From the soccer and lacrosse fields to the baseball diamond and the tennis courts, Newark Academy continues its tradition of preparing student-athletes to play their chosen sports in college. This year, the Minutemen have 13 athletes who will be competing in college, with five going on to the Division I level.
Matt Ciccone ’19 was dreaming of the day he would sign his National Letter of Intent (NLI) even before he began his baseball career at Newark Academy. When the moment finally came, he was happy to finish the process. “It was a proud moment for me and my family,” says Matt, who signed his NLI to play on Rutgers University’s baseball team with his parents, two brothers, classmates and teachers looking on.
Those who have long followed his athletic career knew this day was coming. Matt took to the NA diamond as a varsity player for the fourth time this spring. He has already been named to the All-Non-Public B Team once, to the All-Prep B Team twice, and to the SEC American Division Team three times. He helped the Minutemen baseball team win the State Preps and State Sectional Final in 2017. Matt was also a two-time letter winner in football.
“Newark Academy has helped me establish a work ethic,” Matt says. “I’ve been playing baseball my whole life, but just having a good work ethic and getting school work and other things done when I need to is going to help me in college.”
At the prospect of playing for his home-state school, “I’m proud,” Matt says with a smile. “My family can come to every game – and just to represent the state of New Jersey, I’m excited for that.”
Alex Kotzen ’19 Division I Tennis at Columbia University
Alex Kotzen’s ’19 tennis career has already taken him all around the globe, and the next stop will be Columbia University, where he will play on the D-I Lions men’s tennis team. Alex played for the Minutemen over the past four years as he also spent time overseas to hone his tennis skills. He spent eighth grade living and training at a tennis academy in Barcelona and returned to the same facility for the fall semester of his senior year, traveling also to Tunisia, where he played in seven tournaments, and to Turkey for another tournament.
“Playing against and training with men who make a living playing the sport, and those who aspire to do the same, was a humbling experience,” Alex says. “Everyone thinks that playing a sport professionally is the best job ever, and of course most of the people I met loved tennis, but it is still a job. Arriving early, making sure you have everything you need, and most importantly having that professional mentality day in and day out: that has been the most important thing for me to learn and implement into my life and game since having this experience.”
Alex will arrive at Columbia with an already impressive list of accomplishments from his time in the storied NA tennis program. He was named First Team All-SEC American Division and Second Team Non-Public B, and he helped NA win the State Sectional, State Final and Tournament of Champions titles.
“If you had told me five years ago that I would be in this position today, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Alex says. But thanks to his time at NA, he has been prepared not only to get to the college level but to excel there. “At Newark Academy, I have had to be more or less a college athlete. Time management is the biggest part of being a college athlete and NA has taught me that.
Gabriella Neibart ’19 Division I Soccer at University of Pittsburgh
Gabriella Neibart ’19 has wanted to play soccer in college since she started playing for her club team, Match Fit Academy Elite Club National League. Having now trained at the highest level and traveled the country playing in tournaments, Gabriella will achieve her dream when she heads to the University of Pittsburgh in the fall.
“My desire to play in college stems from my love for the sport,” Gabriella says. “Soccer keeps me in shape, and I become a different person when I am on the field, organizing my teammates, creating opportunities to goal, and protecting the goal with my skills and athleticism. When I play in the ACC next year at the University of Pittsburgh, it will be one of the most competitive environments that I have been a part of, and I can’t wait to see how I develop and succeed as a student-athlete.”
Playing in a D-I program in a Power 5 conference isn’t always easy, but fortunately Gabriella’s time at NA has prepared her for the rigors that await her on and off the field. “It hasn’t always been easy balancing school, soccer and extracurriculars, but I’ve got to say hard work really does pay off. Newark Academy has helped me become a more developed student and athlete.” Gabriella also credits the support and generosity of her teachers and academic advisors with helping her to succeed.
Gabriella’s list of accomplishments on the field is already long. As a freshman at NA, she was Honorable Mention Super Essex Conference (SEC) Liberty Division. The following year, she was named Second Team Prep B and Honorable Mention SEC American Division. During her junior year, she was named Second Team SEC American Division. She was also named First Team SEC Liberty Division, helping the girls’ team reach the state sectional finals.
“After a few months of being committed to the University of Pittsburgh and being accepted into the School of Nursing, I can finally process and grasp this moment,” Gabriella now says. “I am very proud of myself, and my family and friends are as well. This accomplishment is just the beginning of a great future.”