Alizea Henriquez had a jump start to her athletic career at Hoboken High School – even before Alizea (who is also known as Ali) and her twin sister Jaeda were born.
You see, the Henriquez twins, both freshmen on the Hoboken softball team this season, come from a strong athletic background.
Their father, Anthony Henriquez, was a standout linebacker at Hoboken who went on to play NCAA Division I football at Kent State University from 2001 through 2004.
And their mother, Jasmine Montalvo, was a fine softball player at Hoboken. Their uncle, Jason Montalvo, was a great running back for the Red Wings.
So it’s safe to say that their athleticism comes from a solid gene pool.
“I have a book going back to when I was born which shows my father playing football [at Kent State],” Alizea Henriquez said. “There are articles in the book which shows how many tackles he made in college. I know he was good.”
Alizea Henriquez joined the girls’ soccer and basketball programs this year at Hoboken, but it’s on the softball diamond that she – and her sister for that matter – really began to shine.
“Both of my parents were great athletes,” Alizea Henriquez said. “My dad definitely helped me to get better as an athlete. My mom played softball and they both pushed me to work hard.”
Henriquez recalls a particular time when her father served as both an inspiration and a counselor.
“My dad always tells me a story that when I was younger and playing softball, I was playing the outfield,” Henriquez said. “I missed a catch in the outfield and the other team won. Well, when we got home, Dad told me to never let anything like that happen again. I listened to him.”
New Hoboken head softball coach Vinnie Johnson, who took over the Red Wings program this year after Carmine Ronga stepped down, was aware of the talents of both Henriquez twins.
“They’ve been with me [playing for Hoboken Recreation teams] since they were eight years old,” Johnson said. “So I knew they could play. I didn’t know what to expect from them right away, because they’re freshmen. I was perhaps expecting things from them later in the season, after they got used to playing high school softball. I knew they were both very good athletes.”
Johnson was going to ask a lot of Ali Henriquez right away.
“We needed a catcher,” Johnson said. “It’s tough to break in as a catcher as a freshman. She always played middle infield before.”
Henriquez had an excellent tutor and mentor to work with her. Former Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year Ashley Barron, who earned the honor in 2010, is one of Johnson’s assistant coaches. Former standout Red Wing pitcher Raquel Roder is another assistant.
“Ashley worked with Ali to make her into a better catcher,” Johnson said. “She’s done an amazing job back there. When we first started our scrimmages, Ali didn’t want to be a reserve player. She wanted to be a starter right away. I thought she might get a chance to share the time there.”
Johnson had a plan where all of his freshman and sophomore players would first play for the junior varsity.
But that plan didn’t hold much water, when he needed Ali Henriquez to step in behind the plate right away.
“I think it definitely helped having my sister with me,” Ali Henriquez said. “We always work well together. She’s the pitcher and I’m the catcher and we throw together all the time.”
There will be a time when Jaeda will toe the rubber for the Red Wings. For now, Jaeda is moving around between left field, second base and third base.
Her sister is entrenched behind the plate.
“I actually like catching,” Ali Henriquez said. “I think I’m getting pretty good at it.”
Both Henriquez sisters have also done well with the bat, although Ali has made more of an impact at the plate, helping the Red Wings get off to a surprising 6-0 start.
In three recent wins, Ali Henriquez showed what kind of damage she could do as a hitter. She had four hits and three RBI in a win over Union City, had two hits and four RBI in a win over Ferris and had three hits and three RBI in a win over Paterson Charter.
That’s nine hits and 10 RBI in just one week. Not bad for a freshman who wasn’t supposed to start.
“Oh, she’ll never come out of the lineup now,” Johnson said. “Her bat will keep her in the lineup. She can play second base, first base, catch, it doesn’t matter. Her bat will keep her in the game.”
For her efforts, Ali Henriquez has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Johnson said that he believed that Ali Henriquez would make an impact, but just didn’t have a timetable as to when.
“I knew she was going to do well,” Johnson said. “I just didn’t know she would do this well this quickly. I thought we had to break her in to feel what it’s like on the varsity level. I thought we needed to give them time to feel confident.”
Johnson also knows that Jaeda, who has also flourished at the plate, will be in the Red Wings’ lineup from now on as well.
“At this point, I don’t think I could separate them,” Johnson said. “Because if I did, there would be too much competition between them.”
Ali doesn’t see any sibling rivalry.
“I love my sister,” Ali Henriquez said. “I enjoy having her with me. No matter who’s there, no one has your back like your sister. She’s great. When things don’t go well, she comes over to me and tells me that there’s nothing to get upset about. She’s always helping me. We do everything for each other.”
Ali Henriquez is also surprised by her early season prowess.
“I didn’t think I would be this good right away,” Ali Henriquez said. “I guess I’ve set the bar pretty high for the rest of my time here at Hoboken. It’s up to me and my sister to keep us at that level.”
Johnson knows that a lot of his program’s success will come from both Jaeda and Ali Henriquez for the remainder of this season – and then the next three to follow.
“The young girls all want it more,” Johnson said. “Ali is very outspoken and aggressive. I just put them out there and they performed right away. When they learned they were going to play JV, they took it as a punishment. The two of them have always been together on every level. We’re not going to break them up now.
Added Johnson, “This is a good sign for the future. These are young kids who don’t like losing. Hopefully, we’ll keep them on a high because they’re playing well for us and things are going well for us.” – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.