For Sacred Heart juniors, the final season comes a year early

Rosie LaGrotta (left) and Danielle Lugo won't get to play a senior season of softball at Sacred Heart.
Rosie LaGrotta (left) and Danielle Lugo won't get to play a senior season of softball at Sacred Heart.
Posted: April 15, 2013

Danielle Lugo attended some Sacred Heart of Vineland softball games as an eighth grader.

"Sacred Heart was 'me,' " said Lugo, a Vineland resident. "I knew this was where I wanted to go."

Rosie LaGrotta felt the same way.

"I looked at a lot of schools," said LaGrotta, who lives in Franklinville. "I liked this school the best."

The junior softball stars made a decision three years ago: They wanted to be Lions.

But they won't be able to finish what they started. They won't attend the little school on North East Avenue as 12th graders, won't play their senior season, won't graduate in Sacred Heart's Class of 2014.

There won't be a Class of 2014.

"It's heartbreaking," Lugo, a catcher, said of the Diocese of Camden's decision to close Sacred Heart on June 30 because of declining enrollment.

There's no good time to shutter a school, to end 86 years of tradition.

The bad news impacts everybody from the administration to the alumni, from the faculty to the folks in the neighborhood, from the maintenance crew to the student body.

But it might be worst of all for the juniors.

They have three years in. They are fully invested in their school. They are on the brink of becoming seniors.

And now they have to switch to a new school. They have to adjust to new classmates, acutely aware that they lack the shared history that makes senior year so special.

"I know we're going to have a hard time adapting," LaGrotta said.

The closing of Sacred Heart will impact the South Jersey sports scene. Sophomore boys' basketball player Michael Holloway, a 6-foot-6 athlete who averaged 16 points, will change some program. He could join his brother Rashaan Holloway, a 6-9 junior who has a scholarship offer from Temple, at Schalick.

Junior girls' basketball player Kennedy Johnson, who stands 6-2, will improve some team dramatically. A Galloway resident, she could return to Holy Spirit, where she spent her freshman year.

Other athletes will migrate to other schools.

That goes for LaGrotta and Lugo, who have been key players for one of the best softball programs in South Jersey. LaGrotta, a pitcher, is 4-0 this season and has a career mark of 46-10. Lugo, a catcher, is a career .389 hitter who is batting .563 this season with 11 RBIs.

As sophomores, the duo helped Sacred Heart win the Non-Public B state title.

They plan to do it again as juniors.

But it suddenly doesn't feel like junior year anymore. It feels as if they've been turned into seniors a year too soon - charged with an urgency to make the most of their last season, their last moments in those red, white, and blue uniforms.

"We want to go out with a big bang," LaGrotta said. "We want to finish strong."


Contact Phil Anastasia at panastasia@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @PhilAnastasia. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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