soccer at the age of six for the Bloomfield Soccer Club. A key contributor for his team, he was known for fast feet, excellent ball skills and unselfish play. Because of a personal issue that was discovered during a game, he was temporarily forced away from the field. Through the support of his family and friends, along with a positive attitude, he eventually returned to the field to continue playing the game he loved. Overcoming that setback also helped him make great strides academically, and he is currently applying to a number of different colleges in New Jersey and along the East Coast.
“My love of the sport and desire to play again motivated me in my darkest hours,” said Bretz.
ALLAN B. SINCLAIR MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
The Allan B. Sinclair Memorial Scholarship was established to honor the many contributions that Allan B. Sinclair made to youth soccer. Sinclair had an extensive career with NJ Youth Soccer, serving as NJYS President for nearly 25 years before working as the NJYS Executive Director from 2008-2012. His time and dedication to youth soccer was mostly done as a volunteer, not only in the state but also in the region.
Jenna Mandell was introduced to soccer through toddler programs and recreation soccer. She then progressed to play competitively for the Mount Olive Soccer Club’s travel team while also playing varsity soccer for Mount Olive High School. Through the years, she has truly realized the importance of the team concept.
“Being able to work with players of all skill levels, personalities and social groups has provided the foundation to work well with others outside of the sports environment,” said Mandell. “It is important to show leadership skills, which requires guidance, decision-making and confidence.”
Her leadership skills and commitment to volunteer work have been demonstrated through her involvement in mentoring young referees and players. She also serves as the Secretary of the Mount Olive High School Key Club, which focuses on the needs of the community. Additionally, she is the Vice President of the Science National Honor Society, where she oversees tutoring initiatives and group events.
Mandell also realizes the importance of giving back to the community, and she helps organize such initiatives as Safe Trick-or-Treat events, Relay for Life and Curesaders. In the classroom, she maintains a 4.38 GPA and is ranked in the top 10% of her class. She is currently considering colleges in the New England area, as well as others along the East Coast.
Vincent Lamina is an avid soccer player who started participating in the sport at five-years-old. Currently, he plays for SJEB Rush and Bishop Eustace Preparatory School. Soccer has remained a consistent part of his life, and it has played a key role in shaping him into the person he is today. He says that soccer helped him develop characteristics like patience, open-mindedness, acceptance, integrity and self-discipline.
As a team leader, Mandell understands the importance of leading by example, which is exemplified by his commitment and dedication. His leadership skills are also demonstrated through his involvement with the TOPSoccer program at the Marlton Recreation Council Sports Unity Program. In the classroom, he maintains a 3.4 GPA and is planning to play college soccer at a school in the Northeast.
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