NEW HAVEN — John DeLucia racked up goals almost at will for Guilford’s hockey and lacrosse teams. Yet his senior year statistics in both sports show he finished with more assists than goals.
“If he was selfish, he could have scored 100 goals,” Guilford lacrosse coach Brian White said.
Mia Juodaitis, a three-sport star at Cheshire, had as much natural ability to rival anyone in the school’s rich athletic tradition. Less experienced in volleyball, she was willing to accept any role to help the team succeed.
“She played right-side hitter and did very well, even though it’s tougher there for a right-handed hitter,” Cheshire volleyball coach Sue Bavone said. “It would have been easier for her as an outside hitter. But she’s unselfish. She’d play wherever we put her if it made the team better.”
Unselfishness was a common thread in the success of DeLucia and Juodaitis, named the New Haven Register’s Male and Female Athletes of the Year at the 25th annual All-Area MVP banquet Wednesday night at Amarante’s Sea Cliff.
To coaches at Guilford and Cheshire, it became clear early on they’d have special talents.
The first time White saw DeLucia was at a youth camp in town. His skill was obvious.
“Here was this little toothpick of a kid,” White said. “But then he started playing, and his hands were so smooth. Right away, we were aware of him.”
By the time DeLucia arrived at the high school he wasn’t much bigger. White estimates he weighed about 110 pounds. But he was good enough to immediately crack the starting lineup on a senior-laden team, finishing as one of the top scorers.
His game continued to evolve. He scored 52 goals and 81 points as a sophomore. As the first junior captain in program history, his point total increased to 60 goals and 104 points. He also locked up a spot at Quinnipiac, one of the nation’s 73 Division I men’s programs.
As a hockey player, DeLucia also had a knack for racking up points. He’d passed the school record for career points as a junior. When his senior season wrapped up in March, he’d accumulated 270 points, nearly double the old mark of 145.
Guilford reached the state quarterfinals, losing in overtime to Farmington Valley, the earliest exit in DeLucia’s career, which included a state championship as a sophomore — scoring the go-ahead goal — and runner-up as a junior.
Still, his teams won 75 percent of games during his four years. He capped his senior season with SWC/SCC Division II player of the year and the state Division II player of the year.
Expectations were sky high for his senior lacrosse season. DeLucia came through, leading the Indians to the SCC final and the CIAC Class M semifinals. He finished with 120 points and was named an All-American for the second time.
“Most of his points were assists this year, which tells you a little about him,” White said. “He’s so skilled, so athletic and his hand-eye coordination is off the charts. The translation from hockey to lacrosse makes him very fluid with his movements.”
Juodaitis grew up with basketball and softball, honing her skills through various youth teams and camps to arrive at Cheshire refined in both sports. A former soccer player, she’d never played volleyball before joining the team as a sophomore.
Initially a junior varsity player, she progressed quickly and joined the varsity during the Class LL tournament. Her first game action came during a 3-0 loss to eventual champ Stamford. Afterward, Bavone saw what type of competitor she had in Juodaitis.
“She was emotional, crying,” Bavone said. “For a kid who’d never played the game before to have that kind of reaction…it’s just who she was. She’s so invested in winning. I think that’s what she brings to all the sports she plays. It’s a competitive edge and she doesn’t like to lose.”
Juodaitis didn’t lose often. She won a state softball championship as a freshman, leading the undefeated Rams in hits and batting average. Wins piled up right through her senior season.
Cheshire’s volleyball team was 22-0 before losing to Amity, the eventual Class LL champs, in the quarterfinals. The girls’ basketball team qualified for the tournament while softball, which won 23 of 27 games, fell just shy of the state championship game.
The individual accolades piled up, as well. She was an all-SCC volleyball player and, after topping the 1,000 career point plateau, earned all-state honors in basketball. This spring, she batted .410 with a school-record 12 home runs and 36 RBIs to earn SCC player of the year and all-state honors.
Selflessness carried her through the season and after the Rams lost a close decision to NFA in the state semifinals earlier this month.
“She never cared about her stats,” said Cheshire softball coach Kristine Drust. “This group of seniors has been together the past 10 years, through the town rec system and travel ball. The conversation at the end of the game and the tears weren’t from the loss at all. It was truly and sincerely just not being able to play together any more. As competitors you never want to lose, but I truly think the relationships they formed outshined the pain of the loss.”
NEW HAVEN REGISTER ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
Pierre Venditti (Law), Diane Potkay (Derby)
Steve Coughlin (Ansonia), Lisa Barbaro (Morgan)
Mike O’Keefe (Notre Dame-WH), Lisa Barbaro (Morgan)
Peter Fink (H-K), Sarah Katinger (Bunnell)
Adam Greenberg (Guilford), Nicholette Chambers (Hillhouse)
Chris Tracz (North Branford), Megan Miller (Law)
Glenn McFadden (Hillhouse), Jenn Piazza (Lyman Hall)
Brian Mariano (Naugatuck), Emily Hardy (Westbrook)
Randy Gress (Notre Dame-Fairfield), Melissa McGow (Branford)
Mike Tamsin (Branford), Brittney Carfora (Branford)
Craig Kenney (Branford), Natasha Harvey (Career)
James Nixon (Hyde), Kristen Frost (Hand)
Terrell Wilks (Hillhouse), Katie Yanagisawa (Amity)
Rob Moir (Seymour), Ann-Marie Clarke (Hillhouse)
Jeremy Moore (Hillhouse), Allison Barwise (Amity)
Conor Keniry (Notre Dame-WH), Courtney Schissler (Branford)
Pat Gillen (Shelton), Sage Esposito (Foran)
Jake Scinto (Cheshire), Bria Holmes (Hillhouse)
Andre Anderson (Hillhouse), Precious Holmes (Hillhouse)
Arkeel Newsome (Ansonia), Danae Rivers (Wilbur Cross)
Chris Jean-Pierre (Valley Regional), Danae Rivers (Wilbur Cross)
Nico Ragaini (Notre Dame-West Haven), Danae Rivers (Wilbur Cross)
Nico Ragaini (Notre Dame-West Haven), Gabby Martin (Hand)
Kwane Taylor (Wilbur Cross) and Kylie Schlottman (East Haven)
John DeLucia (Guilford) and Mia Juodaitis (Cheshire)