Signing day brings plenty of glee for local athletes

While considering the 11 offers that he had on the table to play college football, Hackley senior Mustafaa Dais had to think of the big picture.

The process was weighing heavily on the Pomona resident, and the decision ultimately came down to his unique priorities. As appealing as it was to play big-time, Division 1 college football in front of massive crowds, the area’s top senior recruit couldn’t ignore the benefits of an Ivy League education.

“At first, it was a really hard decision because I knew playing at an Ivy League school I would have to sacrifice the bigger crowd and all of the school spirit,” Dais said. “But what it came down to is that these next four years are going to affect my next 40.”

The 6-1, 180-pound wide receiver who runs a 4.42 40-yard dash chose the University of Pennsylvania, where he will have an opportunity to earn immediate playing time. He’s one of several locals who will be playing at the next level, with many other football, boys soccer, girls soccer, field hockey, cross country and track standouts making their decisions official on Wednesday’s National Signing Day.

UConn, Fordham, Army, Temple, Lafayette, Maine, Massachusetts, Albany, James Madison and Harvard were also vying for Dais’ services.

“After I took the visit and committed on the spot, I felt a whole lot of relief,” Dais said. “I was really excited to start working out again with less stress on my mind.”

Fellow football stars such as White Plains tight end and defensive end Lukas Repetti (Albany), Mount Vernon defensive lineman Lance McDowdell (Central Florida) and Panas defensive back William “Trey” Hodge III (Central Connecticut) are each planning to sign their letters of intent on Wednesday.

Former Spring Valley defensive lineman Calvin Heurtelou has already signed with Miami out of Scottsdale Community College, and former Somers defensive lineman Dylan Owen has accepted an invitation to walk-on at Nebraska after playing for Bridgton Academy. Former Woodlands defensive end Da’Sean Downey was signed by Massachusetts from Canterbury Prep, while former Scarsdale quarterback Andrew Verboys will join him as a walk-on after playing for Fork Union Prep.

Nine local boys soccer players will be playing at either Division 1 or Ivy League schools next fall, with seven of them coming from U.S. Soccer Academies.

Byram Hills defender Dan Bank (Bucknell), Mahopac midfielder Arun Basuljevic (Georgetown), Irvington forward Ben Ovetksy (Binghamton), North Rockland defender Blaise Panepinto (Iona), Fordham Prep goalkeeper and Katonah resident Mark Rajovic (Marist), Ossining midfielder Cameron Jones (Massachusetts-Lowell) and forward Alex Tejera (Siena), and Mamaroneck forward Nick Tunic (Central Connecticut) and midfielder Stefan Gualano (Stony Brook) have each made their college decisions.

Only Tunic, the Section 1 large school player of the year, and Ovetsky, the Section 1 small school player of the year, played high school soccer this past fall.

“You have the best training, you play with the best players and it’s the best environment for me to become a better player,” Bank said of playing U.S. Academy soccer. “But it was such a hard decision. Coming from Byram Hills, it’s such a great program, and I really wanted to be a part of it. It was a tough decision, but I chose academy because I thought it would best prepare me for college. Looking back now, it was the right decision.”

For North Rockland girls soccer players Shannon Robinson, Nicole Aylmer and Katie Landes, signing letters of intent is a culmination of four years of hard work. Robinson (Stony Brook), Aylmer (Manhattan) and Landes (Seton Hall) were each brought up to varsity as freshmen.

“I can just remember back to when I started getting recognition from college coaches, and so did Nicole and Katie at the same time,” Robinson said. “Now the day is here and we are actually ensuring ourselves going to college.”

Suffern girls soccer player Alyssa Rainford will be signing her letter of intent with Delaware State, while Carolyn Casey of Somers plans to sign with Bucknell.

New Rochelle track star Ashley Wiggins, who won state and Federation championships indoors and outdoors in the hurdles as a junior, will sign her letter of intent with UConn. Bronxville cross country and track runner Courtney Campbell said she plans to sign with Richmond, while teammate Morgan Nobles is committing to Lafayette. Hen Hud javelin throwers Jack O’Brien and Mike Gabrielsen will attend the United States Military Academy and compete for Army.

In Rockland, Tappan Zee cross country and track standout Erin Jaskot expects to sign with Villanova, while Pearl River hurdler/triple jumper Amanda Moroney is bound for Loyola of Maryland. Nanuet’s Marykate O’Meara plans to compete in cross country and track for Quinnipiac.

The recruiting race for Jaskot’s talents came down to Villanova, Boston College and Penn. The Wildcats won, receiving her oral commitment in the fall to run on a full ride.

“They offered the most (scholarship) money,” Jaskot said. “And it was just the atmosphere of the whole team. I can tell they want to succeed, and that’s something I want to be a part of.”

Bronxville cross country and track standout John Flannery will be joining his older brother, Dayton, to run as a preferred walk-on at Notre Dame. James Deutmeyer of Harrison, a senior at Fordham Prep who won a CHSAA sectional pole vault title last week by clearing a school-record 15 feet, 9 inches, is bound for Villanova as a preferred walk-on. Thomas Matera of Pelham, a Fordham Prep hurdler, will compete at Bucknell.

A couple of Mamaroneck field hockey players will make their commitments on Wednesday, with Amanda Prenty set to play for Catholic and Caroline Jensen bound for Holy Cross.

Bronxville field hockey player Gretchen Richter is committed to Bucknell.

Twitter: @vzmercogliano

Josh Thomson, Brian Heyman, Nancy Haggerty and Dan DeFrancesco also contributed to this report.

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