Senior Day is the best and worst of times, the most bittersweet moment any athlete will encounter while playing a sport. For the women’s basketball team this season, four of its players have now experienced Senior Day, foreshadowing the entrance to a new stage of life beyond college athletics.
Kaity Healy, Victoria Cardaci, Nicole Jimenez, and Inja Butina are the four women who will be exiting the locker room of Walsh Gymnasium for the final time in the coming weeks. No matter the amount of time spent with their program, each woman has left an impression on her teammates and her head coach, Anthony Bozzella.
“Kaity, I have known since she has been 15 years old,” Bozzella said. “To see her play her last game here will be emotional.I am proud of Victoria because she has had great moments here and has been great with the team, she is a fighter. We see what Nicole does day in and day out. She is an amazing young lady and gives it everything she has.
“I just think Inja is a kid who has gotten to a level of always playing hard, because she does. Those four kids I am really proud of and thankful and grateful to get the opportunity to coach them.”
Healy, known as “Mama Bear” for her presence as a mother figure, a nickname given to her by Butina, her closest friend on the team, is a three-time captain for the program. As intertwined as Healy has been with her teammates and coaches, the leader of the squad will be saddened by the absence of the small things once she turns her tassel on graduation day.
“I will definitely miss the family atmosphere and seeing these girls day in and day out,” Healy said. “Just the memories we have made and every morning saying, ‘Good morning’ and getting 14 ‘Good mornings’ back and spending 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. every day with these girls.”
Although Healy will miss her collective group of teammates, each senior represents something special to her.
“Nicole is passionate,” Healy said. “On and off the court she is a very passionate person with everything she does. Inja is a very loving person and caring person, she has a very big heart. Victoria always knows the right things to say and the right things to do. Whenever you need her, she is a very loyal person.”
In her four years at Seton Hall, Healy has learned to mold herself from a teenager into an adult. What has helped her most in this process has been the institution of a man she has known for almost a decade.
“(Coach Bozzella) is a very passionate man and really cares about all of us… he has showed me how to take criticism in certain situation when adversity hits,” Healy said. “I do have to thank him for all he has done and shaping me into the woman I am. He has taught us all to have that passion, that fight to win no matter what it is. If basketball is not a part of our lives anymore, no matter what, whether you are in the workforce or working as a family, do what you need to do to win.”
College athletics are more than a competition. They are the stepping stone to maturing and learning about yourself as one turns from naive freshman to veteran senior. This is why Senior Day is so symbolic as an event that shows how far you have come by yourself, yet displays how many people have been around to help and watch you grow.
Robert Fallo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @robert_fallo.