SCOREBOARD Totaro named Reporter Female Athlete of the Year Secaucus three-sport standout makes it three straight awards for school
by Jim Hague
Jul 15, 2008 | 3463 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jenna Totaro was somewhat oblivious that her former teammates at Secaucus High School, namely Nicole Degenhardt and Cory Roesing, were selected as The Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year over the last two years.

Degenhardt, now playing softball at Felician College, was the recipient in 2005-06. Roesing, now playing volleyball at Bloomfield College, was the co-recipient, along with McNair Academic track standout Leslie Njoku, last year.

Totaro was a teammate to both in the 2005-06 athletic year, when all three played for BCSL National championship teams in volleyball, basketball, and softball, with the volleyball team also winning the NJSIAA Group I state championship.

"It's funny, but I didn't know they got the award," Totaro said. "It wasn't like they went out and bragged about it."

Neither Degenhardt nor Roesing were the kind of athletes who said much of anything when they were performing. They both let their three-sport prowess speak for itself.

It was obviously the start of a trend, because Totaro followed right in the footsteps of her two teammates, not only participating in the three sports, but dominating in all three.

Totaro was a force to be reckoned with in all three sports for the last four years, playing varsity in all three and earning 12 varsity letters during her career.

In volleyball, Totaro earned First Team All-Group I, as well as earning All-BCSL and All-Hudson County Coaches honors.

In basketball, Totaro ended her career as the school's No. 2 all-time leading scorer with 1,437 points, trailing only Roesing. During her junior year, she earned First Team All-Area from the Hudson Reporter and had a rare quadruple double in a game against North Arlington, going for 23 points, 13 rebounds, 10 steals, and 10 assists.

Although Totaro's scoring average was a little down this season, she still earned First Team All-Area from the Hudson Reporter and led the Patriots to the Group I state sectional title game. She ended her career with the highest total of steals of any Secaucus girls' basketball player.

In softball, Totaro earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors for three straight years, one year as a catcher in 2006 and the final two years as a shortstop. Totaro helped the Patriots win three straight BCSL National titles and in 2007, led the Patriots to the Group I state sectional title game, where they lost an epic 14-inning battle with Hoboken.

Needless to say, it's that incredible versatility and litany of accomplishments that enables Totaro to continue to follow in the footsteps of her teammates.

Totaro has been selected as the 2007-08 Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year, making her the third straight Secaucus athlete to receive the award and the fourth overall, joining Totaro's volleyball coach, Tiffany Aciz, who received the honor in 2000-01, at a time when there was only one award given to the top male or female. Aciz also played all three sports - volleyball, basketball and softball - in her playing days at Secaucus.

Since 2004, the newspaper chain has presented an award to both the top male and female athletes in the paper's circulation area.

However, it's very unique to have one school dominate the award, especially among the female athletes.

"I think it's really remarkable that we all got it," Totaro said. "And we're all different athletes as well. I'm really excited about that. It's a great honor."

Totaro remembers being a grade school student and thinking of one thing.

"I never played volleyball before," said Totaro, even though her two older sisters, Diana and Lisa, were standout players on state championship squads at Secaucus. "I would go and watch my sisters play, but I never thought I would play. I was a soccer player when I was younger. My sister is the one to tell me to go out for volleyball."

Added Totaro, "I went to volleyball camps and fooled around with my sisters. That's how I learned the game. But it wasn't my natural sport. I still felt that soccer was my natural sport." Aciz, who took over the girls' volleyball program at her alma mater last fall, was grateful to have someone like Totaro to lean on as she moved into the new coaching role.

"It's always great to have a player like Jenna there to rely on," Aciz said. "I could rely on her to get things done. She always wanted to do what was best for the team. She's really a team player in every sport. I'll always remember that about her. I could always rely on her if I needed something done. Jenna stepped up and did what she had to do."

Secaucus softball coach Cheryl Bott believes that Totaro had an extra gear.

"I think her hard work and determination put Jenna a cut above the rest," Bott said. "She did what she had to do to get better. She did all the extra things that you need and I think the other kids picked up on that. She wasn't told to do that. She did it on her own."

Bott was asked if a legacy has been established at Secaucus, like the baton being passed from Degenhardt to Roesing and now Totaro.

"Maybe it is true, that there is something about the level of athlete we have here," Bott said. "All three played the same sports. It's something that you need to have at a Group I school. But to find three kids like this? It's really something special. You don't find that a lot, especially these three kids being the part of all those championships, of all those wins. It's possible that playing together had something to do with it, that maybe one pushed the other. But it really is remarkable that they all played together and they all did so well. I was just happy to coach such good kids."

Totaro said that she didn't make a conscious effort to become a dominant player in three sports.

"I didn't go out there and try to dominate," Totaro said. "I just did whatever I had to do to help the team win. That was always the main goal. For instance, I averaged fewer points per game this year in basketball than I did as a junior, but we still won. It's not all about me. It's always about the team aspect. That's what I tried to profess to the others."

There was one difference between Totaro and her fellow honorees. Degenhardt and Roesing were of few words. Not Totaro.

"I don't think they were vocal leaders, but they set the tone with their skills," Totaro said. "I tended to talk it up a little, get everyone else going. I think I started more with my vocal skills. Everything else just followed."

Totaro said that she liked being able to follow in the same path as her older sisters.

"Diana got three state championships and Lisa won two, so I'm at least tied with her," Totaro said.

She hopes that she's remembered more for what she did as a person at Secaucus than as an athlete.

"I hope I'm remembered more than just my records," Totaro said. "I hope it was my leadership, the way I cared about everyone else, especially the younger girls. The records can be all ripped up and put into confetti. I want to be remembered by others for my personality and for who I am."

Totaro said that she was amazed of all she achieved in high school.

"When we had our awards ceremony and they listed everything I did, I couldn't believe it," Totaro said. "I felt so embarrassed, like shocked in a way. It's amazing how far I've come."

Totaro will now take her immense talents to Montclair State University, where she will play for the Red Hawks' basketball team in the fall.

"I'm already doing their workouts to get ready," Totaro said. "I'm so excited about it. I will play with them during the summer league and I just hope I can continue what I did in high school. I can't wait."

It's also the path that Aciz took from Secaucus, heading to Montclair State where she was a standout in volleyball.

"To win this award [The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Year], you have to be a dedicated athlete," Aciz said. "I was proud to receive that award and I'm glad to see another Secaucus athlete get it. We both had to work hard in every sport and it paid off. I think it's attributed to the dedication that Secaucus girls have to athletics. They respond to coaching, they respond to training. A lot of other places don't have girls with the drive and the focus that we do. We have girls that have the chances to accomplish some great things."

Like Aciz did almost a decade ago and like what Degenhardt, Roesing, and now Totaro have done the last three years. It's a string of dominance never before seen from one Hudson County school. It almost makes one wonder who is the next to emerge?

"I think it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, having three girls like that in a row," Bott said. "Plus, they were all great kids and pleasures to coach. Can it happen again? I honestly don't know."

Sure puts some pressure on the current crop of Secaucus High School juniors to carry on the multi-talented tradition a year from now.
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