ABINGTON >> Grace Whitney has always loved sports and always played sports.
It just took the Abington senior a little while to find her sport.
“I never really found a sport,” Whitney said. “I played so many sports — soccer, tennis, lacrosse, swimming, basketball. You name it, I probably played it.
“When I was in ninth grade, my cousin, (current Canisius College women’s volleyball player) Leah Simmons, said to me, ‘Try (volleyball). You’re tall; you’ll be good at it.’ So I tried it.
“I wasn’t that good at first, but I got better and I really liked it. So here I am.”
Whitney proved to be good enough at her new sport to lead Abington to a 17-2 record this fall. On Wednesday, she and three other Abington classmates signed their National Letters of Intent to play sports at Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference schools.
Whitney, a middle hitter, signed with West Chester University, where she will continue her volleyball career.
Also during Wednesday’s signing ceremony in the high school auditorium, softball slugger Olivia Bernstein announced she had selected West Chester, girls basketball co-captain Sam Brusha committed to Millersville, and baseball pitching ace J.P. Nolan signed with East Stroudsburg.
Whitney said she will probably have a double major at West Chester, with one of them being criminal justice, as she has an eye on an FBI career. She also considered Widener, but was more interested in West Chester because of the bigger size of the school at the atmosphere around campus.
Bernstein, who also selected West Chester, was well recruited by college softball programs because of her versatility. She said she most enjoys the catching position she currently plays in high school, but, with her Abington Angels club team, she has seen action at just about every position.
“I try to be as well-rounded as possible,” Bernstein said. “It came in handy my freshman year when I tried out (at Abington High). I just wanted to play. I never played shortstop before, but I had to do it because I wanted to play varsity as a freshman. In the end, it helped me.”
Bernstein said she sold herself as a utility player to many of the schools that had recruited her – including Kutztown and Millersville, as well as other PSAC schools.
“I didn’t want to just single myself out as being at a certain position,” said Bernstein, who is planning on a business-related major. “I prefer catcher over all the others, but I just like to play.”
In Brusha, meanwhile, the Millersville women’s basketball team will be getting a player who has continually improved her all-around skills and established herself as a team leader. A co-captain last year, she will return to that role this year, as the Ghosts return four starters from a team that won the District One Class 6A championship last winter.
“It was a long process,” Brusha said of her college decision. “In the end, my parents told me, ‘Pick a school that you actually like, not just because of the sport.’ So I really liked Millersville, and that’s why I picked it.”
Brusha projects as a shooting guard or small forward at the collegiate level. She plans to major in criminal psychology.
“Making the (college) decision now takes a lot of pressure off, because now I could just enjoy my last season with the Lady Ghosts,” Brusha said. “I’m super-excited, because I think it’s going to be a strong season.
“I was a captain last year, and so was Britney James. We’re going to be captains again, and Kassondra Brown is going to be a junior captain. Honestly, I think the dynamics of the team are really good. We’re playing well together, and I think everyone respects each other, which makes it really easy when it comes to leadership.”
Nolan, who was recruited to pitch for the East Stroudsburg baseball team, also served as a team captain during his junior season at Abington. As much as his talent, it was also his leadership and work ethic that convinced his coaches that he could be successful at the next level.
Nolan has been pitching ever since he started playing baseball at age 5, but he said it was relatively recently that he began thinking about the prospect of doing it in college.
“I never really thought I could until I guess freshman or sophomore year,” said Nolan, who also considered Arcadia University and Hood College. “The coaches told me that if I just work hard and go in the weight room, I’d be able to do it.”
In his final season at Abington this spring, Nolan figures to get the call to pitch against the Ghosts’ toughest league opponents. It’s a challenge he’s looking forward to facing.
“I think we’re going to do well,” Nolan said. “I’m expecting a successful year.”
One of the highlights of Wednesday’s ceremony was a speech from one of the Abington’s all-time greatest athletes, 2009 graduate Maddy Evans. The former professional soccer player, who is now an assistant women’s soccer coach at West Chester University, told the student-athletes assembled before her to remember three important things when they begin their college careers.
“Find your routine, find your people, but remember what makes you special,” Evans said. “… There’s a reason you’re signing your national letter of intent today. You’re ready to play at the next level.
“You have the ability, you have the work ethic. You have the intangibles. … Don’t lose sight of what makes you special as a player and person. When in doubt, draw inspiration from what put you in this room today.”
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