Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Harper Experience Proves Vital for Herdegen

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT-Amanda Herdegen 2
Herdegen achieved a 4.0 GPA in the 2012-13 school year at EIU.
PALATINE, Ill. – Former Harper soccer player Amanda Herdegen may not have moved on to play soccer at a four-year university, but it hasn't stopped her from achieving excellence at Eastern Illinois University. The former standout student-athlete, who graduated from Harper in May of 2012, achieved a 4.0 GPA in the 2012-13 school year and exemplifies the positive impact the Harper College athletics program can have on those who play a sport for the Hawks.

A two-sport athlete at Fremd High School, Herdegen came to Harper and immediately enjoyed an atmosphere where she was able to play soccer, make friends, and learn from top-rate professors who had a vested interest in her. As a freshman in 2010, she was a team captain for a team that took ninth place at nationals. Individually, she made First Team All-Conference and First Team All-Region as a defender.

Her success continued as a sophomore in the fall of 2011, as she was once again a team captain and was a First Team All-Conference and First Team All-Region selection. Herdegen also received Team MVP honors, as voted upon by her teammates.

Academically, she was a N4C Academic All-Conference honoree and was an NJCAA Academic All-American for her 3.95 GPA. She also joined the Future Educators Association as she began to realize her passion for teaching.

"Coach Dwayne (Cruz) helped bring out the confidence in me that I didn't know I had," she said. "He taught us that we could achieve whatever we want if we keep working hard at it."

Herdegen felt Harper gave her the chance to learn how to balance school, friends and other activities. Coming to Harper gave her the chance to get a feel for college, get guidance and move on.

"The soccer coaching staff really meets the needs for the players. You can come and play right away and work on your skills and advance to the next level," she said.

Herdegen ultimately decided to end her soccer career and enroll at Eastern Illinois University because she felt her soccer career didn't need another chapter. At EIU, she immediately plugged into the community, playing intramural soccer and basketball, joining Habitat for Humanity and becoming a transfer student transition leader. Even with a full class load and the various activities, Herdegen achieved a perfect 4.0 GPA this past year and attributed her success to the preparation she received at Harper.

"The workload and difficulty are nearly equal," she said. "The education I received at Harper exceeded my expectations and the faculty was awesome."

Herdegen is majoring in Elementary Education and has one year of classes left before student teaching in the fall of 2014. This summer, she is taking two classes at Harper as well as an online class with EIU. She will also be spending time with many of her former teammates at Harper, many of whom became lifelong friends.

Looking back on her experience as a Harper Hawk, Herdegen encourages those who may not give Harper a chance to reconsider their stance.

"I would 100% recommend coming here and I think it's the best decision I've ever made in my life," she said. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Six Harper Athletes Receive NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Awards

Ogden, Sommers and Wallenberg all received NJCAA Awards for Superior Academic Achievement.
PALATINE, Ill. – Six Harper College athletes were recognized by the NJCAA today with 2012-2013 NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Awards. Zachary Hummel, Mitshi Ishioka , Bree Nishibun, Sancha Ogden, Kelly Sommers and Samantha Wallenberg were among over 1,600 NJCAA student-athletes who received the individual academic honors.

NameSportsGPAAward Type
Zachary HummelM Wrestling3.85Superior Academic Achievement
Mitshi IshiokaW Soccer III3.75Exemplary Academic Achievement
Bree NishibunW Soccer III
W Softball III
3.68Exemplary Academic Achievement
Sancha OgdenW Basketball III
W Soccer III
3.93Superior Academic Achievement
Kelly SommersW Volleyball III3.82Superior Academic Achievement
Samantha WallenbergW Volleyball III3.88Superior Academic Achievement
NJCAA Pinnacle Award for Academic Excellence=4.00 GPA on 4.00 scale
NJCAA Award for Superior Academic Achievement=3.80-3.99 on 4.00 scale
NJCAA Award for Exemplary Academic Achievement=3.60-3.79 on 4.00 scale

The NJCAA Academic Student-Athlete Awards were previously known as NJCAA Academic All-American honors. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Harper Softball Signs 14 Players for 2014 Season

Softball: Recruit Signing Day Two
Some of the newest Hawks shortly after signing their NJCAA Letters of Intent.
PALATINE, Ill. – Harper College couldn't field a softball team for the spring 2012 season, but since that time, head coach Cray Allen has begun to rebuild the program. Allen and his coaching staff held two signing days Friday, June 14 and Monday, June 17 to welcome in 14 players to a revitalized Hawks program on the rise.

"We're excited about our first official recruiting class at Harper," Allen said. "We have some dedicated kids with some high softball IQ that are willing to take the program to the next level."

Nine players signed their NJCAA Letters of Intent on the first day of signing: Kayleigh Burnitz (Fremd), Jess DuBrock (East Leyden), Alexis Filler (Hoffman Estates), Jaz Skor (Barrington), Anna Kawka (East Leyden), Ashley Packard (Buffalo Grove), Tory Brewer (West Washington High School (Indiana)),  Ashley Alicea (Huntley) and Sam Cummings (Lake Park).

Burnitz was a three-sport athlete at Fremd, earning All-Conference honors in bowling for two consecutive years (2011-12) and also lettering in softball and golf. Burnitz will be playing outfield for Harper. DuBrock, a National Honor Society member, received a Coaches Award while at East Leyden High School, and her team was ranked No. 41 in the nation. DuBrock primarily played second base for the Hawks in the spring of 2013 and appeared in 18 games.

Filler was her team's offensive MVP in 2012 at Hoffman Estates High School. She served as Harper's primary catcher in 2013 and played in 23 of the team's 24 games. Skor primarily played shortstop and served as the second pitcher for the Hawks in 2013. She led the team in hitting with a .328 average and ranked at the top of several offensive categories, including hits (21), triples (4), runs (12) and OPS (.850).

Kawka will be playing outfield for the Hawks in 2014. A two-sport athlete in high school (softball and gymnastics), Kawka was in Italian Honor Society and was also an honor roll student at East Leyden. She was also on the East Leyden team that was ranked in the top 50 nationally. Packard earned Team MVP honors in 2011 and 2012 on her track and field team and was on the All-Academic Team for three years at Buffalo Grove High School. She played the 2012-13 season for the Harper women's basketball team and will be a utility player for the Hawks.

Brewer, who is a middle infielder and outfielder, was a two-time All-County (2011-12) and two-time All-Conference Patoka Lakes Athletic Conference player (2011-12) for West Washington High School in Campbellsburg, Ind.  Alicea was a star on the track and field team at Huntley High School and can play multiple positions on the diamond.

Cummings will play first base and catcher for the Hawks. She was her team's offensive MVP for two years at Lake Park High School and also was named All-Conference twice (2011-12).

Five players signed their NJCAA Letters of Intent on the second day of signing: Ashley Webster (Wilmot High School (Wisconsin)), Kaitlyn Keegan (Elk Grove), Tori Liewergen (Elk Grove), Lindsay Cannon (McHenry) and Beth Petrunich (McHenry).

Webster is a middle infielder who was a four-year varsity softball letter winner at Wilmot High School in Salem, Wis. Keegan played primarily third base for the Hawks this past season. She had a strong day at the plate in the Hawks' final two games of the season at Madison College, going 4-for-6 with an RBI.

Liewergen, a pitcher and utility player, was an All-Area selection in 2012 at Elk Grove and was an All-Academic senior athlete. A two-sport athlete who also played tennis in high school, Liewergen is transferring from Lake Forest College, where she spent her first year of college.

Cannon was an outfielder for a McHenry High School team that won back-to-back regional championships in 2012 and 2013. Her high school teammate Beth Petrunich, a middle infielder, was also a member of those championship teams. Petrunich was in National Honor Society and was a high honor roll student for four years, an All-Conference academic athlete and her travel team's defensive MVP.

"We have some star pitchers and a good balance of speed, power and athletic ability. It should be an exciting year," said assistant coach Lynsey Ciezki. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Miklasz, Gatz and Lorenz Commit To Four-Year Schools

Men's Basketball: Miklasz/Gatz/Lorenz collage-sign to move on
Miklasz, Gatz and Lorenz are all moving on to play at four-year schools. (Jim Cummins)
PALATINE, Ill. – Harper men’s basketball coach Tony Amarino had a young group to work with in the 2012-13 season, with only three healthy sophomores on the roster. Connor Miklasz (Mount Prospect, Ill., Hersey)Garett Gatz (Elk Grove Village, Ill., Conant) and John Lorenz (Elk Grove, Ill., Elk Grove) left their mark on the program in their two seasons for the Hawks, and now each player has committed to a four-year school.

Miklasz verbally committed to the Lake Superior State University Lakers, a Div. II program in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The Lakers compete in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and had a 16-13 record last season.

The 5-foot-9 point guard earned First Team All-Conference N4C, First Team All-Region, and N4C Academic All-Conference honors for the Hawks in the 2012-13 season. As a freshman, Miklasz averaged 9.5 points (PPG) and 5 assists per game (APG) and earned Second Team All-Region Distinctions. He improved his averages as a sophomore, scoring 11.2 PPG while ranking 11th in the nation with 6.8 APG.

“Connor sees the floor really well and is a great player,” Amarino said.

Gatz has committed to play for the North Park University Vikings on Chicago’s north side. The Vikings are a Div. III program and were 6-19 last year while competing in the CCIW.

The 5-foot-10 guard led the Hawks in scoring at 13.8 PPG in the 2012-13 season. Gatz began his career at Harper in the 2010-11 season, when he scored 13.3 PPG as a freshman. Gatz redshirted the next season after playing in only five games due to injury.

Lorenz will continue his play career for the Illinois Institute of Technology Scarlet Hawks on Chicago’s south side. The Scarlet Hawks went 4-14 last year as an NAIA school but will become an NCAA Div. III school in September.

The 6-foot-2 guard provided a steady scoring presence for the Hawks, averaging 7.3 PPG as a freshman and 8.7 PPG as a sophomore. Lorenz made N4C Academic All-Conference this year and will major in business at IIT.

“It’s good for our program that we can send our guys to four-year schools,” Amarino said. “I’m really happy for our kids and it’s something we can hang our hats on. Each guy will get a chance to play and make an immediate impact.” 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Plaza Excelling at Wisconsin-Whitewater

Plaza worked his way into the UW-W rotation and never looked back. (photo on right courtesy of uwwsports.com)
PALATINE, Ill. – One wouldn’t think a baseball player who barely played in high school could work his way up to playing for a powerhouse Division III baseball program. Scott Plaza is defying those odds.

Plaza excelled on the mound for the Harper baseball program in the 2012 season.  Plaza’s success grew in the past year, as he recently completed his junior season with the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks and continued growing as a pitcher and college student.

Plaza came to Harper having received minimal playing time in high school, but he immediately became a frontline starting pitcher for the Hawks. In the 2011 season, Plaza went 4-5 with a 4.66 ERA as a freshman in what he called a time of maturity when he learned how to pitch at the college level.  At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, he had the size but needed the proper coaching to hone it in.

“My Harper coaches really stressed fundamentals and helped me mechanically,” Plaza said. “They taught me how to play the right way, and I’ve never had arm problems to this date.”

His improvement came to light in the 2012 season. The staff ace, Plaza befuddled NJCAA hitters, going 6-4 with a 1.86 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings, earning him First Team All-Conference N4C, First Team All-Region, and Team MVP honors.

Academically, Plaza received a Scholastic Athlete Award and graduated with an Associate of Arts Degree and Associate in Science Degree.

While Plaza was being overlooked by Div. I and II baseball programs looking for harder throwers, he knew he wanted to continue playing baseball and found a destination in the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UW-W).  A perennial Div. III powerhouse, the Warhawks and head baseball coach John Vodenlich gave Plaza a home to continue playing the sport he loved. While Div. III programs cannot offer athletic scholarships, Whitewater’s affordable education and opportunity to play baseball made it a no-brainer for Plaza.

Plaza discovered that the transition to a four-year university isn’t always seamless because he missed being at home and had an increased workload. However, he acknowledges that Harper prepared him well for his first year at UW-W.

“The quality of education at Harper really prepared me for what I’ve seen at Whitewater. From a baseball standpoint, I felt well-prepared to play at the next level by Cliff (Brown) and the assistant coaches,” Plaza said.

This spring, the UW-W baseball program went 35-9 and won the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title, and Plaza played a big role in the team’s success. While he did not begin the season in the starting rotation, Plaza emerged as a force on the mound as the season went along. In 11 appearances and six starts, Plaza went 6-1 with a 2.65 ERA and stuck out 28 batters to just five walks in 51 innings pitched.  He will return for his senior season, where he is expected to be the leader of the pitching staff.

Plaza made the Dean’s List in his first semester at UW-W and is studying to obtain his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Education. He hopes to someday teach at the high school level. This summer, he will be working at InZone, Harper’s summer enrichment and sports camp for ages 8-14. He will be pitching for the Lombard Orioles of the Chicago Suburban Baseball League.

Looking back on his Harper experience, Plaza wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“I will recommend Harper until the day I die to anyone. I figure this is the best choice I could have made to spend my first two years of college here,” Plaza said. “You get the same quality of education, and on the athletics side, I came here (to Harper) and got a chance to play right away. The coaches give you the ability to be successful and grow as a player.” 

Cunningham Continuing Career at UW-Parkside

Cunningham's career will continue at UW-Parkside. (Jim Cummins)
PALATINE, Ill. – Troy Cunningham’s athletic career at Harper College has been nothing short of spectacular. A seven-time national champion, Cunningham will continue his career at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside for the men’s cross country and track and field teams.

Cunningham was drawn to the Div. II school by head cross country and track and field coach Micah VenDenend.

“He approached me and was very interested, and I went for a visit,” Cunningham said. “I liked the size of the school, the layout, the nice indoor facility, and the guys on the team. It seemed like the best fit for me.”

Cunningham considered schools such as Eastern Illinois University, Aurora University, Lewis University, and the University of Missouri before making his decision.

Cunningham credits Harper’s level of competition and great coaching as keys to preparing him for his future at UW-Parkside.

“We competed against a lot of Div. II and III schools,” he said. “It opened a lot of doors to new opportunities, and I can’t wait to get started at UW-Parkside.”

He joins a UW-Parkside Rangers program that boasted two former Harper College standouts for the 2012-13 school year. Seniors Jesus Escareno and Michael Karwowski were both NJCAA All-Americans for the Hawks before moving on to compete for the Rangers.

As a freshman in the 2011-12 school year, Cunningham helped the men’s cross country team win its first national championship ever in the sport. His 23rd place finish gave the Hawks a necessary boost to win the title over SUNY-Delhi. Cunningham continued his success on the track in the spring, as he won the national title in the 800m and was a member of the 3200m and 1600m relay teams that scored points for a team that won its fifth national championship in six years.

He added four more national titles to his resume in the 2012-13 school year, beginning with an individual title and second consecutive team national championship at the cross country NJCAA Championships. Cunningham was Harper’s first ever individual champion in the event.

Cunningham followed up an impressive fall with two more national titles on the track, one in the 1500m and one as a member of a first place 3200m relay team. He also took second in the 800m and earned All-American status for a Hawks team that placed second in the national meet. Finally, Cunningham was voted 2013 Men’s Track and Field Team MVP by his teammates.

“Troy is a very talented young man and a fierce competitor,” said Harper track and field coach Renee Zellner. “If he puts in the time and is committed to his training, he will continue to drop time and be successful in the 800m and 1500m at UW-Parkside.”

Cunningham is leaning towards majoring in sports management but hasn’t made a decision at this point.

Four Volleyball Players Find New Homes

Four Volleyball Players Find New Homes
Sommers, House, Gilmore, and Leja will all be playing at four-year schools in the fall.
PALATINE, Ill. – The Harper College women’s volleyball team has reeled off 70 wins over the last two years, and now four players will have the opportunity to continue their playing careers at four-year schools. Kelly Sommers(Arlington Heights, Ill., Buffalo Grove)Sarah House (Crystal Lake, Ill., Crystal Lake South)Sierra Gilmore(Fayetteville, NC, Cape Fear), and Andraia Leja (Crystal Lake, Ill., Prairie Ridge), who play four different positions, have all signed to play for four different colleges next year.

Sommers will be setting for Concordia University in River Forest, Ill. In the 2012 season, Sommers earned First Team All-Conference All-Region, and All-Region Tournament Team honors.  Sommers also earned NJCAA Div. III Player of the Week honors for games through Sept. 2 of last season after she helped the Hawks get off to an 8-1 start.

House will be an outside hitter for Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Ill.  In the 2011 season, House earned Second Team All-Conference and Region IV All-Tournament Team as a freshman and ranked second on the team in kills with 343. As a sophomore,  she ranked third on the team with 266 kills and second with 445 digs.

Gilmore will be a middle blocker for Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. She last played for the Hawks in 2011.

Leja will be playing libero at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill. After playing the 2011 season for Harper, Leja played one year for the University of West Florida. In her time at Harper, Leja received numerous awards. She was named First Team All-Conference and was also selected to the NJCAA All-Region team. Leja was also named NJCAA Player of the Week and was named Harper’s 2011-12 Female Athlete of the Year.

“I’m pretty proud of this accomplishment for my former players. We are not only winning, but we are obviously continuing to develop players,” said volleyball head coach Bob Vilsoet. “A lot of four-year schools ask me for successful transfer players to play for them after Harper College. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Eight Hawks Make All-Region Team

Lazzaratto and Miguel All-Region Team
Lazzaratto and Miguel were selected First Team All-Region. (Jim Cummins)
PALATINE, Ill. – While the Harper baseball program narrowly missed out on an opportunity to play in the NJCAA Division III World Series, eight Hawks players were named to the Region IV All-Region Team for their outstanding accomplishments in the 2013 season.

Starting pitcher Josh Lazzarato (Hoffman Estates, Ill., Indian Creek) and designated hitter Mike Miguel(Algonquin, Ill., Jacobs) earned First Team All-Region honors. Lazzaratto finished the season with a 3-2 record, 2.81 ERA, and 15 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings for the Hawks. Miguel hit for a .359 average, .456 on-base percentage (OBP) and had nine RBIs in 64 at-bats.

Starting pitcher Chris Bobo, catcher Kevin Robinson (Schaumburg, Ill., Conant), infielders Kurt Becker (Palatine, Ill., Palatine) and Theo Yfantis (Prospect Heights, Ill., Wheeling), and outfielders Cory Kay (Arlington Heights, Ill., St. Viator) and Andrew Skinner (Lyons, Ill., St. Joseph) all received Second Team All-Region distinctions.

Bobo led the team with 60 1/3 innings pitched, compiling a 3-5 record and 2.67 ERA and five complete games.  Robinson hit .290 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 33 games for the Hawks.

Becker hit .374 with a .455 OBP, two homers, 25 RBIs, 14 doubles, and four triples in 38 games. Yfantis hit .353 with a .439 OBP and team highs in hits (47) and runs (37) in 39 games.

Kay hit .363 with a .441 OBP, two homers, and 29 RBIs in 40 games. Skinner hit .331 with team highs in homers (3), RBIs (31), and stolen bases (13) in 39 games.

“I was proud to see the guys receive recognition for their great performance,” said baseball coach Cliff Brown. 

Hawks Fall Just Short of World Series Berth

The Hawks were 4-2 in postseason play. (Jim Cummins)
SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – The Harper baseball team came up just short of its first ever NJCAA Division III World Series berth, losing in a best-of-three series against Waubonsee Community College.

The Hawks needed to take two out of three games from the Chiefs, and things looked good after Harper took game one 9-2. However, the Chiefs rebounded, winning game two 8-1 and taking the final game of the series 13-1 to earn a bid to the World Series in Tyler, Texas.

The game one victory was the Hawks’ third consecutive defeat of Waubonsee. In that contest, Lee Breitzman(Palatine, Ill., Fremd) pitched seven strong innings for the victory. Leadoff man Theo Yfantis (Prospect Heights, Ill., Wheeling) continued his hot streak at the plate, going 4-for-5 with three runs scored. Third baseman Kurt Becker (Palatine, Ill., Palatine) also provided an offensive spark, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs.

With a chance to close out the series in game two, the Hawks’ bats went quiet, producing just two hits in the 8-1 defeat. Mike Miguel (Algonquin, Ill., Jacobs) and Breitzman were the only Harper players to record hits. The Hawks were shaky on defense, committing six errors in the game.Chris Bobo surrendered three earned runs over eight innings and was saddled with the loss.

With a trip to Tyler, Texas on the line, the Chiefs came out swinging in the final game as they racked up 16 hits in the game and ended Harper’s season with a 13-1 win. Harper starting pitcherSteven Yfantis (Prospect Heights, Ill., Wheeling) did not make it out of the third inning and was handed the defeat.  Cory Kay (Arlington Heights, Ill., St. Viator) had three hits and an RBI for the Hawks.

The Hawks finish the season with a 20-22 record and 4-2 record in postseason play.