On November 14, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy honored four athletes who signed NCAA national letters of intent. From left, Billy Dooley, Casey Sullivan, Sydni Epps, Malik Garner.

by Tom Utescher

Way back in July, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy seniors Sydni Epps and Casey Sullivan made verbal commitments to the colleges where they plan to continue their athletic careers, and last week it was finally time to put pen to paper and make it official.

On Monday, November 14, the school held an official ceremony for the two sportswomen to sign their NCAA letters of intent, Epps for basketball at Hofstra University, and Sullivan for lacrosse at Lafayette College.

Epps, a six-foot guard who can swing to small forward, had schools such as Villanova, James Madison, and George Washington on her short list.

“I loved their coaching staff at Hofstra,” stated Epps, who averaged 11 points eight rebounds, and three assists per game as a junior. “They really approached me in a positive way. I liked the location of the school and the atmosphere around the team.”

Penn Charter’s Dianna Thomas-Palmer, a powerful 6’1” post player, has also committed to Hofstra.

“We played together on travel teams when we were younger,” Epps noted.

The first of this year’s recruits to commit to the Long Island school, Epps said that the incoming class has been ranked among the top six among the mid-major basketball programs.

“They decided they wanted a complete five to come in as a group out of high school in 2012, players who could step up athletically and academically.”

The Lions senior, who has played AAU basketball both with the Philly Triple Threat and the Gauchos in New York, said that one of her Gauchos teammates (Asia Jackson of Peekskill, NY) will join her at Hofstra, along with two recruits from Virginia.

Known for athleticism and versatility, Epps is being projected as a small forward who will occasionally see duty as a shooting guard.

Particularly for the latter role, she explains, “I’m working to improve my outside shot, creating more of a perimeter game.”

She said, “The coaches [at Hofstra] said they liked the way I hustle and get after the ball. My defense was key for them. They liked that I was a versatile player.”

At Springside Chestnut Hill, Epps participated in the diversity-oriented organization CAFE (Cultural Awareness For Everyone), and in the classroom her English courses were among her favorites. At Hofstra, she’ll consider a major in exercise science, perhaps with a minor in marketing.

The hoops standout came to SCHA as a sophomore after a year at Cheltenham High School, where she was the only freshman on the varsity squad in the powerful Panthers program.

“Being here helped me advance academically, and it gave me more confidence in myself as a person,” she said. “It helped me become a leader on the court.”

Stickster Sullivan entered what was then the Springside School a year earlier, and called the decision “One of the best things I’ve ever done. With the small class size you really get to know the teachers. You also have a chance to participate in a lot of different activities. Along with playing sports [tennis in the fall], I sing in the choir, Lorelei, and I’m in the play.”

In her college search she considered schools such as Cornell and Franklin & Marshall, and decided “Lafayette seemed the best fit for me.

Lindsay Yang, a 2010 graduate of Springside (now SCHA) is a sophomore on the Leopards lacrosse team.

“She absolutely loves it,” Sullivan reported. “She said it’s a great group of girls. On my official visit, the whole community there was so great and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Between the team at Springside and her lacrosse club, the Ultimate Goal, she’s played both offensive and defensive roles, and said that due to her running stamina she’ll probably first see action as a midfielder at the college level.

A varsity team member at SCHA since her freshman season, Sullivan has a good bloodline when it comes to lacrosse. Her mother, the former Brenda Reese, played for Penn State in the mid-1980’s, when the Lady Lions were one of the elite national powers in the sport.

Even so, Sullivan related, “When I started out in high school, I wasn’t sure I was going to play in college. Then I started getting lots of e-mails from coaches at the end of the summer before my junior year. The coach at Lafayette, Ali Fisher, said she’d been looking at me since my freshman year and felt I could make an impact on their program. She was one of the first people to recruit me, and she’s been so nice to me the whole time.”

Academically, Sullivan likes math and has also enjoyed English courses, and she’s thinking about majoring in psychology in college.

“I figure what you learn in psychology will always be useful, since you’re going to be interacting with people throughout your life,” she pointed out.

Looking forward to her final season of high school lacrosse, she said, “I want to bring up my offense this year. Our team has strong defenders, but we need to step up and score to win more games.”