All posts by Kate Snyder

Basketball Star Abood Abuissa’s Comeback Season

By Jake Durocher ’18, Staff Writer, The Willistonian

Aboooood! This is how senior basketball player Abdulraheem Abuissa is greeted everyday as he walks to class with a smile on his face.

“It is hard to find Abood not in a good mood,” Senior Jack Phelan said. “With a constant smile and same greeting every time, ‘what’s up man?’ there is nothing you can’t like about him.”

Williston is a long way from home for the basketball standout; Abood is from Doha, Qatar. “Every break I am lucky enough to go home and see my family,” Abood said. “At the very least I will be able to see my dad in New York on the weekends, because he works there a lot.” Abood knows how lucky this is for an international student, and does not take this for granted.

Despite the distance from home, Abood’s path to Western Massachusetts was pretty simple. “I was recruited for a school in Florida but I wanted something stronger academically,” he told The Willistonian. “The scout knew coaches at University of Hartford where the connection with coach Farmer was made, and therefore lead me to Williston”

Abood has made the most of his time here at Williston by taking part in athletic performance in the fall, basketball in the winter, and track in the spring.

“I love track,” said Abood, who does high jump and serves as the team captain. “It’s quiet and fun and a step back from basketball. Starting with no experience, it was fun to see myself grow, because I don’t see that in basketball as much anymore.”

This is Abood’s second year at Williston, and he has plenty of motivation going into this season; after missing half of last year with a knee injury, he is more than ready to get things going.

“It was bad but I think it helped me a lot,” Abood said of his injury. “I took a step back and was able to grow a lot from it.” After tweaking his knee, Abood was out on crutches for the last month of athletic performance and the first half of the basketball season.  “I could see a lot of the things on the court that I applied to my game,” he noted. “With plenty of time in the weight room recovering, I feel a lot more strong and skilled for this season.”

Duncan LeXander, one of Abood’s closest friends and teammates, had great things to say about his old roommate. “We have the same personality,” Duncan said. “We are both laid back and easy going, but there is never a dull moment when we are together.”

Abood and Duncan’s first interaction came over social media the summer before they both came to Williston. “He found out that I was his roommate,” Duncan said, “so he DM’d me on Instagram and our first time meeting was move in day. Right off the bat we could be ourselves around each other.”

Their friendship off the court is just half the story. This bond is put to the test; as teammates for all three sports seasons, Abood and Duncan interact quite a bit. “Abood is an awesome teammate, one of the best supporters at this school,” Duncan said. “Even during his injury, he played a huge role for the team.”

Assembly Highlights Fall Athletic Achievements

Athletic Director Mark Conroy stood before the school during an assembly on November 29 and listed the highlights of the nine fall athletic programs.

Horseback Riding
Seven Williston students participated in horseback riding at Fuller Horse Farm in Westhampton under the direction of Laura Etzel. The seven riders brought a range of riding experience to the program. “Coach Laura Etzel says that the group was a great pleasure to work with and improved tremendously this fall,” Conroy said.

Varsity Riders:
Most Valuable Rider: Momoka Oda ‘18, Aiden Alden ‘18
Most Improved Rider: Noel Song ‘21
Sportsmanship Award: Hana Tsukamoto ‘20

JV Riders:
MVP: Izzy Epstein ‘23
JV Most Improved Rider: Sophi Edmunds ‘23
Sportsmanship Award: Elsa Frankel ’23 Continue reading

Duncan LeXander to Play Basketball for Charleston Southern

Florence, South Carolina’s Duncan LeXander, agreed to play basketball at Charleston Southern’s Division I program. He signed a national letter of intent during a Nov. 10 ceremony recognizing seven Williston students signing to play college sports at the Division I and II levels.

Duncan is a forward who has played for the Wildcats for two years. His coach, Ben Farmer, enthused about his skills on and off the court: “Duncan LeXander set the bar very high for our basketball program here at Williston. His versatility on the basketball court will serve him well at the next level; his ability to shoot the basketball and guard multiple positions is what separates him from other players. Duncan’s approach in the classroom, on the court, and in the community has been remarkable.  He set a great example every day for everyone around him. I am very proud of everything he has accomplished up to this point in his life and am looking forward to following his career at Charleston Southern.  They are getting a good one!  We will miss him dearly but wish him nothing but the best.”

“Our offense flows best when we have forwards that can really shoot the ball,” Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh told The (Charleston, South Carolina) Post and Courier. “Duncan is a 6-8 forward that is supremely skilled on the offensive end. His ability to handle the ball, pass and shoot, combined with his size, is very hard to find and recruit.”

Tori Palumbo to Play Ice Hockey, Field Hockey for UNH

Senior Victoria Palumbo of Ayer, Massachusetts, agreed to play ice hockey and field hockey for the University of New Hampshire’s Division I programs. She signed a national letter of intent during a Nov. 10 ceremony recognizing seven Williston students signing to play college sports at the Division I and II levels.

Tori plays midfield in field hockey and defense on the ice. She’s been on skates for 13 years, and involved in field hockey for six years. During her tenure at Williston, the teams she’s played for won the New England Championships in field hockey, and the Harrington Invitational Hockey Tournament in ice hockey.

“I hope to play both D1 field hockey and ice hockey to the best of my ability and to continue to grow as an athlete,” she said. “At Williston, I have been able to play at the highest level with great coaches who push me every day to be better.”

Her field hockey coach, Kate Garrity, praised Tori’s play at Williston. “Her skills and athleticism have always been strong,” she said. “Tori’s grown as a leader. As an underclassman, she just led by example. As a senior captain, it’s great to hear her voice out there, supporting, teaching, and leading her teammates.”

Her ice hockey coach, Christa Talbot Syfu said, “Tori is a four-year player who made an impact as soon as she stepped on the ice. Tori is an excellent skater and is relied on in all situations. Despite her small stature, she plays much bigger and uses her body very well to protect the puck. She has a strong hockey IQ and isn’t afraid to jump-start the offense from the defensive end. She will continue to be an integral part of our defense core and we look forward to seeing her continue to elevate her game.”

Shana Hecht to Play Lacrosse for Sacred Heart University

Delray Beach, Florida’s Shana Hecht agreed to play lacrosse for Fairfield, Connecticut-based Sacred Heart University’s Division I program. Shana signed a national letter of intent during a Nov. 10 ceremony recognizing seven Williston Northampton School students signing to play college sports at the Division I and II levels.

A goalie, Shana has been playing lacrosse since she was 11. At her post, her mind is on “making sure I do everything in my power to keep my team in the game,” she said. “Being goalie is all mental, you can’t stress over a goal going in. You need to keep playing.”

She came to Williston as a junior, and has found the experience rewarding. “If I didn’t come to Williston I don’t think I would have had the opportunities I have encountered or be where I am today,” she said.

Her coach, Jen Fulcher, praised Shana’s winning mindset and skillset. “Shana is an outstanding goal keeper who has a contagious competitive spirit,” she said. “She is also an amazing teammate, always looking to bring out the best in everyone on and off the field. She was a huge part of our success last season and will be again this season!”

Rob Champigny Signs to Play Lacrosse for Rollins College

East Longmeadow’s Rob Champigny agreed to play lacrosse for Florida-based Rollins College’s Division II program. He signed a national letter of intent during a Nov. 10 ceremony recognizing seven Williston students signing to play college sports at the Division I and II levels.

Rob, a two-way midfielder, has been playing lacrosse since third grade. His proudest moment on the field came last season. “We were able to win our league and then go on to win the Colonial Tournament. It was a great way to end our season and I loved playing with that group of guys.”

As a leader, Rob has “very high expectation for myself and my teammates,” he said. “There is a certain level that we are expected to perform at, and when we are not playing at that level it is challenging to keep everybody calm and focused on our goal as a team.”

That goal? Simply, to win. “I think the most rewarding part, for any athlete, is winning a hard game and really feeling like you earned the victory. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take any victory, but really working hard and winning a close game feels amazing.”

He credits his time at Williston for supporting him on his road to college sports. “Williston has always been there to support my athletic aspirations. The facilities on campus constantly allow me to practice and improve my game. My coaches really walked me through the college process and contacted multiple coaches for me. Overall, something or someone was always there for me to help me improve and find my new home for the next four years.”

As he prepares for his final season at Williston, he looks to a promising future in college. “I want to be an impact player who is helpful with the overall success of my team. I am really looking forward to heading down to Florida and competing extremely hard for my new coaches and teammates.”

Rob’s lacrosse coach, Christopher Dietrich, spoke highly about his performance: “Rob Champigny is not only one of the best athletes we have had, but he is also one of the most selfless players I have worked with in many years. Rob is gifted with speed, agility, and talent that many other players simply do not have, but he never rests of those talents and he is always pushing himself to be faster, stronger, and better. He established himself as one of our best two-way middies during his freshman year in spring 2015, and played a major role in what was ultimately our most successful season in decades. During his junior year, Rob truly established himself as one of our top offensive threats and he, along with a talented group of juniors, helped to create one of the most prolific offenses we have had here at Williston. We will rely heavily on his leadership by example this spring, and I truly cannot wait to see the impact he will undoubtedly have as a member of the Rollins lacrosse program next year.”

Mason Balch to Play Lacrosse for Bryant University

Westfield’s Mason Balch agreed to play lacrosse for Bryant University’s Division I program. He signed a national letter of intent during a Nov. 10 ceremony recognizing seven Williston students signing to play college sports at the Division I and II levels.

Mason plays attack. He’s handled a stick since kindergarten. His proudest moment on the field came last season, when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Canterbury to clinch the Western New England Secondary School Lacrosse Association Division II championship.

As a leader, he tries “to be mature and sometimes hard on some of my best friends while also keeping those close relationships,” he said. But that challenge also yields rewards. “Being able to lead a team full of overall good guys and being a role model to some of the younger ones will trump any winning record or trophy.”

As he prepares for his final season at Williston, he looks to a promising future in college. “I hope to make the most out of my four years at Bryant and compete with some of the best athletes in the country while representing my hometown and high school. Williston has given me the absolute best opportunity and resources to work on my craft and become the best possible student-athlete I can.”

Mason’s lacrosse coach, Christopher Dietrich, spoke to Mason’s performance: “Mason Balch is one of the most dynamic offensive players we have ever had here at Williston. He has the ability to both score goals, and assist on goals at any moment that the ball is in his stick. He is a consummate competitor,” Dietrich continued. “He can always be counted on to do whatever his team needs him to do at any time to improve their chances of success, and most important to me, as his coach, he makes everyone else on the field with him better based on the way he plays the game.”

Mason began his Williston career last year. “He genuinely has the tools to succeed at the Division I level, and we look forward to watching as he makes his splash at Bryant next year,” Dietrich said.

Julia MacLean to Play Ice Hockey for the Merrimack Warriors

Medfield’s Julia MacLean ’18 has agreed to play ice hockey for the Merrimack College’s Division I Warriors program. She signed a letter of intent during a Nov. 10 ceremony recognizing seven Williston students signing to play college sports at the Division I and II levels.

A defensive player, Julia has been playing hockey since she was five years old. Her proudest moment playing for Williston was a win against Phillips Andover during her junior year. “It was an extremely emotional game for both our coaches and players,” she said. “I think coming back from some difficult events prior to the game and overcoming them really exposed our heart and togetherness as a team.”

Despite the challenges that come with being a team leader (including relating to the wide variety of personalities of players on her team), she enjoys the role. “I can be someone who my younger teammates can look up to. I love that I can be someone who they can talk to for support, or just be a friend.”

It was on the ice at Lossone Rink at Williston that her dreams to play Division 1 hockey came true, she said. As she shifts to college, she said her goal is to be the best player, person, and student she can be.

Her ice hockey coach, Christa Talbot Syfu, spoke about her skills on the ice: “Julia has been an impact player since arriving in ninth grade,” she said. “Last year, she brought her game to a new level as she became more offensive; she had five goals and 14 assists for 19 points. She finished fifth overall for points on the team. Julia plays consistently well, always doing the little things and making very strong decisions with the puck. She will be relied on heavily this season and we are excited to see her game continue to grow in the upcoming season.”

Gabby Jones to Play Ice Hockey at Merrimack College

East Longmeadow’s Gabby Jones ’18 agreed to play ice hockey for Merrimack College’s Division I Warriors program. She signed a national letter of intent during a Nov. 10 ceremony recognizing seven Williston students signing to play college sports at the Division I and II levels.

Gabby plays forward and has played ice hockey for 14 years. During her tenure at Williston, her favorite moments on the ice have been the annual “Pink in the Rink” games, in support of breast cancer research. “We play for something much bigger than ourselves in these games,” she said, “and it is always so fun and has a big impact on everyone in the community, especially our team.”

During her time at Williston, she said, she has grown as an athlete. “Williston has gotten me ready for the next level. I have competed in four varsity sports since seventh grade and it has helped me get better every single year.” At Merrimack, she hopes to continue that trend. “I hope to grow as a hockey player and have a positive impact on the Merrimack hockey team.”

Her ice hockey coach, Christa Talbot Syfu, shares more: “Gabby arrived in seventh grade when our program made a big jump to being a playoff contender,” she said. “As a six-year player, Gabby has developed into a very skilled forward but also makes smart defensive plays, making her a great two-way player. Gabby has played a huge role for us because of her strong hockey IQ, which allows her to play in every situation.”

Seven Seniors Sign to Play College Sports

By Matt Liebowitz

Years of dedication, perseverance, and gratitude led seven Williston seniors to the podium at the school’s Friday, Nov. 10, signing ceremony. For the sheer numbers as well as the enthusiasm of a room packed with parents, classmates, teammates, and coaches, the event embodied the communal Wildcat spirit.

First to ink his commitment to Rollins College, in Winter Park, Florida, was Rob Champigny. Rob will play lacrosse for the Tars in the Division II Sunshine State Conference.

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