Raider News

Nova gets help from St. Thomas Aquinas - its bitter baseball rival - after Hurricane Irma

St. Thomas Aquinas baseball coach Troy Cameron was looking for a way his team could help out after Hurricane Irma.

Once he heard a nearby school needed a hand, Cameron rallied his kids together.

But he knew he couldn’t immediately tell them it was their fiercest rival - Nova.

"He just told us bring extra baseball gloves or gardening gloves to protect your hands," Aquinas senior outfielder Chris Ruckdeschel said. "Then he bought us breakfast at Chick-fil-A…and then he told us where we were going. We were shocked."

For a few hours Saturday morning, one of South Florida’s fiercest baseball rivalries was put on hold.

Players and coaches from Aquinas worked together with players and coaches from Nova to spruce up the Davie school’s home ballpark - Pat McQuaid Field - that was left with a damaged scoreboard and a mess of fallen trees in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Cameron took a group of roughly 35 players and coaches over and they assisted in the cleanup effort.

"When I pulled up in the morning, I was really shocked," said Nova junior third baseman Jordan Campbell. "I was like ‘Why are they here?’ But then I saw they were here to help. I figured maybe we can put the past behind and put everything aside.

"We started working together and everything clicked."


Former University School coach and Nova alum Dan Rovetto, who stepped down last October after guiding the Sharks to their first 25-win last year to become a pro scout for the Seattle Mariners, put the word out on Facebook to help his alma mater.

Athletic staff from nearby Nova Southeastern University including baseball coach Greg Brown also came to help as did staff from University School.

Cameron, who is friends with Rovetto, quickly reached out when he saw the post.

"Troy told me that St. Thomas luckily hadn’t taken much damage, but he felt he wanted his kids to give back to the community and do something better for others," Rovetto said. "Knowing the history of this rivalry, seeing the two groups of players come together was really a sight to see."


Since 1999, Nova and St. Thomas Aquinas have met in the regional playoffs seven times with the Titans holding a 4-3 lead in that series in addition to numerous other times in the regular season.

Nova beat St. Thomas 4-3 in the Class 8A regional finals this past May before losing in the state semifinals to Tallahassee Lincoln. The regional win was Nova’s first over Aquinas since 2005 the same year they won a state and national title.

St. Thomas had won 11 previous meetings against Nova including a controversial regional semifinal win in 2015 in which the Raiders prevailed despite the Titans rallying from a two-run deficit in the final inning. Officials suspended the game prior to beginning the bottom of the seventh due to heavy rain causing the field to be rendered unplayable. By rule it reverted the outcome of the game to the last complete inning where Aquinas led resulting in a Raiders’ win.

A court injunction was later filed on Nova’s behalf, but subsequently denied.


Cameron returned to Aquinas five years ago to coach his alma mater, and remembers vividly the intensity of the rivalry with Nova.

"When I used to play in these games, I remember how much we didn’t like each other," Cameron said. "It was different when I came back to coach. The schools would do activities together in the offseason. I remember thinking we’re not supposed to like those guys. They’re our rivals. We’re not supposed to be friends with them.

"But in this situation, you put that aside and do what’s right. I think the kids understood that and that’s what I wanted to see out of them."

Nova and St. Thomas are once again in neighboring districts in Class 8A heading into the 2018 season.

Both Ruckdeschel and Campbell think the intensity of the rivalry won’t change when the teams face each other despite Saturday’s cooperative effort.

But both agreed when the final out is recorded both sides have developed a measure of mutual respect for each other.

"It’s probably going to change the way we’ll play each other," Campbell said. "Before it was straight up hatred what we felt for [Aquinas]. I think now we earned some respect for them."

Courtesy of:

Fernandez, A. C. (2017, September 17). Nova gets help from St. Thomas Aquinas - its bitter baseball rival - after Hurricane Irma. Miami Herald. Retrieved from

Grant Aronoff, '18

Athletic Spotlights

Athlete Bio:

  • 2018 - Season record: 37-0; Career record: 189-6
  • 2018- #1 National rank at 138 pounds by Adidas NHS Wrestling Ranking
  • 2017 - State Champion, won 7-0
  • 2017 - Season record: 53-3
  • 2017 - NHSCA Academic All-American
  • 2016 - State Champion, won by techfall 16-1
  • 2016 - Season record: 55-2
  • 2016 - All-American and NHSCA National Champion
  • 2016 - Broward County Wrestler-of-the-Year (Sun-Sentinel)
  • 2015 - State Runnerup, lost 3-8
  • 2015 - Season record: 44-1
  • 2015 - All-American and NHSCA National Champion

3-time 1st Team All-Broward County (Sun-Sentinel)

4-time County (BCAA) Champion, 1 of 3 to do so in the 51-year history of the tournament. Other 2 were STA wrestlers Guy Gibson and Alex Uhre.

Looking to tie STA record 3 state titles held by Guy Gibson in 2000, 2001, 2002

Attempting to become the first 4-time state finalist in school history.

Led team to 3 District Titles, 2 Region Titles, and 2 Third-place finishes at the State Tournament.

3.7 GPA; 1320 SAT
Committed to the University of Pennsylvania

Tradition of success on the court

Athletic Spotlights

When Coach Lisa Zielinski appeared on the volleyball scene at STA 30 years ago, the team usually won about half of its games and had not seen many play-off seasons. By engaging in a culture of discipline and expectation, the Lady Raiders have evolved into a powerhouse, winning three consecutive state championships and appearing in a state semifinal in the past four years.

Coach Zielinski said, "Players are expected to perform in the classroom as well as on the court. The level of competitiveness in our gym is contagious. All our players hold each other to a higher standard." Adding spinning to their training regimen helps with endurance and overall fitness and complements their grueling practice schedule.

Over 40 players have left volleyball at STA to play at the college level, many in premiere schools such as Pepperdine and Wake Forest. Class of 2005 graduate Foluke Akinradewo has remained on the national team since her career at Stanford, winning silver and bronze in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and World Championship gold in 2014 as a member of the USA team.

Throughout the years, STA has viewed Venice as its state rival, losing in the 2012 state championship and the 2017 semifinal after beating the Indians in the 2004 state game. Locally, the Lady Raiders can count on Cardinal Gibbons to give them a good game where both teams always play to their potential.

Going out-of-state tournaments in venues such as Chicago and Arizona "allows us to play the strongest competition. It puts us in a different environment and prepares us for our post season on the road," Coach Zielinski said.

Several leaders on the 2017 team reflect the camaraderie on their team. Paula Cerame, headed to the University of Florida, said, "Even though we did not end our season the way we wanted, the team chemistry was the best we've ever had." Boston College commit Derry Costigan said, "I am beyond proud to be a part of such an amazing groups of girls.... We have left the legacy that is STA Volleyball, and I wouldn't trade that experience for the world." And Valeria Santeusanio echoed similar sentiments: "The team definitely acts as a backbone of support for me, and that's what I loved about my volleyball career at STA."

Congratulations to Coach Zielinski and her fantastic team for another great season and many more to come.

  • 7 consecutive state tournament appearances since 2011
  • 14 state appearances since 1988 under Coach Zielinski
  • 27 district tournament wins since 1991
  • Coach Zielinski's record: 769-156

Valentina House, '18

Athletic Spotlights

Athlete Bio:

"Balancing running and school makes it hard to stay awake during class," Valentina House admitted, as she added another first to her cross country high school career, 2017 District Champion.

Running since sophomore year, Valentina inspired herself to take up the sport, with the support of her dad and coaches. Her teammates provide great competition among each other, making STA's team stronger and faster than any team in the area. She usually finds Bridget Alex, Ashley Williams, Alexis Rosa, and Nicohl Torres-Santos hot on her heels and in that order.

Valentina's most satisfying win came in track at the state-qualifying, regional race, where the top four runners make it. "I was expecting to qualify in the mile, as I entered the race ranked fourth. I separated from the top four in the first lap and watched the chance of going to States slip from my fingers. I was completely devastated. I missed my PR by two seconds while the top four all PR'd by about five. I didn't even check what I was ranked in the 3200m, as I didn't expect to qualify. I put all my devastated energy into that race and was amazed to go from fifth to second in the last 100 meters. Pure joy overcame me!"

This senior has selected the University of Michigan as her first college choice, a strong academic school. Getting back to the grueling routine of a long-distance runner, Valentina finds herself weary after practice and only self-discipline makes it possible to complete her homework.

The one to watch in Regionals and States, Valentina has everyone at St. Thomas in her corner, rooting for her.

Back-to-Back State Champions

Athletic Spotlights

In the words of the players themselves, "swaggy," "saucy," "relentless," "stalwart," "strong" describe the 2017 Boys' Lacrosse Team. With just one loss during the regular season, and that to Massapequa in New York, the boys went out and convincingly bested Lake Highland Prep for the Florida State Championship, 12-7.

Other teams that challenged the Raiders during the season included Jupiter, Lake Mary, and Benjamin.

A number of the players actually began their lacrosse careers way back in elementary school, as did Kyle Engel who said, "I started playing lacrosse in the second grade for the Davie Broncos because my parents took me there." Also providing opportunities for second and third graders, the Weston Warriors and Parkland Redhawks developed interest and skill in the game, early on.

Ryan Leahy's father, who played for The Ohio State University, and James Harrington's brother Burke, a Raider standout, definitely influenced their decisions to stick with the sport. Additionally, players admitted being inspired by some of their own teammates: Luke Fraser, Michael Costello, Nicholas Yovino, and David Madril, to name a few.

Lacrosse posed some unique challenges for the players. Luke Fraser identified the fast pace of the game and put it this way: "Substitutions are made on the fly, and transitions from offense to defense happen very quickly, so it is necessary to maintain a powerful mental focus." Bennett Braun cited "working on your off hand" as the hardest skill he had to acquire.

Kudos go to Coach Andrew Leddy whose strength and conditioning program contributed to the team's high level in competition, especially when the players had to play tired. Christian Borodiak said, "Coach Leddy played a big role in our success this season as he kept us in great shape and maintained our strength."

"Coach Crowley always finds a way to motivate us to be better people along with being better lacrosse players. He focuses on keeping the integrity of the game and building character," according to James Harrington.

As the team won its second state championship, Ryan Leahy said, "All the hours we spent in the weight room, on the field, and in the classroom were worth the glory!" With back-to-back state titles, the team has truly earned all that glory.

Jump High, Dream Big

Zatoria Thompson celebrated two stellar days at the Florida State Track and Field Meet on May 5 and May 6.

"I wanted this . . . the state championship," she said. Not only did she win gold in the High Jump but also in the 4x100 Relay, achieving her goal, two-fold.

Zatoria's father had encouraged her to train for track when, as a seven or eight-year old, she said, "I like to run." Her dad still trains with her on Saturdays at the gym, but Coach Dottin Henderson works with her on the track team at STA. "I found Coach Dottin online, and he has been coaching me even before I came to STA from American Heritage."

Participating in three events, Zatoria literally ran from the high jump to the 100m dash to the 4x100. She took seventh place in the 100m, earning valuable points along with her two first place finishes for the Raider Girls' Team that placed second in Class 4A Track and Field.

What makes Zatoria's performance even more impressive lies in the fact that she has been nursing a stress fracture while training for the state meet. "I have to rest, now, for six weeks," she said. Despite taking it easy for a while, Zatoria still maintains a track athlete's diet: "I eat lots of salad and choose chicken or fish instead of beef."

STA's Head Track and Field Coach, Alex Armenteros, boasts of the strong cadre of freshman girls on the team. Since three freshmen won championship medals along with Zatoria--Emelia Chatfield, Zahria Liburd Allers, and Thalia Dyer--the future of girls' track at STA looks mighty bright!

Photo Credit: Charles Trainor Jr. Miami Herald

Alexandra Beekhuizen, '17

Athletic Spotlights

Athlete Bio:

"I fell in love with lacrosse . . . in the third grade," she said, "when a recreational program, the Weston Warriors, started up a girls' team in my area." Her older brother had played lacrosse, and he inspired her to join. Although Alexandra (Ali) Beekhuizen tried other sports, she stuck with lacrosse; and the lacrosse program at STA feels very good about her decision.

In addition to playing on STA's varsity team, Ali plays for a club team, LaxManiax, a year-round club that includes girls from all over the state of Florida.

Ali has committed to The Ohio State University because of its status as a very competitive Division 1 team in the Big 10 Conference, ranked in the top 10 not only in football but in women's lacrosse as well.

Thinking about her career as a Raider, Ali said, "My most memorable moment was this year when we made it to states. We beat our rival, American Heritage-Delray, in overtime in the regional finals. They had ended our season the previous year, and we had lost to them during the regular season so it was really a big win."

When asked about the state-final loss this year, Ali said, "I learned how to see the positive in bad situations. Of course I am devastated about the loss, but I can still reflect on all the amazing things we accomplished this season even though we didn't get the outcome we all wanted. We beat a nationally ranked team, became a nationally ranked team, and made it farther than we ever have before. Though losing in the state finals is not how I wanted to end my senior season, I know my teammates will use it as motivation to be unstoppable next year."

Ali has genuine respect and affection for STA Coach Samantha McCurdy who commented positively about her role with Ali and the rest of the team. "My two years at STA have been very eventful and exciting. I couldn't be more proud to lead such an incredible group of girls."

Summing things up, Ali said, "I wouldn't change the memories I've made with STA lacrosse for the world."

Hockey Team reaches FSHL finals

Athletic Spotlights

Heading into the playoffs, the 2016-2017 STA Ice Hockey Team held high hopes but suffered two losses to Boca Raton, the only team to beat the Raiders this year. At the Signature Grand in Davie, the team garnered several awards, including the Florida Scholastic Hockey League Division II Finalist trophy, finishing their club season with a 16-5-2 record.

Named after Michael C. Gullman, '02, the Memorial Michael C. Gullman Award recognizes contributions of players who exhibit his hard work and positive attitude. This year, the award went to senior Timothy Lincoln and freshman Luke Vaccarella.

Senior David Childress exemplified the commitment, teamwork, persistence, selflessness, academic excellence, and sportsmanship that defined Hobey Baker and the team award that memorializes his values. Reflecting on his hockey career, David said, "Playing high school hockey over the past four years has been one of my most treasured high school experiences. I have formed strong, brotherly bonds with some of my teammates which have lasted all through high school. Playing hockey with guys so passionate about the game allowed us to perform better on and off the ice as a team."

The FSHL announced the Raiders' coach Nick Gullman, 05, as Coach-of-the-Year and junior Matthew Tunney, Goalie-of-the-Year.

Ten seniors led the team this year and encourage Raiders, both boys and girls, to take their places on the ice next year. Playing most of their games at Coral Springs Panther Ice Den, the Raiders also competed at Pembroke Pines Ice Arena, BB&T, and local area rinks.

St. Thomas Aquinas' Crowley picks up 400th career win

Terry Crowley has officially joined the 400 club.

On Tuesday, the St. Thomas Aquinas boys lacrosse coach notched his 400th career victory as the Raiders topped American Heritage 16-9.

Crowley, who's in his eighth season with the program, is just the second coach in Florida to reach the milestone. American Heritage-Delray's Jeff Goldberg is the state's all-time wins leader with 417 victories.

"To be honest, it's just a number," said Crowley, who's also had coaching stints with Douglas and Coral Springs. "It's not about me. It's about all the great players I've had the privilege to coach over the years. Coaches get all the credit, but we don't play the games."

"400 times, I got to be with these kids and that's what it's about."

The milestone victory, which ran the team's record to 9-0, is the latest in a string of tremendous accomplishments for the St. Thomas Aquinas program. Last season, the Raiders finished a perfect 19-0 and captured its boys lacrosse state championship in school history. Following the win, Crowley was named Florida Dairy Farmers Coach of the Year honors, while his son Kevin, now a senior attackman, earned Player of the Year honors.

The team is also currently in the midst of two impressive winning streaks. St. Thomas Aquinas has won 28 consecutive games after falling to Lake Highland Prep on May 5, 2015 in the state championship game.

In addition, St. Thomas Aquinas is riding a 39-game regular season win streak dating back to 2014. The team's last regular season defeat also came at the hands of Lake Highland Prep back on March 22, 2014.

Dusenbury, W. (2017, March 8). St. Thomas Aquinas' Crowley picks up 400th career win. Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved from

Wrestlers Bring Home Three Individual State Titles

The STA Wrestling Team ended the season with a third-place finish at the 2017 Class 3A State Championship. The Raiders had five wrestlers place in the top six and a school record of three individual state champions.

Junior Vincent Sessa, III, collected his second state medal with a sixth-place finish at the 132-pound weight class. Senior Stephen Moreno ended his career in his third state-tournament appearance, placing fourth.

Junior Grant Aronoff made his third-straight state-final appearance, picking up his second state title at 138 pounds in arguably the toughest weight class in the tournament which featured three former state champions. Grant took down former state champion Cullen Telfer of Strawberry Crest, 3-1, in the semifinal and shut out another defending state champion Franco Valdes of Southwest Miami, 7-0, in the final.

Senior Josiah Gittman joined teammate Grant Aronoff in becoming a two-time state champion. Josiah defeated Narek Stephanyan of Fletcher, 10-0, in the final at 195 pounds and only allowed one point scored on him throughout the entire tournament.

Senior Bryce Marcus dominated his bracket and pinned his opponent Todd Perry of South Dade in the final to win the 152-pound state title. Bryce capped off a successful career as a four-time state placer, taking fifth in 2014, fifth in 2015, fourth in 2016, and now first in 2017.

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