EA athletes see their Division I dreams come true

With family members, coaches, teachers, and some classmates sitting in the bleachers and cheering them on, 10 Episcopal Academy students signed national letters of intent during a Nov. 12 ceremony in the school’s competition gymnasium.

National signing day capped quite a whirlwind week for Christy Palazzese and Ali Rushton, the co-captains of the Episcopal Academy field hockey team that capped an undefeated Inter-Ac season with a first-place finish in the PAISAA tournament.

The pair who have helped to lead EA to a magical 2014 season will soon trade in their Episcopal Academy blue for two different shades of blue on opposite sides of one of the most intense rivalries in college sports: Duke (Palazzese) vs. North Carolina (Rushton).

“It’s going to weird, but fun to be rivals,’ said Rushton.

Palazzese added, “We’ll be 10 minutes away from each other, so we can hang out more even though we’ll be at different schools.’

The 10 Episcopal seniors who signed binding commitments with Division I colleges and universities on Nov. 12 are:

– Jane Crager, University of Michigan (women’s lacrosse)

– Lily Crager, University of Michigan (women’s lacrosse)

– Chris Friedman, University of Hartford (men’s lacrosse)

– Maria Kilcullen, Loyola (Md.) (women’s basketball)

– Genevieve McCormick, Army (women’s tennis)

– Josh Owsiany, Duke University (men’s diving)

– Christy Palazzese, Duke University (field hockey)

– Colin Reder, University of North Carolina (men’s lacrosse)

– Ali Rushton, University of North Carolina (field hockey)

– Curtis Zappala, University of Maryland (men’s lacrosse)

“It takes tremendous perseverance to reach this level of accomplishment. I am as proud of who they are as I am of their achievement,’ says T.J. Locke, Episcopal Academy’s Greville Haslam Head of School.

Josh Owsiany, Episcopal’s record-setting diver who has won Easterns four years in a row, will also be a Duke Blue Devil in the fall. His 573 points set a La Salle University pool record and an Easterns meet record last year.

“I just felt that Duke was the best combination of academics and athletics,’ says Owsiany. “It’s a great school and I am so excited to be going there. And it’s awesome that I’ll already someone down there with Christy (Palazzese) going to Duke too.’

Palazzese, Owsiany, and Rushton aren’t the only ones who will have a familiar face nearby in college. In fact, for three of EA’s new Division I signees, National Signing Day was a true family affair. Sisters Lily and Jane Crager both signed to play lacrosse at the University of Michigan, while EA’s top female singles player Genevieve McCormick has committed to Army, where her older brother Harrison is one of the Cadets’ top male players.

“It’ll be nice to have a year together with my brother at West Point,’ says McCormick, sporting an Army sweatshirt and camouflage baseball cap. “My grandfather was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force, so the military life is common in my family. I’m really excited to be going to West Point.’

The Cragers, both first-team All-Inter-Ac performers last year who will serve as captains for the EA 2015 girls lacrosse program, are both headed to Michigan. Jane Crager is a midfielder and defender, while Lily is an attacker for an EA team that went 16-3 overall last season and tied with Agnes Irwin for the 2014 Inter-Ac crown, the 10th consecutive year that EA has either shared or outright won the league title.

“I am very excited for both Lily and Jane to be headed to a big-time school like Michigan,’ says Episcopal lacrosse coach Josie Ferri. “They are both extremely aggressive, strong and relentless players, and I know they will have an immediate impact in the Big 10. I am so proud of them both for all they’ve achieved here at Episcopal, and I know they will lead our program to another successful season this spring as the 2015 captains.’

Meanwhile, Andy Hayes’ Episcopal boys lacrosse team continues to produce Division I lacrosse players as three more Churchmen inked with D-I schools in the high-scoring Zappala, the super-steady goaltender Reder, and the gifted midfielder Friedman.

“Today is a very special day for Curtis, Colin, and Chris and their families. I am extremely proud of these young men for all of their hard work and sacrifice to reach their goals of playing Division I lacrosse,’ says Hayes, “Maryland, North Carolina, and Hartford are getting exceptional student-athletes who will make an impact on their respective programs.’

There was a common denominator among most of the 10 EA Division I signees. Eight of them signed with colleges along the Eastern Seaboard, which will allow their parents to see them play often in college. Even the lone exception, the Cragers, will travel back east for Big 10 road games vs. Rutgers, Penn State, and Maryland.

For Loyola-bound Maria Kilcullen, her chosen college offers a mix of proximity, athletics, and academics.

“Loyola is a really good school, plays in the Patriot League, and is only two hours from home so my parents can come to all of my games,’ says Kilcullen, a first-team All-Inter-Ac wing who plays killer D and averaged 7.4 points and 3.2 assists per game last season.

This is only the beginning of EA student-athletes committing to colleges. The school plans to officially announce some Ivy League commitments in mid-December and will have other athletes commit to other outstanding universities in the coming weeks and months.

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