The Hudson Catholic softball program has made major strides this season, posting a 16-4 record and advancing to the Hudson County Tournament semifinals.
Jenna Wendolowski, the former Holy Family Academy and Centenary College standout, was already a guidance counselor at the school when she was asked to take over the program after the resignation of Tim O’Donnell last year.
Wendolowski, the daughter of former St. Peter’s Prep baseball coach Kevin Wendolowski, was ready for the challenge of becoming a head coach, even though she’s only 26 years old.
“I always wanted to be a coach,” Wendolowski said. “I always thought of myself more as a coach than a player. I coached tennis last year, because I wanted to get my feet wet. When Tim left, I was interested in taking over.”
However, Wendolowski never imagined the Hawks to be as successful right away.
“It’s been an interesting ride,” Wendolowski said. “We had a lot of ups and downs we had to go through. We managed to get all through that. The team had to adapt to a new coach and it’s hard when they’re used to someone. But we worked together as a team and stayed strong together.”
The Hawks will be the No. 2 seed in the upcoming NJSIAA Non-Public B North state tournament.
“I think that’s a big step for us,” said Wendolowski, whose team suffered a heart breaking 1-0 loss to Kearny in the Hudson County Tournament semifinals Wednesday. “I’m very pleased with the way we progressed from the beginning to now. It’s all about attitude and leadership. We have a very young team with a lot of underclassmen, so we need the senior leaders.”
Wendolowski also received assistance in former HFA teammate Grace Keller, the Hoboken native who went on to have a brilliant career at Felician College. Keller is an assistant coach at Hudson Catholic.
Leading the youngsters is freshman pitcher Miyoksi Suarez. The rookie right-hander has handled the transformation to varsity softball very well.
“She’s a gamer,” Wendolowski said. “She goes out there and wants the ball. She’s very hungry for the game. We decided we’re going to ride her the rest of the way, but she wants to be on the mound.
The catcher is another freshman in Neckolette Nedwell.
“We went through a lot at the beginning of the season and things happened for Neckolette to step up in that spot,” Wendolowski said. “The other catcher quit the team, so Neckolette was needed back there and she’s behind us 100 percent.”
First base duties have been handled by Jessica Tyll, a sophomore transfer from Becton Regional.
“She’s our No. 4 hitter,” Wendolowski said. “She worked hard for the spot and she earned it.”
Senior Victoria Moyeno is the returning second baseman.
“She’s been a four-year player here and she’s the leader of the team,” Wendolowski said. “She’s like the mom of the team. She tells everyone what to do and I can’t ask for more.”
Senior Jessica Hill is the team’s slugging shortstop. The two-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree is having another great season, batting better than .600 as the leadoff hitter.
“I know that 100 percent of the time, Jessica is going to hit the ball hard and get to me at third base,” Wendolowski said. “I know that if we’re down, she’s going to put the ball in play. Her speed is a major key.”
Hill, who is a former state hurdles champion in indoor track, is headed to Felician College in the fall on a softball scholarship.
Junior Kristen Cunning is the team’s third baseman. Cunning was the pitcher last year, but didn’t hesitate to move over to third to let Suarez pitch. Cunning is also a versatile athlete, having played volleyball, basketball and soccer at the school.
“She’s done a great job at third,” Wendolowski said. “I’m confident with her there. It’s good for everyone.”
Junior Elaine Reyes is the left fielder, with sophomore Ashlee Rivera, a transfer from Dickinson, in center.
Junior Nadia Montgomery is in right field.
As you can see, it is a very young team, with Moyeno and Hill the lone seniors.
Wendolowski is enjoying the fine ride the Hawks are on.
“I love the way things are going,” Wendolowski said. “They can’t be any better right now.”…
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Hudson Reporter H.S. Baseball Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (19-3). 2. Marist (17-5). 3. Union City (15-6). 4. Hudson Catholic (14-6). 5. Weehawken (12-8-1)…
Hudson Reporter H.S. Softball Top Five: 1. Hudson Catholic (16-4). 2. North Bergen (13-7). 3. St. Dominic Academy (14-6). 4. Bayonne (9-7). 5. Secaucus (14-7)…--Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.