SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 25, 2013

Jean DePlacido column: Esposito, Goulos ready to take their athletic talents to St. Leo

Jean DePlacido
The Salem News

---- — Good friends Gianni Esposito and Athan Goulos are both headed for St. Leo University in Florida, but they’ll be trying out for different sports. Esposito, the starting catcher for Bishop Fenwick, wants to continue playing baseball while Northeastern Conference all-star golfer Goulos, who had a great career for Peabody High, intends to further his career on the links.

The Peabody duo will head to St. Leo in August to try to earn a spot with the Lions. Both like the fact that the hot weather in the Tampa area will allow them to practice and play year-round.

“I decided to go there for two main reasons,” said Esposito, the cleanup hitter for the Crusaders. “Basically, I like the fact St. Leo’s plays in Division 2, and I’m looking forward to the hot weather there.

“I was looking at Salem State and Fitchburg State, but after I talked to the coach (Sean O’Connor) at St. Leo I decided to go for it. He’s from Massachusetts and likes to get kids from this area, because he says we’re tough (and) because we have to play in the cold weather. I’m pretty sure he grew up in Framingham so he knows what it’s like. He also likes my size.

“I know I’ll have to earn my spot on the team, but I am willing to give it a try.”

O’Connor was the pitching coach at Framingham State and has also coached at Brown, Assumption and Providence before taking over the Lions.

Esposito is a captain and three-year starter behind the plate for the Crusaders. He plans to play Legion ball or for a club team this summer before going to Florida.

“My grandparents have a place down there not too far from St. Leo; I’ll stay with them the rest of the summer,” said Esposito. “I‘m thinking about majoring in business or computer science. I’m excited about playing a lot of games next year; the season starts in January and goes right through to May.

“Athan and I have been friends for a long time, and it’s nice that he’s going there, too. I have a couple of friends that play at the University of Tampa, and another very good friend who plays for the University of Southern Florida in Tampa, so it should be a lot of fun.”

Goulos also considered Guilford College in North Carolina and had a spot on the team, but preferred the Tampa area so he decided on St. Leo.

There is a beautiful 18-hole, par 70 course right across the street from the university and several other challenging courses in the area, including Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club where the Lions play. St. Leo begins play in the Sunshine State Conference in September, and the fall season ends in late October. Play resumes in February and lasts through May.

Three members of the this past year’s team graduated, leaving some open spots, and there will be a new coach.

Goulos has been invited to play in several prestigious tournaments in Florida and has always wanted to go to college down south where he could play year round.

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Several talented local women are on the Boston Aztec team that will try to successfully defend its Women’s Premier Soccer League East title.

The Aztec women have won three crowns in a row and will play their home games at North Reading High School (with one game at Endicott College).

The first game of the regular season on June 1 is a rematch of last year’s playoff meeting with New England Mutiny in East Longmeadow, and the following Monday Aztec will host the Boston Breakers College Academy at Endicott (7 p.m.).

Aztec, coached by Dushawne “Doc” Simpson, advanced to the national finals a year ago and won the national championship in 2010.

The team returns 16 players from last year. The youngest member of the squad is defenseman Kerri Zerfoss of Peabody and Pingree, a member of the Aztec Youth program and U-15 Region 1 Interregional squad. She was one of two players from Massachusetts chosen to compete in a tournament in Costa Rico recently.

There are also nine former Aztec youth players on the roster that features Morgan Andrews, a midfielder/defenseman from Notre Dame and member of the U-20 US Women’s National team, along with returning goalie Erin Quinlan of Saugus (University of Hartford).

Celia Balf of Beverly/University of Albany is a key member of the defense. Forwards include Lucy Gildein of Topsfield/URI, Brittany Russo of Danvers/UMass Lowell, and Corey Persson of Danvers/Penn State. Kristin Verrette from Bishop Fenwick (Sacred Heart) is a midfielder as well.

The team will play a 10-game regular season schedule in the New England Division with the goal of a successful playoff run. Aztec has been a member of WPSL since 2005.

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Tawny Palmieri may have ended her career for the Merrimack College softball team, but the honors keep pouring in. The infielder from Peabody, who moved from shortstop to third base this season, led her team in every offensive category and is in the Warriors’ record books in quite a few categories.

She was named first team All-Northeast-10 and first team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-East Region. The latest honor is Daktronics All-East Region second team. It marks the second time in her three-year career at Merrimack she has received this distinction. Palmieri, a team captain, batted .432 with 34 RBI and a .728 slugging percentage this spring.

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Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at jmdeplacido@aol.com.