ABSECON — Like a lot of other schools throughout the country, Holy Spirit packed its library today with parents and students to witness 10 Spartan athletes sign their National Letters of Intent. It was standing room only in what Athletic Director Steve Normane called one of the biggest turnouts the school has ever had for a Signing Day ceremony.

Eight of the 10 signees came from the Spartans’ crew programs, including six girls, three of whom plan to further their athletic and academic careers at nearby Drexel University in Philadelphia. Mollie Knoff, Kayla Driscoll and Haley Bramante will be Drexel Dragons next fall, and also signing from girls crew were Bailey Harris (Connecticut), Julianna Lynch (Tulsa) and Abby Fuscaldo (Eastern Michigan), as well as Joe Glenn (Drexel) and Jake Curran (La Salle) from the boys crew team. Joining the rowers were baseball players Justin Jimenez (Frostburg State) and Brandon Castellini (St. John’s).

“I’m extremely proud. It shows that even though we’re a smaller program we still get more than half of our kids into college. It’s a good showing for us,” said Holy Spirit girls crew coach Rory Roberts. “More than 50 percent of girls get athletic aid, so it’s good to row. This speaks to our tradition, what we have here at Holy Spirit, and the type of kids we get. If you’re a girl who wants to row, and you want to row in college, it’s a good choice to come to Holy Spirit.

“The three girls who are going to Drexel and Jules Lynch were in our Varsity Four boat last year that got second at nationals — Abby was in our Junior Eight last year and was at the stroke seat for a little bit and the six seat, and Bailey was the stroke of our varsity quad. They all had a good season,” Roberts continued. “When these kids go away to school, and their college coaches have a good experience with the type of kids we have, they want to recruit us even more. I have colleges reaching out to me almost every day asking about our kids. They want Holy Spirit kids.”

“I think this represents what we do here at Holy Spirit. We have a legacy we like to uphold, whether we go DI, DII or DIII, it’s really about where we came from. We have that legacy that we want to give to the freshmen. We have schools like Eastern Michigan, UConn, Tulsa and Drexel, and a few other seniors who are still looking (at their options),” Knoff said. “We like to get our name everywhere. Wherever I took my official visits, people knew Holy Spirit, they know that name. Holy Spirit has a name for itself, and we like to know we have that kind of name.”

Jimenez became one of the top catchers in the Cape-Atlantic League during his junior year after taking over the starting job from Matt Rivera, who is now at La Salle, and Castellini was a big-time bat in the middle of Holy Spirit’s batting order last spring while also playing third base and pitching.

There were some other notable signings across the CAL, including some big-time basketball recruits making their college choices official. Taj Thweatt and Jahlil White of Wildwood Catholic — two of the most sought-after recruits in South Jersey, signed with West Virginia and Temple, respectively, and Mainland’s Kylee Watson made it official with the University of Oregon, one of the top NCAA women’s basketball programs and a national title contender. In addition, Kevin Antczak, one of the best cross country runners in Mainland history, signed with North Carolina State. Mainland will host its official Signing Day ceremony a week from today, and that will include athletes such as Destin Lasco (swimming, California-Berkeley), Claire Pedrick (track, Lehigh), Paige Ortzman (crew, UCLA) and Colin Cooke (lacrosse, High Point), among others. Cedar Creek had three baseball players sign NLIs, including Luke Vaks (Old Dominion), Joe Hamill (Bloomsburg) and Steven Kaenzig (Hofstra).

Spirit’s Knoff said the Spartan athletes were thrilled with the turnout at today’s ceremony, but knows the real work is just beginning.

“This just shows me what I have to work for next year. All the hype is good now, but it really matters once you get there,” she said. “I think we definitely have to work hard this year. Senior year is the biggest year and we all have to make sure we’re prepared for college rowing.

“It’s like a job, you have two-a-days all year long, it’s a lot more time in the weight room, in the erg room and on the water, so it’s demanding,” added coach Roberts.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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