SCHOLAR-ATHLETES: At Wilcox Tech, Cruz got the ’Cats back on course

MERIDEN — The 2022 volleyball season could have started only slightly worse for Wilcox Tech.

The Wildcats were tripped up by some off-the-court issues and lost nine of their first 10 matches.

Then, on a dime, at the exact midpoint of the season, they turned it around. With a 7-3 second half, the Wildcats finished 8-12 to qualify for the Class M state tournament.

Senior setter and team captain Amarra Cruz was the catalyst. The fourth-year varsity player and third-year starter led the squad with 101 assists and 40 aces and in areas harder to quantify.

“A natural leader on and off the court, Amarra worked to improve her game and the game of those around her,” said coach Ryan Kelly. “She set a high bar for her teammates and quickly became someone that I could rely on.

“Amarra was a key part of turning our season around after a series of events that were out of the control of the team,” Kelly continued. “She came to practice ready to work and kept grinding to turn our season around.”

Cruz works it academically, too. With a 4.03 weighted grade-point average, she ranks No. 5 in Wilcox Tech’s Class of 2023.

The senior mentor is president of the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society and plans on attending college to major in Sports Journalism/Analytics.

Amarra Cruz was one of five Record-Journal Scholar-Athletes selected by their coaches at Wilcox Tech for the 2022 fall season. Here are the other honorees.

■Damian DeFalco, boys soccer: Seeing that he’s enrolled in the Wilcox electrical program, were tempted to say Damian DeFalco was hard-wired for success this soccer season.

Truth is, he wasn’t. He had to work at it, watt by watt. And, in the end, the senior forward was named the team’s Most Improved Player by coach Clinton Tebbetts.

DeFalco’s first varsity goal came on Oct. 7 against Vinal Tech. He and the Wildcats went on to finish 6-7-3 to reach the Class L state tournament.

“Damian always had a positive attitude, and a strong work ethic,” said Tebbetts.

A senior mentor, DeFalco holds an academic average of 100.29. Along with playing soccer, he suits up for MidState Rugby.

He’s planning on going to college to study business.

■Connor Fletcher, football: This senior was a leading player for coach Alonzo Relaford as a team captain and defensive end.

Fletcher made 56 tackles coming off the edge. He notched four quarterback sacks and eight hurries to help the Wildcats go 5-5, their best mark since 2007.

Fletcher is hoping to continue playing in college as a walk-on if the school he ultimately settles on has a football program.

Academics, though, will drive the decision. A student in the Wilcox IT shop, Fletcher is a prospective computer science major.

He ranks No. 4 in the Class of 2023 with a 104.43 average. He’s a senior mentor and open house volunteer.

“I’m glad I got to coach him for four years,” said Relaford. “He was definitely a leader. He was a leader on the field, in class and in the school. He set a good example, and I’m proud of his example and I’m proud that I got to coach him. By far, one of the best I had.”

■Luke Frommelt, cross country: Still only a junior, Luke Frommelt has run laps on the R-J Scholar-Athlete track.

No surprise. He ranks No. 1 in the Class of 2024 with a 103 average.

“Luke is a dedicated student and runner; he was consistently among our Top 5 runners,” noted cross country coach Dave Cronin. “He is a team captain and well-respected by his peers.”

■Katreen Chen, girls soccer: We just introduced you to the No. 1-ranked student in Wilcox Tech’s junior class. Meet the No. 1 student in the Class of 2025.

Katreen Chen sets the pace among the sophomores with a 104.96 average.

One of the cornerstones of Chen’s academic prowess? Recreational reading.

“She is an avid reader of fiction,” noted soccer coach Chuck Ubaldi.

Also a tennis player, Chen played outside midfield for Ubaldi’s team. She scored one goal, assisted on two and factored into a defensive effort that produced a 13-3-0 regular season, the best in Wilcox girls soccer history.

“An immensely coachable student-athlete, Katreen joined us this season and worked extremely hard to further develop her knowledge of the game, position sense and skill,” Ubaldi said. “She is a wonderful teammate and truly a scholar-athlete. We look forward to seeing her next fall.”

Up next: Sheehan


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