Four Oxford student-athletes sign to play at the collegiate level
● By Steven Hoffman
Four of Oxford Area High School’s top student-athletes―Reese Canaday, Gianna Coyle, Michael Fazio, and Abbey O’ Connor―signed their letters of intent to compete at the collegiate level.
Fazio, an elite swimmer, is heading to Towson University. Coyle and O’Connor, leaders on the softball team, are going to East Stroudsburg University and the College of Central Florida, respectively, and Canaday, a standout in field hockey, will be competing next at Liberty University.
A signing ceremony for the four athletes took place at the school on Nov. 14.
“All four of the student-athletes who signed today represent Oxford in a positive light,” said Mike Price, Oxford’s athletic director. “In addition to their unbelievable on-field success, they also do very well in the classroom. They all will be able to reflect back on Oxford and know that they made an impact in their particular sport, but they will realize that they made an impact on their teammates, coaches, and the community. We wish them all the best when they continue their academic and athletic commitments at the next level.”
Canaday is looking forward to the challenge of playing Division 1 field hockey for Liberty University, which is in the highly competitive Big East Conference.
“I really wanted to go to a bigger school and play Division 1,” Canaday explained.
She was a four-year varsity player for Oxford, earning numerous accolades as a forward and a mid-fielder. This year, she served as the team captain and was also selected as the team MVP. She was also a First Team All-Ches-Mont League selection for her senior season.
In addition to field hockey, the athletic Canaday also plays for Oxford’s lacrosse team. Her favorite sports moment at Oxford came during her sophomore season when she scored a goal when the field hockey was taking on Spring-Ford in the first round of districts. Oxford went on to win that game and advance to the second round of districts.
“Reese has been such a wonderful student-athlete,” Price said. “She works really hard to be the best player that she can be in field hockey and lacrosse. She is a presence on the field and is a reliable playmaker and scorer. She is also an amazing teammate. When she is on the playing field, she is just driven to succeed.”
Coyle was a four-year varsity player for Oxford, but she has been playing softball for much longer than that.
“I've played softball most of my life,” explained Coyle. In addition to playing for the high school softball team, she also plays for the Riptides softball travel team. She has traveled extensively to compete in the sport.
Coyle played a lot of second base and some outfield for Oxford, and hopes to play second base at East Stroudsburg University, too. She was a First Team All-Ches-Mont League selection in her first three seasons with Oxford, and earned Second Team All-Area honors during the last two seasons. Coyle was selected as her team's MVP during her freshman and junior years.
One of her personal highlights on the softball field came in a game against Avon Grove when she broke up a no-hitter by Maggie Balint, one of the best pitchers in the state. Coyle slapped a single that broke up that no-hitter.
Coyle said that what she likes best about playing softball at Oxford are the friendships that she has formed.
“I enjoyed playing with and having friendships with a lot of my teammates,” she explained. “The softball team is like a family.”
Price said that Coyle has been an important part of the softball team since she came to the high school.
“She has worked very hard offensively and defensively to be one of the top players in the area,” he said. “She has been an absolute pleasure to work with and to see her grow into the player she is now. The best thing about Gianna is that she always seems to have a smile on her face. I think she will make an impact at East Stroudsburg University early in her collegiate career.”
Like Coyle, Abbey O' Connor has been a top player on Oxford's softball team for the last three seasons.
Price said that she has worked hard to do what the team needs.
“Abbey is an unbelievable softball player,” Price said. “She works so hard in every facet of being a student-athlete. She does things on the field that just amaze me. She went from being a right-handed power hitter to a left-handed slap hitter in less than a year. She made that switch and improved her batting average and on-base percentage. She is driven and motivated to be the best player that she can be. She has been a wonderful influence on the future of the Oxford softball program. She is going to make an immediate impact at the College of Central Florida.”
O' Connor plays shortstop and some third base for Oxford. She was a Second Team All-Ches-Mont League selection as a freshman, and a First Team All-Ches-Mont League selection the last two seasons. She was also named as an Honorable Mention All-Area player for her junior season.
O'Connor has also played travel softball, which has taken her all across the country for games.
“I really have a love for the sport,” O' Connor said. One of her favorite moments as an Oxford softball player came during her sophomore year when she hit a home run in a game against Bishop Shanahan.
In addition to softball, O' Connor also plays basketball for the Hornets. She is looking forward to the basketball season, as well as the 2019 softball season. Her goal for the softball team is a simple: she wants the players to have fun playing before the group of seniors head off in different directions. O'Connor is really looking forward to playing at the College of Central Florida, and that team is looking forward to having O' Connor join the team.
“We are very excited and proud to welcome Abbey into the College of Central Florida softball family,” said Kevin Fagan, the head softball coach at the college. “She will have an immediate impact on our program. She is the type of player that we have to bring in to stay among the top teams in the nation. She is one of the finest athletes we have ever signed. Defensively, she is a smooth-fielding shortstop with a cannon, and is a great receiver behind the plate with a lightning-quick release. Offensively, she is a speedy slapper who can also hit away if the situation dictates. On the bases, she is a great base runner and a true steal threat. She has the gifts and the drive to move on to a high Division 1 program and make an impact there as well. We know that we are getting a high character leader and a solid example of what a student athlete should embody.”
Before Michael Fazio heads to Towson University, he has some goals to accomplish as a member of Oxford's swimming team.
At the end of last season, Fazio placed fourth in the 200 freestyle at the Pennsylvania Boys AAA State Championships, and he would like to win at states before he graduates from Oxford in 2019. His willingness to work hard to improve could help him do just that.
“Michael is a tremendous student-athlete,” Price explained. “He is extremely driven to improve every single day. I remember Coach Reinard telling me that he was going to be good because he worked very hard at every practice. I then got to see him finish fourth at states last year in the 200 freestyle, and it was refreshing to see his hard work pay off.”
Fazio said that he is a natural swimmer. He could swim by the age of three, and he has grown into a very strong swimmer over the years, especially in sprints and mid-distance events.
“I really feel comfortable in the water,” he explained.
Fazio has been a district qualifier for all three of his seasons so far. He has shown great improvement each season. As a sophomore, he placed 13th in states in the 200 freestyle. By his junior season, he had improved to the point where he finished 4th at states in the same event. He also added a 10th place finish in the 100 freestyle. Now, he is looking forward to a strong finish to his high school sports career at Oxford.
He truly cares about his impact on the Oxford Swimming program,�Price said. 滴e is headed to a great swim program at Towson, and we wish him well.
For his part, Fazio said that he will fondly remember his time at Oxford.
“I've really enjoyed swimming at Oxford,” he said. “The swimming team is like a family. I've made some of my best memories here. Oxford is always going to have a special place in my heart.”