You needed all your fingers and some of your toes to count the future Division I kids at Shenendehowa’s national letter of intent signing ceremony.
You can count all of the Division I kids in the entire history of Schoharie High School on one hand, and still have a thumb left over.
But 16 athletes from Shenendehowa and one from Schoharie shared a common bond on Wednesday, taking pen to paper to officially sign with the school of their choice.
They may come from a sprawling suburban campus in southern Saratoga County or a brick building on a hill off Route 30 in Schoharie County, but the biggest stage in college sports doesn’t discriminate based on the size of your town.
If you can play, you can play there.
In Schoharie’s case, girls’ soccer player Megan Krohn will attend UAlbany next fall, making it three straight years that Schoharie has sent an athlete to a Division I school, after her soccer-playing sister Carrie went to Siena two years ago and baseball player Shane Helmstadt chose Stony Brook last year.
You have to go all the way back to the 1970s to find another Division I athlete from the school, Siena basketball player John Murray.
“We’ve had a significant decrease in people participating in sports, so I hope that some of these athletes can inspire kids to play and get involved in sports, because they can make it a big part of their life,” Krohn said.
“It gives a lot of the other kids some hope,” coach Tammy Drinon said. “Get out there, work hard and maybe your dreams will come true. So it is really nice for the town. I think it puts us on the map a little bit.”
“Now, some of those young girls coming up through the soccer program are going to look and say, ‘Holy mackerel. That Krohn girl, that Krohn girl … they were all able to do that,’” Schoharie athletic director Shane Barton said.
For 2021-22 enrollees, Wednesday marked the first day for signing in every Division I sport except football, which begins Dec. 16.
Because of social distancing concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shenendehowa split its typically crowded signing ceremony into two sessions in the school gym. Schoharie had no classes on premises on Wednesday and only one athlete to accommodate, so Krohn was set up at a table under a pavilion pelted by rain behind the school, flanked by her parents, Marie and John, and younger sister Katie.
When Krohn, who has helped Schoharie become a Class C powerhouse, originally decided on UAlbany, Nick Bochette was the head coach. He subsequently left for Temple, and Leigh Howard was hired in February.
Krohn is still recovering from reconstructive ankle surgery in September, but is looking forward to rejoining the Albany Alleycats in the spring, and is getting advice from sister Carrie on the transition from high school to college.
“Oh, she gives me all of the advice. You have to work your butt off to be successful,” said Megan Krohn, who plans to major in Education with a concentration in Spanish. “I feel like I’m prepared. There’s a few girls from my travel team that play for Albany, so I’ve talked to them a lot to make the transition smoother.”
“She’s seen what it takes, and she’s a tough kid,” Drinon said. “She’s different from Carrie. She’s bigger, she’s stronger than Carrie. She’s not as fast as Carrie, but she’s certainly fast enough. I think she’ll do very well at UAlbany.”
ON HIS WAY
Could yet another Section II pitcher make his way onto a Major League Baseball team in the future?
Amsterdam High School senior Carson Cotugno plans first to attend Wake Forest University, but has the goal of making it onto an MLB mound.
“He’s got great projection at the next level just because of his size, long levers and all those things,” Amsterdam baseball coach Robby Hisert said. “Wake Forest and all the schools that were after him recognize that, and see him probably as a top prospect and not just a college pitcher.”
Cotugno chose Wake Forest over Notre Dame and Xavier. He signed Wednesday his National Letter of Intent to Wake Forest during a ceremony inside the Amsterdam High School gymnasium surrounded by family, friends and school administrators.
This past MLB season, Shenendehowa alumnus Ian Anderson, picked No. 3 in the 2016 MLB draft, dazzled after debuting with the Atlanta Braves. Anderson developed a devastating change-up during his years in the minor leagues, while Cotugno added his change-up in high school. The Amsterdam product took note of Anderson’s success, watching him on TV during the summer and fall.
“I’m thinking I have the same thing, the same pitch,” Cotugno said. “My pitching coach has been developing a lot of players at Wake Forest, so he’s helping me and that’s why we started with that so early, so young.”
He added: “Now, if the velocity for the fastball gets there, I have a shot.”
His current pitch offerings include a fastball, slider and change-up.
“In eighth grade, I started working with my pitching coach [Dennis Healy], and he’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Cotugno said. “He got me the in at Wake Forest and my high school coaches worked with me all year.”
Healy spent four years at Wake Forest as its pitching coach and recruiting coordinator, and continues to provide pitching clinics in the Capital Region.
Cotugno made his varsity debut as a sophomore in 2019, ending with a 5-1 record, 1.86 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 46 innings, helping Amsterdam to an undefeated Foothills Council season. Last season lasted for less than a week of practices as the COVID-19 pandemic ended all spring sports in mid-March.
‘MY DAD HAS ALWAYS BEEN MY COACH’
Next school year will be different for Kate Sherman and Mattison Muller.
The two Mohonasen seniors will be on two different campuses, with Sherman at Iona and Muller at The College of Saint Rose — and neither will be playing for their dad.
At Mohonasen, Kate Sherman runs for dad Bill Sherman. Meanwhile, Muller plays for Jeff Mattice during the school season, but plays for her dad Jeff Muller — Schalmont’s softball coach — during the travel season.
“My dad has always been my coach,” Mattison Muller said. “He’s been a real important influence for me throughout my whole career. It’ll be weird playing for someone else, but I know he’ll always still be there to support me while I’m playing. He’s looking forward to watching me from the sidelines.”
After competing for her father, Kate Sherman said a major part of Iona’s appeal to her was the relationship she developed with the team’s coaching staff.
“I think me feeling comfortable with my coaches was a really important part of the decision in that I would feel comfortable talking to them about my concerns,” Sherman said. “It’s definitely going to be different, but I’m also looking forward to a change like that.”
Sherman started her college search last fall.
Also signing Wednesday at Mohonasen was senior Natalie Blackstone who connected with Division II Mansfield University with help from Mattice. It proved to be a perfect match.
“I looked into it and was talking to the assistant coach there,” Blackstone said. “I went on a visit, loved the campus layout. It has my major — criminal justice — and it just clicked.”
‘SHE NEVER LOOKED BACK’
The college recruiters that came to Niskayuna High School to watch Olivia Olsen score the basketball and aggressively snare rebounds were equally impressed with how she got in position to do those things.
“I played with the Alleycats since I was 9 years old. Soccer was a big thing,” the 6-foot-2 forward said. “It helped me with my foot skills and speed. That’s why I am able to do what I can do.”
Olsen is a late-bloomer on the basketball scene, and only began playing AAU when she was in eighth grade to go along with her soccer participation. Going into her junior year at Niskayuna, she decided that basketball would be her focus.
“We were traveling from state to state to play soccer and basketball,” the 17-year-old Olsen said. “I wanted to stick to one sport.”
“She liked it and started to put time into it,” Niskayuna varsity girls’ basketball coach Sarah Neely said. “She never looked back.”
Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon in the Dags Basketball gym in Lansingburgh, where Olsen confirmed her commitment to play that sport at Providence College of the Big East Conference.
Olsen announced Providence was her choice in mid-May.
Olsen has already achieved much in her varsity basketball career that began as a late-season call-up her freshman year, and so much more could be ahead. Her AAU coach with the City Rocks, Tom Huerter — whose daughter Meghan committed to Providence on the same day as Olsen back in May — said Providence is getting a player that keeps improving.
“First and foremost, she brings incredible athleticism to the court,” said Tom Huerter, the former Siena College men’s basketball player whose son Kevin Huerter is on the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. “Her best basketball is ahead of her, and if her skill development matches that athleticism, in the future she will get paid to play.”
Olsen averaged 22.5 points and 11.8 rebounds as a junior when Niskayuna finished 18-3 for its finest season in several decades. Olsen was named to the all-state Class AA third team following a campaign during which she also averaged five blocks and three steals per game.
“It was a great season,” said Olsen, whose dad James was a star player at Schenectady. “I was very proud to be part of that.”
Olsen received more than 20 Division I offers and spoke to representatives from many other Division I and Division II schools.
“The improvement she’s made from year to year has been unbelievable,” Neely said. “She hasn’t reached her peak yet.”
While Olsen signed her national letter of intent in Lansingburgh, Meghan Huerter signed her NLI 11 miles away in Clifton Park.
Next year, they’ll be much closer.
One of 16 Shenendehowa athletes Wednesday to sign an NLI, Huerter, the 5-foot-11 star perimeter player on Shenendehowa’s girls’ basketball team, will join her friend — and rival, for now — from Niskayuna at Providence.
“Just the fact that we played together since eighth grade, we just have that different form of friendship on the court and know our strengths and weaknesses, and we can work together,” Huerter said. “We worked out a lot during the quarantine and even this past summer, where we’ll be able to take a lot of our new skills into the next season. But we’re just excited to go together; we’re really good friends and it’ll be nice to know that I’ll have someone there that I’m really close with.”
Huerter, a second-team all-state selection, was averaging 17 points, four assists and three steals per game when Shenendehowa’s season was cut off before the state semifinals because of the pandemic.
She has attended a few signing ceremonies before her own. This one was a little different, because of the extra pandemic precautions.
Her older brother, Thomas, played three seasons at Siena before transferring to Catholic University, and her other older brother, Kevin, played two seasons at Maryland before being picked in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft.
“It was a lot more people when my brothers were here [when the ceremonies weren’t split into two sessions],” she said with a chuckle. “The same format, but a lot more people — and no masks.”
Signees from Shenendehowa included: Sophia DeMura (soccer), University at Albany; Maia LaVigne (soccer), Roberts Wesleyan); Rachel Sterle (field hockey), Syracuse University; Sydney Reinisch (field hockey), Kutztown; Payton Kisling (lacrosse), Old Dominion; Celia Ralph (lacrosse), Duke; Adam Gilbert (lacrosse), Assumption; Nyah Reader (gymnastics), Southeast Missouri State; Kaylie Leonard (crew), Louisville; Meghan Huerter (basketball), Providence; Rose Talty (volleyball), Le Moyne; Brock DelSignore (wrestling), North Carolina State; Stevo Poulin (wrestling), North Carolina State; Ava Caputo (softball), St. Anselm; Scott Dochat (track and field), Pennsylvania; Ellen Fuda (softball), The College of Saint Rose.