Dazzling dozen sign to colleges for athletics at Niskayuna High School

Athletes sign at Niskayuna High School's National Letter of Intent signing ceremony Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 in Niskayuna. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)Athletes sign at Niskayuna High School's National Letter of Intent signing ceremony Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 in Niskayuna. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

BY MICHAEL KELLY
Gazette Sportswriter

NISKAYUNA — An even dozen Silver Warriors celebrated Thursday their decisions to become Bearcats, Seawolves, and more once their time is complete at Niskayuna High School.

With a group including eight planning to play men’s or women’s lacrosse at the college level, Niskayuna’s latest batch of signees showed off some of the reasons for many of the school’s recent successes in athletics.

However, it was more than athletic successes that tied together the group.

“The common theme with them … is that they all are academically-strong students,” said John Rickert, Niskayuna High School’s principal.

From left, Anna Vitolins, Marisa DiVietro, Ellie Petraccione, Abbey O'Brien, Alissa Franze, Hannah Munro, and Alexa Franze are shown at Niskayuna High School's National Letter of Intent signing ceremony Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 in Niskayuna. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

From left, Anna Vitolins, Marisa DiVietro, Ellie Petraccione, Abbey O’Brien, Alissa Franze, Hannah Munro, and Alexa Franze are shown at Niskayuna High School’s National Letter of Intent signing ceremony Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 in Niskayuna. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

Within the group were five players moving on to play women’s lacrosse, with twin sisters Alexa Franze and Alissa Franze heading to Binghamton University, and each of Marisa DiVietro (University of North Carolina), Abbey O’Brien (University of Alabama in Huntsville), and Ellie Petraccione (Marist College) heading off on their own.

Amongst that group, the Franze twins — who also signed alongside Hannah Munro, a teammate from this fall’s Section II Class AA girls’ soccer champions; Munro will play that sport at Sacred Heart University — briefly considered separating from one another.

“But we realized we’re always together and it would be so hard if we went to different colleges,” said Alexa Franze, who joined with her fellow female lacrosse players to bring Niskayuna a Section II title this past spring.

Joining the lacrosse girls at the signing were a trio of male counterparts, as Aidan Byrne (Stony Brook University), Dylan Pantalone (Siena College), and Ryan Sitterly (Florida Southern College) all finalized their college choices.

“It’s nice that they do this and recognize everyone,” Sitterly said of the day’s program which took place in the school’s Little Theater.

From the state champion boys’ lacrosse program, Byrne chose to head to one of state’s top college programs, Pantalone is headed to team up with his brother Tyler Pantalone with the Saints, and Sitterly is looking forward to the warm weather he expects to greet him at his post-Niskayuna school.

“It’s Florida, you know?” he said to help explain his college decision.

Joining Munro and the lacrosse players at the signing were Noah Chaskin, who is headed to the United States Naval Academy for rowing; Charlie Ragone, who will compete in track and field at the University at Albany; and, Anna Vitolins, who will join the women’s swimming and diving team at the University at Buffalo.

Nearly all of the day’s participants were either sectional, state, or national champions — the latter the case for Chaskin, who won a national title with a Niskayuna Rowing quad this past May.

From left, Aidan Byrne, Dylan Pantalone, Ryan Sitterly, Charlie Ragone, and Noah Chaskin are shown at Niskayuna High School's National Letter of Intent signing ceremony Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 in Niskayuna. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

From left, Aidan Byrne, Dylan Pantalone, Ryan Sitterly, Charlie Ragone, and Noah Chaskin are shown at Niskayuna High School’s National Letter of Intent signing ceremony Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 in Niskayuna. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

Besides Thursday’s dozen athletes, Rickert said the school is likely to play host to at least one more signing this school year for additional students. In the past three school years alone, Niskayuna has seen 57 students sign National Letters of Intent, helping to build a track record that has made the high school into fertile recruiting ground for college coaches.

“They know they’re getting a quality athlete,” Rickert said, “but also a quality student and person.”

About the Author

Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly is a sports reporter for Your Clifton Park and Your Niskayuna, weekly print publications of The Daily Gazette. Kelly grew up in Clifton Park and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2006. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Kelly's work has been honored by the New York News Publishers Association, the New York State Associated Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. His work has previously been featured in The (Amsterdam) Recorder, The Saratogian, and Albany Times Union.