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Smargiassi headed to UConn

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    Northwestern Lehigh goalie Alena Smargiassi will attend UConn to continue her academic and field hockey careers. Joining her for the signing ceremony were her parents, Tonya and Manny. STEVE ALTHOUSE/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published May 22. 2019 12:10PM

While most field hockey teams struggle to identify one truly good goalie, the Northwestern field hockey team was blessed with two quality goalies who just happened to be in the same class.

Coach Lyssa Opilla was faced with a daily struggle to decide which one to play against which team and it was a constant juggling act. It worked out well for both goalies, as Taylor Page will head to Slippery Rock to play field hockey and Alena Smargiassi will continue her hockey career at the University of Connecticut.

Smargiassi said being able to play at the D-1 level is a dream come true for her. Once she realized that she was good enough to play college field hockey, she wanted to play at the highest level possible.

“When I started to learn about colleges and the possibility of playing in college, I always wanted to play at the highest level that I could. I just had great coaches that made it possible for me to play D-1, and UConn had all that I wanted,” said Smargiassi, who was among 21 student-athletes who recently took part in a College Commitment Ceremony at Northwestern Lehigh.

The Northwestern field hockey team has found more and more success with each passing season, and Smargiassi has been a big part of that. For Opilla, she’s hopeful that younger players will see what it took for players like Smargiassi to reach their goals and follow in their footsteps, since she believes that Smargiassi did things the right way.

“She spent a lot of time working on getting better, and there were a lot of car rides for her and her family to play club games, and she really put in her time and effort because she really wanted this,” Opilla said. “I think at UConn, Alena is going to do great things because she has the ability to keep working and accomplish things, so I think that whatever they put on her, she’s going to embrace and do whatever she can to make an impact for that team.”

It’s somewhat fitting that Smargiassi — who has a life-long love of animals — will be playing for a team with a Huskie as its mascot. That love of animals is part of what drove Smargiassi to want to attend Connecticut.

“They have an amazing animal science program, which is what I want to go into. Plus, the whole team atmosphere and the coaches were a good fit, so I knew that UConn was the place that I wanted to go,” Smargiassi said.

“I have always wanted to be a vet since I was really little. I’m one of those kids who didn’t really grow up and I just love animals so much and it was always what I wanted to do.”

As the school year winds down, it’s truly starting to hit Smargiassi that she’s not going to be around her hometown as much once college starts in the fall. She’s taking advantage of this time to not just look forward to what lies ahead in Connecticut, but looking back and savoring all of the high school memories that she has compiled.

“Making it to states with the field hockey team — the first time in 14 years for the program — was really awesome,” said Smargiassi about her high school memories. “I just really enjoy anything with the field hockey team and I ran track and field, so I’m going to look back on that with a lot of good memories, but I’m excited to keep playing field hockey.

“It’s a little bittersweet because I’m really excited to go to UConn, but it’s one of the last weeks of high school.”

“I think Elena has a lot of good things ahead of her,” said Opilla. “She’s smart, she’s driven and she’s passionate about what she wants to do. There are a lot of good things on and off the field for her down the road.”

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