Senior athletes came to play but leave with much more

You know how the old saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens.

The inevitable reality most collegiate athletes face during their senior year is that they will no longer be able to compete in the sport that has molded them.

Although their competition days are over, they are now granted with the opportunity to integrate the virtues they’ve developed through their hard days of training and to carry them through their life as they build their future careers.

Field hockey forward Taylor Ryan takes pride in what she’s learned about herself with 13 years of play under her belt.

“I have learned how to overcome adversity, and any obstacles. This sport, like any sport has truly made me who I am.” said Ryan

There was a common theme among Senior Wilkes athletes, Taylor Ryan, John Stoner and Vanessa Zottoli – athletics is the initial reason they are here.

As they’ve let their love of the game dictate the trajectory of their college decision, they’ve allowed these formative years to help them build their purpose beyond their athletic craft.

Vanessa Zottoli, Wilkes Women’s soccer defensive player reflects back on her career as a catalyst to force her to step outside her comfort zone in order to evolve her mindset.

“It’s encouraged me to take risks and have determination in everything I do,” said Zottoli

A graduate of Red Land High School in Etters, PA, John Stoner simplifies his journey as an avenue to overcome trials and display resilience while forming lifelong bonds.

“There have been numerous ups and downs throughout the sixteen years I played soccer. Playing soccer, you meet new friends and those friends eventually end up becoming your brothers,” said Stoner.

Ryan, a native of Fredericksburg, VA entered her collegiate campaign with a vision to make an impact on her new team. She ended up gaining a gift that would serve far more valuable as she acquired communication skills and created bonds that she will always express gratitude towards.

A consistent force on the Colonels’ field hockey squad, Ryan led the team to four playoff appearances and played a decisive role in their 2013 MAC Championship team.

“I had to prove myself, and show how much I wanted to be on the field and contribute for my team. I learned to work with people from all over, and all different backgrounds. I have met some of the most amazing people while playing at Wilkes. I have met my best friends, mentors, and coaches that I will value for the rest of my life,” said Ryan

Zottoli began expanding her abilities at the age of four in her hometown of Mercerville, New Jersey.

Zottoli’s hard-nosed attitude on the field resulted in an abundance of success throughout her ride as a Colonel as she steered the women’s soccer squad to three MAC Freedom playoff berths including a runner-up finish in 2015.

The psychology major enjoyed winning on the field, but what she truly cherished was the relationships she forged with her teammates.

“I’m grateful for the relationships that I’ve formed with my teammates. They’re like sisters to me, I have gained so many memories since freshman year till now that I will never forget.” said Zottoli

John Stoner, an accounting major at the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business values his time competing, for his focus on continuing to play soccer made him keep an open mind on furthering his education past high school.

Stoner viewed his career as a testament to his parents’ devotion to him. They ensured he would be granted every opportunity possible to excel in his pursuit.

“It’s not always easy for parents to drive their kids to tournaments every weekend, pay for hotel rooms, and pay the team fees. It was a sacrifice they had to make to allow me to play soccer.” said Stoner

The most significant skill Stoner took away from his time as an athlete is learning how to become a compliant team member. Soccer has prepared his psyche as he enters his respective profession.

“This will carry over into the workforce because in the accounting profession, you work a lot as a team; you need to carry your own weight and be accountable for the type of work that you do.” stated Stoner

The bittersweet feeling of having to hang up their cleats and walk away from the grind will allow them to get some relief on their bodies from countless hours of demanding training.

As they get ready to walk across stage and collect their bachelor’s degrees in May, their legacy as Colonels will forever remain.