Russo did it all for Pleasant Valley
Pleasant Valley's Melissa Russo is the closest thing to a "team player" as anyone around local scholastic sports circles.
The senior forward has always put her team first, despite accomplishing some astonishing feats this past season and throughout her field hockey career.
The numbers she has put up and the victories that the team enjoyed are the reason that she was named the 2013 TIMES NEWS Field Hockey Player of the Year.
Russo finished her career setting four new school records. But when you ask her if one stands out over another, it's not one of the career records that head the list.
"The one goal I wanted to set more than any of the others was the single season scoring record," she said after being told of her accomplishment. "That was the one I had my eye on all season because I knew if I got it we would probably win a lot of games as a team."
When the season, which lasted all of the way to the District 11 Class AAA championship, came to a close, Russo had 29 goals, two more than the previous mark of 27 set by Michelle Fisher back in 2006.
The Bears went into the District 11 AAA tournament as the No. 7 seed and made quite a bit of noise before losing to top-seeded Emmaus by a 5-1 score. They upset No. 2 seed Stroudsburg in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals. There, the Bears knocked off the No. 3 seed, Northampton by a 2-1 score.
"The win over Stroudsburg was amazing," Russo said. "At the beginning of the season, we said we wanted to make leagues, districts and states and we pulled through."
Russo scored the winning goal against Northampton at the 14:52 mark and also assisted on the earlier goal by Alex DiMarco.
In the win over Stroudsburg, the Mountain Valley Conference Most Valuable Player was key again. Teammate Annie Butchkoski crossed the ball in front of the net, where it bounced around for nearly 30 seconds, until it hit Russo's stick and she put it past Stroudsburg's Taylor Ross with 2:01 remaining for the victory.
The Bears lost in the first round of the PIAA Tournament to Coughlin by a 2-1 score, putting an end to Russo's fabulous career.
Besides the single-season scoring record, Russo ended the season just shattering the single-season assist record with 23. The previous mark held by Amy Tichy with 12 set back in 1993.
She also is now the Pleasant Valley career goals record holder finishing with 64, three more than Fisher, who had 61. She also holds the career assist record now with 35, breaking Tichy's old mark of 25.
"It didn't really matter to me who scores as long as we're winning and someone gets the ball into the cage," she said.
Russo was called a true team player earlier in the season by her head coach Jess Frantz, who also called Russo their go-to girl. If the Bears needed a score, you could look for the ball to be on Russo's stick.
She always seemed to be right where she was supposed to be and when she had an open shot, she took it. She also didn't hesitate to pass to a teammate that was open for a shot either. That's why she has the assist record.
Frantz, who didn't expect to be the Bears head coach this season, took over in August when her twin sister Angela had to give up the post due to a job change.
She knew when she needed to count on someone if things weren't going in the right direction, Russo was the girl.
"She's a very skillful player," Frantz said. "She's always at the right place at the right time. She's phenomenal, especially in the circle.
"It was a successful season and was a great experience so I'm looking forward to coming back next season. I was new to them and they were new to me. Thankfully, I had a team player like Melissa to build things around and with the talented group I had with her, we accomplished quite a bit this season.
"It usually takes first year coaches a while to have the success I had this season."
Russo has her college choices down to three (Gwynned Mercy, Susquehanna and York) and wants to major in elementary and special education.
She is also considering studying overseas after spending 10 days in Barcelona, Spain between her sophomore and junior years.
"I'd like to study and possibly play in Australia," she said.
Right now, just continuing her education and field hockey career is her top priority.
And she was quick to give Coach Frantz and the entire coaching staff credit for the motivation to improve as the season went on this fall.
For Russo, she left a high mark for future Lady Bears to shoot at, but most feel that with Pleasant Valley entering the Lehigh Valley Conference this fall, the records she set will be around for a while.