MILFORD-ORANGE BULLETIN SPORTS PERSON OF THE YEAR: Foran's Rebekah DeRosa
The year 2012 has been one of many highs for the girls’ sports programs at Foran High. From a basketball team that continued its pesky play and played in the state tournament to a softball team that advanced to the state finals and a volleyball team that went the farthest any Foran volleyball team has in the postseason, the Lions were well-represented in the playoffs.
There are many reasons and many factors that allowed for these teams to achieve their success. At the middle of all of them was Rebekah DeRosa.
The senior, who was a key part of both of last season’s basketball and softball teams as a junior, not only led on the field, but was a catalyst off the field with her leadership qualities.
For her efforts, DeRosa has been selected as the 2012 Milford-Orange Bulletin Sports Person of the Year.
“Rebekah is a phenomenal leader in all three sports,” Foran athletic director Anthony Vitelli said. “She is a great role model to the younger players around her. There is no doubt about it. Outside of sports, she is a joy to work with. She’s a great kid.”
A three-sport athlete, DeRosa is best known for her work on the softball diamond and volleyball court.
As a junior, DeRosa was a force in the lineup, hitting .343, with 24 hits, 15 runs scored and 16 RBIs after missing the beginning of the season with a concussion. DeRosa had eight doubles and according to coach Jeff Bevino, “one giant home run” in a walk-off victory over East Haven.
“She is a fantastic kid,” Bevino said. “She has some little girl in her with her charm, but when it comes to athletic ability, she is a very good player. She comes to play every day.”
DeRosa started her senior year in fine fashion, helping lead the Lions to the quarterfinals of the CIAC Class M state volleyball tournament.
DeRosa, a setter, was selected to the Class M All-State second team, was a Senior All-Star Game selection, a Connecticut Post All-Star selection and was selected to the New Haven Register All-Area team, where she was named the most valuable player. DeRosa set the Foran High School season record with 663 assists this season.
“As I look back on things, as a freshman, I did not think much of it,” Foran volleyball coach Julie Johnson said. “As a sophomore, I started to see progress as she stepped into her role. I had a two-time All-State setter in Sage (Esposito) who I knew would be graduating. Rebekah was a libero and I told her one day we were going to try her at setter and she was easily receptive. The transition was really seamless.”
Johnson also remembers how DeRosa inspired her team during her junior year. With DeRosa’s father, John, diagnosed with colon cancer, the team rallied behind their setter, having a game against rival Jonathan Law titled “Dig for DeRosa.”
It was Rebekah who inspired the team with her play, which never missed a beat.
“For me, to see how she handled the situation with her father’s illness, not knowing what was going to happen, that says a lot about her character,” Johnson said. “The way she carried herself said a lot. For the other girls, she was an inspiration.”
DeRosa had an easy explanation — she worked hard for her dad, who is now cancer free.
“When I found out, it was kind of hard,” DeRosa said of her father’s diagnosis. “I definitely did not want to let it get the best of me. I knew I had to go out there and work hard to make my dad happy. It pushed me harder. I just thought that is what he would want me to do.
“It (Dig for DeRosa) was amazing. It felt like everyone was backing me up. It was such a blessing. It gave me more confidence.”
Johnson added much more about DeRosa.
“She came to practice every day,” Johnson said. “She worked hard. You never knew she was going through it. We had a huge fundraiser, Dig for DeRosa against Law, and she took it all in stride. She kept her composure and persevered through it.”
While acknowledging softball and volleyball might be her best sports, DeRosa shows her value just as much on the basketball court.
One of three seniors on the 2012 team, DeRosa, along with Alexandra Librandi and Kelly Quinn, has to provide the leadership.
DeRosa may not score in double digits, but her presence on and off the court is invaluable to coach Scott Nails and the younger players.
“Rebekah DeRosa is all about team,” Nails said. “You will never hear her talk about herself. She has been a joy to coach. She has definitely been a leader this year for us.
“There are 32 girls in the program and 18 are freshmen. Her leadership is looked upon. Sometimes it is easier to go to your peers instead of the coaches. She has really stepped up with that. She is very helpful to the coaches and has helped the younger kids get acclimated to what we expect. She does what a leader should do.”
When speaking to DeRosa, one immediately gets a sense of why she belongs in a leadership role.
“I feel like I do play a big part in the leadership of the team,” DeRosa said of the basketball team. “I think it is really important to have the young kids involved and continue to make them feel like they are part of the team. I think that really helps.
“As a team, you want everyone involved, not just the upperclassmen to do it all. Everyone has to feel they are just as important. If the team is close, they will play like that and they will play better.”
Team chemistry and that cohesiveness were big reasons for success on the volleyball court this past fall. Along with Fallon Bevino and Abby Amann, the trio made the Southern Connecticut Conference All-Hammonasset Division team and was powerful leaders and players on the court.
From her setter position, DeRosa controlled the court. Her 663 assists helped set up different players throughout the season.
DeRosa also had chemistry with Fallon Bevino. Known for her laser-like kills, Bevino was the recipient of many perfectly-placed balls from DeRosa.
“I think we were successful because we played a lot last year and we had a returning team which worked together a lot over the summer,” DeRosa said. “We all just got along and we pushed each other in practice. At game time, we were ready to perform.
“I think coach (Julie Johnson) really is so much fun. We get each other. I have played on varsity for three years and each year we have spent more time getting to know each other. She is the type of coach who knows how to involve all the players. Practices are never boring. We are always doing something new and I think that helps on the court.”
When talking about DeRosa, Johnson had nothing but kind words for a player that left behind more than just her performances on the court.
“It was easy to coach her,” Johnson said. “I could say what I needed to say to her and she would be OK.
“She was a great leader. She worked hard and led by example. She did everything you could ask for. During the game, I could take her aside and tell her what I needed her to do and she would get it done. She had the ability to find the hitters where they were on the court. That is not an easy thing to do.”
The years at Foran have taught DeRosa the tricks of multi-tasking. Not only does she play a sport in each season, but she is preparing for her next season on off days or with any free minute.
That is not all. A perfect example of a day for DeRosa lately consists of going to school, going to basketball practice or a game, taking swings for the upcoming softball season and concentrating on her studies.
With all that is going on in her schedule, DeRosa never losses focus on what her priorities are. An honors student who has her applications out for college, DeRosa knows school first, everything else second.
“Even though I do all the other sports, school is very important to me,” DeRosa said. “It is my No. 1 priority. I play and I go home and I study. I do that every single day.”
DeRosa is well aware her senior year is flying by. While others say they cannot wait to graduate, DeRosa is just the opposite.
“I don’t want to leave high school yet,” the 17-year-old said. “I am involved in so many sports. There are plenty of friendships made. It is going to be really hard to leave. I am just going to enjoy every minute of it.”
Before DeRosa receives that diploma, she will have one more sport and one more goal to chase. That sport is on the softball field where she continually leaves her mark.
After watching Brooke Phelan provide plenty of leadership on and off the diamond last season, DeRosa is ready to take over the leadership role and guide the Lions to another possible championship.
With plenty of key pieces in place and returning eight starters, including fellow captains Marissa Bruno and Gina Georgetti, pitcher Jess Harkness, Fallon Bevino and Dani Kemp to name a few, DeRosa knows her high school career has the chance to finish in a special way.
“Brooke Phelan was just a great leader and a great captain,” DeRosa said. “She had all the characteristics of a leader. We all looked up to her. Filling her shoes is going to be hard but I am definitely looking forward to it.
“The most important thing for us is to take it one pitch at a time, one out at a time, one game at a time. We need to take it slow and focus on the task at hand.”
Softball coach Jeff Bevino raved about his outfielder.
“She is definitely a big player for us,” Jeff Bevino said. “Bases loaded, two outs, tie game, a ball hit to her and she settles right into it. Where others would be nervous, she has that calm about her. But, there is a fire under all that. She is always calm on the field, but I know under all that a fire is burning.”
DeRosa, who was part of a state championship team as a sophomore, echoed the comments of her head coach when talking about the way he leads the team.
“He (Bevino) is really a big teddy bear,” DeRosa said. “He really knows how to handle us as softball players. As a football coach he is tough. He just knows how to push us when he needs to push us. He always knows the right thing to say. He really helps us during the game.”
Bevino has also seen a side of DeRosa others may not see. With his daughter, Fallon, playing alongside DeRosa the last three years on the volleyball court and on the softball field, Bevino said he has noticed the difference DeRosa makes.
“She missed a good part of last season with a concussion,” Bevino said. “She was there with us all the time. It killed her not to be able to help the team. She came back and batted well over .300 in the middle of the season while others are in midseason form and she basically is in preseason form. She came in and did not miss a beat. She is never too high and never too low. She plays hard all the time and everyone likes to be around her.
“I am honestly glad my daughter got to play with her. She (DeRosa) is an even better person. She has been a mentor to my daughter. I could see the growth in my kid from hanging out with her. She has that effect.”
She has the statistics. She has a state championship. She has leadership qualities. But, most of all, she has the respect of her coaches and peers.
For those reasons and many more, DeRosa is the Milford-Orange Bulletin Sports Person of the Year.