Secaucus volleyball coach Rivera steps down; hoop musings
by :Jim Hague
Jan 20, 2007 | 511 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After winning their second straight NJSIAA Group I state volleyball championship, Secaucus head coach Sheila Ulrich Rivera knew that she had reached the end of the road. Pregnant with her and husband Ralph's first child, Rivera knew that being a mom and a volleyball coach at the same time was next to impossible.

"I always had it in mind, even when I took the job five years ago, that when the time came for Ralph and I to start a family, then that would be it," Rivera said. "So I pretty much knew that this year would be it. I can't teach and coach and be a mother, going from 7:30 in the morning to 7 at night every day. So I was definitely leaning towards it. I spoke with Ralph and we agreed I couldn't do it."

So last week, Rivera handed a letter of resignation to Secaucus Superintendent of Schools Gus Scerbo, informing Scerbo of her decision to step down.

"My husband and I want to raise our child together," said Rivera, who is due to give birth in the next two weeks. "It's a good feeling that I can leave with the foundation there. Of course, I have mixed emotions. I felt bad in telling the girls that I was stepping down. I told them before I handed in the letter. But I really believed that if I couldn't dedicate the time coaching needed, then I shouldn't do it."

Rivera, who was a standout athlete at Secaucus during her playing days and is a member of both the Secaucus High School and St. Peter's College Halls of Fame, guided the Patriots to the NJSIAA Group I state title in each of the last two seasons. In 2005, the upstart Patriots won two matches in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions before falling to eventual overall state champion Paramus in the T of C finale, becoming the first Group I school to advance to a T of C title game in any sport since 1989.

Last season, the Patriots won the Group I state title again and won one match in the T of C tournament, before falling in the semifinals.

"I'm glad we were able to keep the tradition going," Rivera said. "The first year was a rebuilding year and we worked hard with the kids to get the program back to the way it once was."

There has been no decision made as of yet for Rivera's replacement. Athletic director Stan Fryczynski said that he knew of Rivera's intentions to step down to concentrate on becoming a mother, so the news of her resignation wasn't shocking.

"It's still a loss to us," Fryczynski said. "Sheila is a major part of our family. We're going to miss her." Rivera said that she didn't rule out a return to coaching at a later date.

"I just can't do it now," she said. "Some people said that I should stay around and continue to coach my nieces. But I have a lot of nieces and the youngest one is about two years old. I just can't keep coaching my nieces."

Rivera's eldest niece, Cory Roesing, was the standout performer for the Patriots in each of the last two seasons, earning First Team All-State honors each year...

The field has been set for the second annual Dan Finn Classic, which will be held on Saturday, Jan. 20 at the newly refurbished Jersey City Armory. Six games will be on tap during the course of the day-long basketball festival, featuring some of the best high school basketball teams in the area.

The first game of the day pits Hoboken against the state's top-ranked team, St. Anthony. That game tips off at 12 noon. Football stars Duval Kamara and Norman Smith will try their best to shut down the Friars' powerful offensive attack keyed by Michael Rosario and Miles Beatty.

The second game of the day will put the girls' basketball team of Marist High School against Bergen County power River Dell. That game will be followed by Pope John of Sparta, coached by former Jersey City resident and St. Dominic Academy coach Mike Delaney, taking on North Bergen, with All-State center Lauren Jimenez.

The last three games of the day feature Cardinal McCarrick of South Amboy facing Paterson Kennedy, then Newark Academy tangling with state-ranked Linden, and finally St. Benedict's Prep, coached by Jersey City legend Dan Hurley and featuring Bayonne native Corey Stokes, taking on Plainfield.

It should be a great day of basketball for the local hoop fans and one that honors and remembers the late Dan Finn, the former St. Peter's Prep athlete who was tragically killed in an accident in the summer of 2004. For ticket information, contact Ed Finn at (201) 997-5791 or via e-mail at efinsr@aol.com....

Congrats to the recent group of fine athletes who were inducted into the McNair Academic Athletic Hall of Fame, namely three-sport standout Kim Conklin, Tyechia Smith (track and field), Wesley Gadsden (track and field), Greg Green (basketball), Jamal Henry (basketball), Frank Lamparelli (baseball) and Jose DeJesus (basketball and baseball). They were all inducted at a special awards presentation at the school right before Christmas. It's a fine array of athletic talent coming from a school that is known primarily for its academic standing, but is beginning to have a fine athletic history as well....

Here are some hoop musings for the first two weeks of the high school basketball season, which were certainly hectic.

First, the Union Hill's girls' basketball team is off to a 5-1 start, which is definitely its best trek out of the gate in recent memory. Isa Guzman had a game to remember recently, collecting 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in a win over close rival Emerson in the title game of Union Hill's holiday tournament...

Secondly, Holy Family Academy of Bayonne looks to be a solid contender in the HCIAA Coviello race this year, with veteran coach Pat Longo leading the Falcons to a 4-2 start, including an impressive win over Ridgewood during the holidays. There's no doubt the Falcons are an athletic bunch, with all-around super athletes like Grace Keller, Caitlin Veverka and Danielle Dundas leading the way on the hardwood, much like they do in softball...

In boys' basketball, there's an undefeated team in Hudson County called Hoboken Charter, which owns a 6-0 record thus far. We're trying to learn more about the team and if we do, we'll feature them in the coming weeks.

Lincoln of Jersey City has enjoyed a nice start, going undefeated through five games. Coach Troy Smith has the Lions back in solid contention again, thanks to the play of leading scorer Farod Robinson... --
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