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NAIA Throwback Thursday: Aleesa (Degliobizzi) Kelly (Class of '04)

NAIA Throwback Thursday: Aleesa (Degliobizzi) Kelly (Class of '04)

Thursday, April 9, 2020:

Wilmington University has a tremendous tradition that includes success at the conference, regional, and national levels. There have been numerous all-Americans who have excelled during competition and in the classroom. But did you know before the Wildcats joined the NCAA in 2004, there was an impressive tradition of excellence already established?

Wilmington College, as it was known at the time, produced remarkable team and individual athletic achievements as members of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) that have proven to lay the foundation for generations of future Wildcats.  The Department of Athletics in conjunction with the Department of Alumni Relations would like to pay homage to our NAIA era with a "Throwback Thursday" feature on some its standouts. Today, we are highlighting volleyball alum Aleesa Kelly (Degliobizzi) (Class of '04).

Q: What were some of the team accomplishments during your career as a Wildcat?

A:  I would have to say my most successful year at Wilmington University came when I was a junior (2002).  We were a team of 7 girls who did some big things.  We had one of our most successful seasons since I had been there.  We went on to win the Region X championship in Nyack, NY defeating Nyack College in an exciting game.  I think all of the girls on our team will remember that last point being won on Lindsey Miller's serve that was a short floater serve.  We all held our breath watching it just get over the net.  The excitement after earning that point was a moment I will never forget.  Winning this championship gave us the chance to play at the NAIA championships in San Diego, California.  The competition we saw at that tournament was top notch.  We weren't very successful out in California during that tournament but we did our best with our limited roster.  We played some exceptional teams that challenged us like we hadn't been challenged before.  

Q: What were some personal achievements/awards you earned as a student-athlete at Wilmington College?

A: During my time at Wilmington College, I was chosen to be the team captain, along with teammate Erin Necastro (McNulty).  We were chosen captains our junior and senior years.  My coach, Amanda Moran, awarded me with the MVP award my senior year. I was also an honorable mention player of the week during my junior year.  Another big accomplishment for me was that I was inducted into Delta Epsilon Rho national honor society. This was a big accomplishment for me being a student-athlete.  I had to learn to balance a busy school calendar as well as a demanding volleyball schedule.  

Q: What are your fondest memories of being a student-athlete?

A: My years as a student-athlete hold some of my favorite memories. The girls I played with over the years became family during that time.  Not many people understand the demands of playing a collegiate sport.  But we did, and we bonded over that love for a successful volleyball season year after year and the stresses and accomplishments of school life.  My fondest memories of being a student athlete were hanging out in the old Pratt center lobby with the other athletes.  I remember during the hot preseason in August the lobby served as the only air conditioning we felt all day and we cherished that hour lunchtime.  My teammates and I spent a lot of time in the training room trying to heal our various injuries.  There was a lot of team bonding done sitting around the edge of the ice-cold whirlpool. The long bus rides to various schools in our area.  Playing our rival Goldey-Beacom. The trip to San Diego.  All of these moments and many, many more are forever etched in my memory. 

Q: Where has your professional career taken you since graduation?

A: Since graduating I went on to become a teacher.  I also received my master's degree in Applied Technology in Education at Wilmington.  I am currently in my 15th year of teaching at Newark Charter School where I teach science and social studies in 4th grade.  In 2012, along with Wilmington University alum, Jessica Weller, we started the volleyball program at Newark Charter School.  It started out as a middle school team that grew into a very successful high school program that recently earned the #1 seed in the Delaware Volleyball State Tournament.  

Thank you, Aleesa, for sharing your experience! The Wilmington community appreciates what you have done and continue to do.

If you have any questions, comments, or nominations for alums to be highlighted from Wilmington College's NAIA era, please reach out to Dan Burke at daniel.j.burke@wilmu.edu.

Thursday, January 23, 2020:

Wilmington University has a tremendous tradition that includes success at the conference, regional, and national levels. There have been numerous all-Americans who have excelled during competition and in the classroom. But did you know before the Wildcats joined the NCAA in 2004, there was an impressive tradition of excellence already established?

Wilmington College, as it was known at the time, produced remarkable team and individual athletic achievements as members of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) that have proven to lay the foundation for generations of future Wildcats.  The Department of Athletics in conjunction with the Department of Alumni Relations would like to pay homage to our NAIA era with a weekly "Throwback Thursday" feature on some its standouts. This week, we are highlighting volleyball alum Jessica (Phipps) Weller (Class of '99).

Q: What were some of the team accomplishments during your career as a Wildcat?

A:  During my collegiate career, I combined for a record of 103-32 during those four seasons. I was honored as a Two-Time NAIA All-American Setter and Two-Time All-American Scholar Athlete.  I was a Three-Time Region X Player of the Year and a Four-Time First Team All-Region selection. I was also honored as CACC Most Valuable Player each season as a Wildcat. During my freshman season, I was awarded Region X Freshman of the Year.  In 2006, I was inducted into the WilmU Hall of Fame.

Q: What were some personal achievements/awards you earned as a student-athlete at Wilmington College?

A: We won our conference championship and earned a bid to the Region X Tournament during three seasons. During my senior season, our team won the Region X Championship and earned a bid to the NAIA National Championships in Fresno, California. My senior season, the women's volleyball program at Wilmington was quoted as the "best kept secret" in Delaware.  My teammates and I can be proud that we helped build the success of the program.

Q: What are your fondest memories of being a student-athlete?

A: My fondest memories of being a student athlete were the bonds I created with my teammates, coaches and the time spent together making memories.  We supported and challenged each other on and off the court.  We played with heart and it was a family.  Dr. Harmon was one of our biggest fans and could always be heard cheering on the Wildcats! From the long bus rides with our favorite bus driver, Willie, to playing in front of a packed house in the Pratt Student Center to the team dinners and bonding.  Those are the things that you remember. Yes, winning is nice, but the friendships are everlasting!

I always wanted to play college volleyball and I will forever be grateful to Craig Wolfe for recruiting me and bringing me to learn about the programs that Wilmington had to offer.  It is a top school for future educators with small class sizes and a perfect fit for what I needed to be successful.  I was fortunate enough to play with some talented athletes and we were able to grow the success of the volleyball program at Wilmington.

Q: Where has your professional career taken you since graduation?

A: For the past 20 years, I have been an elementary school teacher and volleyball coach in the state of Delaware.  Currently, I am a kindergarten teacher and the head volleyball coach at Newark Charter School. When the high school opened at NCHS, I had the opportunity to start the volleyball program there with another Wilmington College Volleyball Alumni (Aleesa DegliObizzi.)  In just a few short years, we have gone from a young, growing program to a consistently ranked top ten program that earned the #1 seed in the state tournament in 2019. I was honored as the DIVCA Women's Volleyball Coach of the Year in 2007, 2018 and 2019. I also coach 5th and 6th graders at Brandywine Volleyball Club where my daughter is on the team.

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your experience! The Wilmington community appreciates what you have done and continue to do.

If you have any questions, comments, or nominations for alums to be highlighted from Wilmington College's NAIA era, please reach out to Dan Burke at daniel.j.burke@wilmu.edu.

Thursday, January 9, 2020:

Wilmington University has a tremendous tradition that includes success at the conference, regional, and national levels. There have been numerous all-Americans who have excelled during competition and in the classroom. But did you know before the Wildcats joined the NCAA in 2004, there was an impressive tradition of excellence already established?

Wilmington College, as it was known at the time, produced remarkable team and individual athletic achievements as members of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) that have proven to lay the foundation for generations of future Wildcats.  The Department of Athletics in conjunction with the Department of Alumni Relations would like to pay homage to our NAIA era with a weekly "Throwback Thursday" feature on some of its standouts. This week, we are highlighting basketball alum Phil Buck (Class of '99).

Q: What were some team and individual team accomplishments during your career as a Wildcat?

A: I was voted team MVP as a senior in 1998-99 and became the all-time career assist leader with 358 (with current NCAA records, Buck would still rank second All-Time on today's list!). Our team won the Tennessee State University tournament and I was fortunate to be selected MVP at the event.

Q: What are your fondest memories of being a student-athlete?

A:  My fondest memories are traveling together and building bonds with teammates during overnight trips and tournaments. Some of these relationships have continued to this day.  My experience as a student was equally positive because the administration was so invested, helpful and committed to their students.

Q: Where has your professional career taken you since graduation?

A: I coached at Wilmington College / University for the season immediately after my senior year & graduation.  I am currently an enlisted member of the New Jersey State Police, holding the rank of Captain, Executive Officer, Division Human Resources Section. I recently served as the Commandant of the NJ State Police Training Academy from 2018-2020. I also stay involved in the game by coaching with  the prestigious Jersey Force AAU program.

Thank you, Phil, for sharing your experience! The Wilmington community appreciates what you have done and continue to do.

If you have any questions, comments, or nominations for alums to be highlighted from Wilmington College's NAIA era, please reach out to Dan Burke at daniel.j.burke@wilmu.edu.

 

Thursday, December 12, 2019:

Wilmington University has a tremendous tradition that includes success at the conference, regional, and national levels. There have been numerous all-Americans who have excelled during competition and in the classroom. But did you know before the Wildcats joined the NCAA in 2004, there was an impressive tradition of excellence already established?

Wilmington College, as it was known at the time, produced remarkable team and individual athletic achievements as members of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) that have proven to lay the foundation for generations of future Wildcats.  The Department of Athletics in conjunction with the Department of Alumni Relations would like to pay homage to our NAIA era with a weekly "Throwback Thursday" feature on some of its standouts. This week, we are highlighting dual sport alum (women's basketball/softball) Sharon Harding (Class of '97).

Q: What were some of the team accomplishments during your career as a Wildcat?

A: At Wilmington College, I was able to play the two sports, basketball and softball, that I love. While also studying for a major that my kindergarten teacher inspired me to pursue.   My first two years, I earned my Associates degree in Early Childhood Education and continued on for my Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education in 1997. I had two setbacks during my college career-ACL Reconstructive Surgery on both knees. However, after coming back from the 1st surgery, I was named as one of members on the NAIA All-American team for softball my redshirt sophomore year. 

Q: What were some personal achievements/awards you earned as a student-athlete at Wilmington College?

A: During my years at Wilmington College, I was able to be a part of teams with some great ladies, many of which I am still good friends with to this day.  Having the bonds that were created through the hardwork and dedication proved by far the best bonds that shaped my life during college.  In basketball, under Coach Rusty Rogers and Lisa Sullivan, and softball, under Coach Tom Mason Jr., Bill Streets, and Caroline Calloway, we were the District and Regional Champs in my years at Wilmington.  We played in the NAIA Nationals in Oregon for basketball and Pensacola, Florida for softball.

Q: What are your fondest memories of being a student-athlete?

A:  The fondest memories I had for the college and both sports were traveling and the family atmosphere.  Many staff members who worked at the college supported their students by attending the games and actually having conversations with students.  I always remember, the current president of Wilmington University, Dr. Laverne Johnson-Harmon, attending our games cheering us on.  It was amazing how after all these years, she still remembers many of us. She still attends games now and loved her reaction when she saw my son, who now plays for Wilmington University. We would all pack ourselves in our "College Vans" and travel to Ohio, Coach Rusty's hometown, and Maine for tournaments. Our coaches always made sure he broadened our horizons while we were away, with trips to different museums, having lobster in Maine, riding along the west coast to view the scenery and the Pacific Ocean, even seeing the greyhound races in Florida.  Those experiences are ones that I will never forget, as you can see! I want to thank all involved who made this experience one of the best.

Q: Where has your professional career taken you since graduation?

A: Since graduating from Wilmington College in 1997, I was hired by the Colonial School District and have worked there for the last 23 years. I was also an assistant coach for softball at Wilmington College under Sherry Nau Stonebraker and Jen Asbury, who are also Wilmington College Alumni.  I currently a volunteer softball coach at William Penn High School.

Thank you, Sharon, for sharing your experience! The Wilmington community appreciates what you have done and continue to do.

If you have any questions, comments, or nominations for alums to be highlighted from Wilmington College's NAIA era, please reach out to Dan Burke at daniel.j.burke@wilmu.edu.

Thursday, November 21, 2019:

Wilmington University has a tremendous tradition that includes success at the conference, regional, and national levels. There have been numerous all-Americans who have excelled during competition and in the classroom. But did you know before the Wildcats joined the NCAA in 2004, there was an impressive tradition of excellence already established?

Wilmington College, as it was known at the time, produced remarkable team and individual athletic achievements as members of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) that have proven to lay the foundation for generations of future Wildcats.  The Department of Athletics in conjunction with the Department of Alumni Relations would like to pay homage to our NAIA era with a weekly "Throwback Thursday" feature on some of its standouts. This week, we are highlighting men's basketball alum Will Johnson (Class of '97).

Q: What were some of the team accomplishments during your career as a Wildcat?

A: My greatest achievement was being the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college, and earn my degree in Business Administration. I transferred from Virginia Union to Wilmington, and had to join the basketball team as a walk on player. I later eared a full scholarship, which was a great accomplishment. 

As a player during my three-year career at Wilmington (1993-1994 to 1996-1997), I was voted as team captain both my junior and senior year. I was twice awarded the team's Wildcat award, which was given to the player who worked the hardest and showed team pride. I was also selected to play in the Delaware Valley Small College All-Star game my senior season and made the conference All Defensive 1st team

Q: What were some personal achievements/awards you earned as a student-athlete at Wilmington College?

A: During my three-year career at Wilmington I was fortunate to play for two great coaches; Jim Newsom and John McCarthy.  They really taught me how to play the game of basketball the right way. We had some really good teams that competed against Div. I, Div. II, and Div. III teams. We won several holiday tournaments, and won our conference twice. Both of those teams advanced to the NAIA national tournament 93-94, and 94-95.

Q: What are your fondest memories of being a student-athlete?

A:  Playing college basketball and competing at a high level had been a dream of mine, so the first time I put on my uniform I was ecstatic. During my time at Wilmington I was managing academics, athletics, a job, and being a first-time father at 19 to my oldest daughter (Chalice).  Wilmington's block class format and great professors allowed me to juggle and maintain it all. I will always remember looking and seeing my daughter in the stands which fueled me to play harder, or at the end of tough games coming out of the locker room to her smile always made my night better. I was blessed to on some really good teams and play with some of Wilmington's all-time great players during my career. Every day we challenged and pushed each other to be great, both in the classroom and on the court. It created a strong brotherhood among us and led us down the path to become lifelong friends. We still talk to this day and support each other's families and kids. Some of us even still play basketball together once a week.

Another lasting memory that I have is my teammates and class mates would joke and say that the only reason that I made the men's basketball team was because I was the son of Wilmington University's President, LaVerne T. Harmon. Who back then was known as LaVerne Johnson, the administrator. The irony of this joke was that my real mother's name is actually Laverne G Johnson!

Q: Where has your professional career taken you since graduation?

A: After graduation I was fortunate to receive a promotion to Logistics Manager at Sears Holdings, which is where I worked during college. This led me to several other great opportunities with some large companies (Chrysler, Best Buy, Wawa) where I've held leadership positons in Logistics. I have also been coaching boys High School basketball in Delaware for the past 20 years. I am currently a coach at Mount Pleasant H.S. where I coach with another Wilmington College basketball alumni (Lisa Sullivan). At Mount I have been fortunate to be a part of one of Delaware's best high school programs over the last 15 years.  I have been able to give back my knowledge and experience as a student athlete as well as coach and mentor to several Division I, II, III college basketball players. My son has recently joined the program and is on the Freshman team this year.

Thank you, Will, for sharing your experience! The Wilmington community appreciates what you have done and continue to do.

If you have any questions, comments, or nominations for alums to be highlighted from Wilmington College's NAIA era, please reach out to Dan Burke at daniel.j.burke@wilmu.edu.

Thursday, November 14, 2019: 

Wilmington University has a tremendous tradition that includes success at the conference, regional, and national levels. There have been numerous all-Americans who have excelled during competition and in the classroom. But did you know before the Wildcats joined the NCAA in 2004, there was an impressive tradition of excellence already established?

Wilmington College, as it was known at the time, produced remarkable team and individual athletic achievements as members of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) that have proven to lay the foundation for generations of future Wildcats.  The Department of Athletics in conjunction with the Department of Alumni Relations would like to pay homage to our NAIA era with a weekly "Throwback Thursday" feature on some of its standouts. This week, we are highlighting baseball alum Jim Fallers (Class of '98).

Q: What were some of the team accomplishments during your career as a Wildcat?

A: As both a player and coach, I was very fortunate to have been a part of a number of tremendous team accomplishments.  In 1994 and 1995 as a player, our team won Area 8 regional titles and earned NAIA World Series berths both years.  As an Assistant Coach under Matt Brainard, we won CACC regular season titles in 2000 and 2001 and NAIA Regional Championships in 2001 and 2002. As an assistant under Brian August, we were six-time CACC Conference Tournament Champions (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013) and earned several berths to the NCAA East Regional Tournament (2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).

Q: What were some personal achievements/awards you earned as a student-athlete at Wilmington College?

A: From 1995 – 1997, I was both a 1st Team CACC All-Conference and 1st Team All-Region (District 19) Selection.  I was also named a three-time NAIA All American for the same period. In 2011, I was selected to the Wilmington University Hall of Fame and graduated in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.

Q: What are your fondest memories of being a student-athlete?

A: Playing college baseball and competing at a high level was always a dream. As in incoming freshman, I was a new father blessed with twin boys (Brendan and James).  While managing both academics and athletics is a challenge for any scholar-athlete, the added role of being father brought with it some unique and difficult demands. Wilmington University's academic structure and my teammates and coaches provided me the support and ability to be a father and succeed on the field and in the classroom. The block class format allowed me to work full-time, play college baseball and be the best parent I could be for Brendan and James. I can't say enough about the encouragement and support provided by my coaches and teammates. Coach Sherman and Coach Brainard taught me how to use baseball as an outlet from the challenges of my personal life and enabled me to thrive as a player. I couldn't have been surrounded by better teammates. While remaining focused on winning and competing, we always had a good time on and off the field. This was a very special group of players and coaches and many of us still have close relationships today.  I'm very appreciative of Wilmington University for my college experience and the irreplaceable and lifelong friendships made during my time there. 

Q: Where has your professional career taken you since graduation?

A: After graduation, I turned my attention to social services and using my education to help others.  I served as a Crisis Team Social Worker for Upper Bay Counseling and Support Services (Maryland).  I was also a Counselor at Glen Mills Schools.  In 2003, I chose an alternative career path in sales providing sporting goods and equipment to local colleges and high schools. I'm currently employed by BSN Sports as Team Sales Professional.

Thank you, Jim, for sharing your experience! The Wilmington community appreciates what you have done and continue to do.

If you have any questions, comments, or nominations for alums to be highlighted from Wilmington College's NAIA era, please reach out to Dan Burke at daniel.j.burke@wilmu.edu

Thursday, October 31, 2019:

Wilmington University has a tremendous tradition that includes success at the conference, regional, and national levels. There have been numerous all-Americans who have excelled during competition and in the classroom. But did you know before the Wildcats joined the NCAA in 2004, there was an impressive tradition of excellence already established?

Wilmington College, as it was known at the time, produced remarkable team and individual athletic achievements as members of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) that have proven to lay the foundation for generations of future Wildcats.  The Department of Athletics in conjunction with the Department of Alumni Relations and Development would like to pay homage to our NAIA era with a weekly "Throwback Thursday" feature on some of its standouts. This week, we are highlighting baseball alum Steve Grandizio (Class of '94).

Q: What were some of the team accomplishments during your career as a Wildcat?

A: I was Honorable Mention All-American my freshman and sophomore years and 2nd Team All-American my junior and senior years.  I was also Area 8 Player of the Year as a junior and led Wilmington College to two NAIA World Series appearances (1992 and 1994).  I was the captain of the 1994 team and won the Rubino Service Award.  I was the first ever male recipient of the Presidential Academic/Athletic Scholarship.  I graduated holding several of the program's single season and career records including stolen bases, runs and hits.  Back then, about 25% of our games were against Division 1 opponents.  My first college hit was off of future major league pitcher Keith Garagozza from University of Delaware. 

Q: What were some personal achievements/awards you earned as a student-athlete at Wilmington College?

A: We won our conference all 4 years, won Area 8 twice to send us to the NAIA World Series in Des Moines.  My junior year, we beat University of Delaware all 3 times.  We won more than 140 games in my four years.

Q: What are your fondest memories of being a student-athlete?

A: The comradery that you have with your teammates is something that you have forever.  We worked really hard on the field and in the gym, but we had a great time with each other everywhere else.  The bus rides to and from games were an absolute blast!  My freshman year we went 42-19, so we played 61 games together.  You develop some deep friendships when you spend that much time together.

Q: Where has your professional career taken you since graduation?

A: I spent a little time in the minor leagues, playing independent ball and in the St. Louis Cardinals organization from 1994-1996.  After that, I have spent most of my business career in sales of some form.  Since 2003, I have been in the mortgage industry.  I run a team of loan officers in Center City who do business in the tri-state area.

Thank you, Steve, for sharing your experience! The Wilmington community appreciates what you have done and continue to do.

If you have any questions, comments, or nominations for alums to be highlighted from Wilmington College's NAIA era, please reach out to Dan Burke at daniel.j.burke@wilmu.edu.

Thursday, October 24, 2019:

Wilmington University has a tremendous tradition that includes success at the conference, regional, and national levels. There have been numerous All-Americans who have excelled during competition and in the classroom. But did you know before the Wildcats joined the NCAA in 2004, there was an impressive tradition of excellence already established?

Wilmington College, as it was known at the time, produced remarkable team and individual athletic achievements as members of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) that have proven to lay the foundation for generations of future Wildcats.  The Department of Athletics in conjunction with the Department of Alumni Relations would like to pay homage to our NAIA era with a weekly "Throwback Thursday" feature on some of its standouts. This week, we are highlighting baseball alum Rich DiRocco (Class of '86).

Q: What were some of the team accomplishments during your career as a Wildcat?

A: Our 1984 team was the first to make the College World Series in Lewiston, Idaho. In 1985, our team was the first team to play our in-state rival, University of Delaware. I had the honor to pitch that game. Our team also won the Districts title three years in a row. 

Q: What were some personal achievements/awards you earned as a student-athlete at Wilmington College?

A: I earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in 1986 in Business Administration. I received All-American honors in 1984 & 1985 and I was the first Wilmington College baseball player inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2004.
I also enjoyed mentoring kids in the campus day care center after classes.  It helped subsidize my tuition and gave me great pleasure to help kids learn and teach values.

Q: What are your fondest memories of being a student-athlete?

A: Obtaining a College degree was always a dream especially after not being drafted. Playing in the College World Series and, most importantly, sustained relationships after all these years are definite highlights of my time at Wilmington College. I still maintain contact with former University president, Dr. Jack Varsalona, who was actually my professor. I have a relationship with the current head baseball coach, Brian August, which began in my semi pro days. The relationships built with Alumni Director, Stu Hanf, and Athletic Director, Dr. Stefanie Whitby, have enabled me and former teammates to stay involved in the baseball alumni and bridge the gap from the NAIA teams to the current NCAA teams.

Q: Where has your professional career taken you since graduation?

A: My degree has allowed me to sustain a career in the banking industry for 33 years as an officer and leader. I am currently employed at JP Morgan Chase.

Thank you, Rich, for sharing your experience! The Wilmington community appreciates what you have done and continue to do.

If you have any questions, comments, or nominations for alums to be highlighted from Wilmington College's NAIA era, please reach out to Dan Burke at daniel.j.burke@wilmu.edu.