MONROE, CT — Seven of Masuk High School’s star athletes signed letters of intent to play for colleges and universities upon graduation during a ceremony in the media center Wednesday afternoon.
Girls lacrosse players Lilly Cameron, Sophia Clark and Samantha Henry participated in the ceremony, along with softball player Natalie Lieto, baseball player Justin Feinstein and boys lacrosse player Ethan Palma. Hannah Dorney signed her letter earlier in the day, because she had a soccer game that afternoon.
In front of the room, the remaining six athletes sat behind a long table covered with a red and white “Masuk Panthers tablecloth, the Panther logo served as the backdrop. Families, friends, administrators and coaches filled rows of chairs, and several stood, to witness the event, some taking video and photos.
“They’ve been stellar Panthers and they’re going to be stellar at the next level as well,” Principal Steve Swensen said from the podium. “But we’re here to honor them today. On behalf of Craig Semple, the athletic department, Masuk, Masuk staff, I just want to congratulate all these athletes on making their decisions today.”
“Student athletes are so important to schools,” he continued. “It takes a special commitment on the part of the athletes to be able to perform at the next level. We’re thankful for everything that they’ve given to the program.”
Swensen also thanked their parents, friends, coaches and teammates for helping the young athletes reach their potential and for supporting them by attending the ceremony.
Dorney will play soccer for Central Connecticut State University. She is currently a team captain for the Masuk Panthers. When she signed her letter earlier, her coach, Kate Pellegrino, praised Dorney for her dedication, talked about what she means to the team and how she influences those around her to be better.
Dorney was named to the All -Conference 1st team two years in a row.
During the afternoon ceremony, coaches took turns coming to the podium to talk about their players. Below is a listing of the players’ names and schools they committed to, as well as what their coaches said about them Wednesday.
Girls Field Hockey Coach Rob Troesser introduced Cameron, Clark and Henry.
Lilly Cameron, Xavier University
Over our past two seasons we’ve had a little bit of a rocky start. Each season had some injuries, had some setbacks, but each year there was one constant: Lilly Cameron stepping up to fill the void on offense without hesitation.
Her efforts to get better never ends. Whether it’s asking the coaches how she can improve or taking extra time on the Bounce Back after practice, her resolve to get better is known by her coaches and her teammates.
She’s coming into this season with 114 goals — our leading scorer. But the bigger impact she has on the team is the uplifting attitude for her teammates, coaching staff and her number one fan: my daughter Maddie.
Lilly is going to be a great addition to the Musketeers. They’re named the Musketeers from Xavier University for this motto, “All for One, One for All”. I think Lilly encompasses that.
Congrats Lilly. We’re proud of you.
Sophia Clark, Lafayette College
Very few high school athletes are able to compete at a high level on the field, bond with teammates off the field and give back to their youth programs at a younger level. Sophia’s not only able to do that with one sport, but with two. She’s a field hockey captain and lacrosse captain this year, so she’s been juggling two sports and leading two teams.
She’s been a critical part of our team’s success over the past three seasons. And although her intimidating nature as a field player has been seen over the past few years, her calm and cool nature in between the pipes helps lead her teammates during critical pressure situations.
We’re privileged to have her as a captain of our team this year and to spread her positivity amongst her teammates.
Congratulations on the honor of signing with Lafayette College. They’re getting a true student athlete.
Samantha Henry, University of Rhode Island
It’s been 13 years since the official teacher-coach relationship started with this girl, but we won’t count the years where she was hanging out of the minivan dropping off her older sisters on the way to school.
She’s one of the hardest working students or players I’ve encountered in my 20 years of teaching. She has one of the hardest work ethics of anybody who I’ve ever seen run an activity in gym class or be out on a varsity lacrosse field.
From leading the team in draws, leading the conference in draws, and being one of the All-State nominees two years ago, whenever there’s a play on the field, breaking up the play on defense or looking to go to goal, number 10 is always involved.
But who she is as a person far exceeds any athletic accomplishments for Samantha. She is truly a terrific individual. We’ve been lucky enough to have her as a captain for the past two years. She’s gonna leave the biggest pair of tiny shoes to fill on our team.
We’re so happy to have you representing Masuk at URI next year. Congrats Sam.
Natalie Lieto, Penn State University
Masuk Softball Coach Leigh Barone introduced Natalie Lieto to the audience:
Natalie has been a part of the Masuk varsity softball team for the past three years and has played a huge role in our continued success — and no, she’s not a pitcher. I feel like I’m always up here giving how many strikeouts …
She burst onto the scene and quickly drew attention from the softball community across the state in 2021 as just a freshman. She has such a high softball I.Q. that she can play any position on the field. I guess even pitching?
However, as a center fielder, and with her quickness, there are very few gaps in the outfield. She takes away many bases with her speed to the ball and her strong, accurate arm. These attributes anchor our outfield and force opposing coaches to move base-to-base when balls are hit near her, which has saved a lot of runs from scoring.
With her senior season still ahead of her, she has already reached so many career milestones offensively. She has 113 career hits, 115 runs scored, 104 RBIs and 33 home runs. She set the team home run record with 13 home runs in her 2022 season and she was tied for the state lead in the 2023 season with 11 home runs.
Her on base percentage of .640 in her 2023 season was boosted by a state-leading 24 hit-by-pitches, which is also now a Masuk record. It demonstrates how much of a threat she is at the plate.
With her in the lineup and in the field, the Masuk softball team has amassed a 73-5 record with two SWC Championships and three Class L State Championships, and she has been named to the All SWC Team and Class L All-State Team her freshman, sophomore and junior year.
However, as impressive as these stats are, it’s the person that she is that has her sitting in this seat, along with all of you as well.
Her hard work, determination, dedication and leadership qualities are ultimately what have gotten her here today. She strives to become the best she can be, not just for herself, but also for her team.
We cannot wait to see what your senior year has in store for you as a leader and we are so proud of all of your accomplishments. As coaches, we know that with your knowledge of the game, paired with your work ethic, the sky’s the limit as a Nittany Lion.
We wish you, along with the other athletes, the best of luck as you continue your dreams as student athletes.
Justin Feinstein, Franklin Pierce
Masuk Baseball Coach Brian Hourigan introduced his team’s star pitcher, Justin Feinstein:
Justin Feinstein is affectionately known as Fein to all of us. I think I’ve only said his first name, maybe four or five times in all the years we’ve had. He’s a four year varsity player. He’s been the ace of our pitching staff for the last two years. He’s pitched over 114 innings. He has 124 strikeouts in his career and he’s just a terrific pitcher, a terrific player.
But I think what you need to know about him is that what’s more impressive is that a third of those innings are in the playoffs. When the lights are brighter and the pressure’s greater, he’s at his best, and that is something that’s very rare.
Sometimes when the pressure’s greater, people don’t play as well. His stats are better in the playoffs. His ERA is lower. It’s under three in the playoffs. He has more strikeouts per inning in the playoffs. When there’s a big game we just turned to his right arm and we put the entire team on his back.
And he’s lost a couple games, but they’re always one-nothing or 2 to 1. He gives it everything he has and I think his teammates respect that. That’s why there are so many of them here right now. He gives his heart every single time he crosses that line and gets on that hill — and we love him for it. They elected him captain this year.
He’s a truly great individual. He just gives his heart every single day on the field and we’re very proud of him. Franklin Pierce is getting an absolute warrior to pitch for them. They have no idea. The tougher the game, he’s the guy that you want, so we’re very proud of him. Fein, congratulations.
Ethan Palma, College of St. Rose
Masuk Boys Lacrosse Coach Derek Flynn introduced Ethan Palma:
Ethan, I couldn’t be more proud of you as a person or player. I just want you to know that.
Ethan transferred here from St. Joseph’s, so it was only his second year here and I didn’t really get to know Ethan until the spring all that well, because Ethan’s also a basketball player. When he transferred here, I was told, “hey, we got a great basketball player who just transferred here. Oh, and he also plays lacrosse.”
To say that I was pleasantly surprised when lacrosse season started would be an understatement. The kid that showed up on day one of lacrosse and was there every day for the entire year was someone who I think raised the level of everyone around him.
If you played a sport and you’ve been a coach before and you’ve been on a team and you have a kid who comes every day, gives his all in practice, in games, is always doing the right thing, is always focused on what he needs to do, telling other people to focus: that is Ethan.
I think that honestly is a big testament to his stepfather who was a basketball coach. I’ve never had the pleasure of coaching a coach’s son, but with Ethan I could really see that he’s a phenomenal kid on the field and he brings so many things to my team that I wish I had a lot more of him.
Last season was his first season with the Masuk lacrosse team. He started every game for us. He was second on our team in points with 24 goals and 14 assists. His efforts were recognized by both my coaching staff and the SWC. He got All-Conference.
Leading up to the season your leadership was recognized by all your teammates. You’re the only person who was unanimously voted by all of your peers to be a captain of the team.
In your decision to go to St. Rose, they’re incredibly lucky. They don’t realize what they’re getting. You’re going to be a great contributor to their program. I look forward to seeing where your future takes you. I believe in you. I look forward to working with you this year and seeing the rest of your career play out. Congratulations.
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