Olivia Portner grew up playing soccer and had her sights set on one day playing at the collegiate level, but the Central Bucks East senior’s plans were derailed.
“I was pretty committed to the idea of playing soccer in college, but junior year I had a pretty bad concussion,” Portner said. “So I was out basically my whole junior year with COVID and the injury.”
Then in November of her senior year, a new and unexpected option presented itself.
“The coach (of Michigan State) reached out to me and saw I was tall and had the right build for rowing,” Portner said. “We started talking, and the process went on. I’ve never rowed before, but I think this is pretty common for a lot of rowers.”
Portner will major in environmental engineering.
“I was always really looking for a big school, and I had this unique opportunity to row,” she said. “The coach is really awesome, the school is beautiful, and they have so much to offer my major.”
Portner was one of 13 East seniors recognized on May 19 for committing to compete in collegiate sports.
Anthony Giordano, Mark Lapioli, Will Silverman and Reins Leedy will continue their football careers at the collegiate level.
Giordano, the Patriots’ record-breaking quarterback, was sidelined with an injury most of his senior year. He chose Catholic University from a final list that included Monmouth, Franklin & Marshall and Kutztown.
“When I visited, it just felt like home,” said Giordano, who plans to major in business/finance. “It felt like the right place to be. I have a really good relationship with all the coaches, and I know a couple of players that went to East that I’m very close with.
“My dad was big into football when he was younger, and he passed it on to me and my brothers.”
Lapioli, an all-league linebacker, will major in mechanical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He also considered Catholic and Ithaca.
“Overall, I think it was a better fit for me,” Lapioli said of RPI. “I pretty much always wanted to play in college. I just wanted to be the best I could.”
Will Silverman, a first team All-SOL National Conference wide receiver, will continue his football career at the Division 1 level playing for Monmouth University. He also considered Delaware, Lehigh and Albany.
“I just really liked the school in general,” said Silverman, who will major in business. “I knew it would fit my major, and I knew it was a good football program too. I’ve played football since I was 4 or 5, so it’s always been there.”
Leedy chose Moravian College from a final list that included Lebanon Valley, Dickinson and Muhlenberg.
“I went to a bunch of virtual meetings, and when I went to the campus in person – as soon as I stepped on the campus, I was like, ‘I want to go to this school,’” said the senior lineman, who is undecided on a major. “My dad played D1-AA, so I wanted to be like him. I knew I would miss the sport too much, so I wanted to continue in college.”
Luke Blackwell and Marcos Lopez will continue their track and field careers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown, respectively.
Blackwell also considered Pitt and Drexel, but Carnegie’s reputation as a top school in computer science and cyber security made it a perfect fit with his major of information systems with a concentration in information security and privacy.
“I loved the track coach and their training, and the team’s great,” Blackwell said. “When I was a freshman, I was debating between lacrosse and track, and I just went with track to see how it went. I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Lopez also considered the University of Miami, Alabama, South Carolina, Dartmouth and Cornell.
“Out of my options, I loved it the most because academically I thought it would challenge me and give me opportunities in engineering,” said Lopez, who will major in environmental engineering. “My first year in track and field was seventh grade, and I just did it for fun, and then when I ended up winning six gold medals at the championships, I realized I was pretty good at this, so I just wanted to see how far I could take it.”
Emily Chmiel, a two-time all-state selection, will continue her basketball career at Chestnut Hill College where she will major in exercise science.
“I was talking to a couple of Division 1 schools before COVID happened, and after that, a lot were unsure, so I started opening up to other divisions who had spots open and if they were still recruiting,” Chmiel said. “The coach (Jim Connolly) is a great guy and the girls are awesome. It’s close to home, and it was really just perfect.”
Joe Jackman, who is undecided on his major, will take his sharp-shooting basketball skills to West Chester University.
“When I visited the campus, it felt like Doylestown, and I think that was a big part of it,” said Jackman. “When I was a kid, I always wanted to play college basketball, and I worked my tail off to get to this point.”
Sophie Moyer will continue her swimming career at Franklin & Marshall where she will major in government. She also considered Gettysburg and Providence.
“When I visited, it was meeting with the girls, meeting with the coach and seeing the team atmosphere,” she said of her decision. “I’ve been swimming since I was 6 years old, so I always knew I wanted to continue with it throughout my life.”
Isabella Mignon will continue her soccer career at Holy Family University where she will major in elementary education.
“I also considered Mansfield and other local schools,” Mignon said. “I visited the school, and it was honestly just a perfect fit for me.
“I feel like high school soccer made me realize that I wanted to play (collegiate) soccer because I got exposure to higher level teams, and I just wanted to push myself to the next level.”
Tommy Krystkiewicz will continue his swimming career at Lafayette, choosing the Patriot League school from a final list that included TCNJ, Franklin & Marshall, Lehigh and Rochester Institute of Technology.
“Lafayette is only an hour away, and the engineering program is really good,” Krystkiewicz said. “I’ve always been competitive with swimming, and I knew I always wanted to swim in college. It’s been a big part of my life, so I’m not sure what I’d do without it.”
Soleil Dooner will major in psychology at the University of Scranton where she will continue her softball career.
“I’d been visiting Scranton since ninth grade, and I fell in love with the people and campus,” said Dooner, who also considered Catholic, Susquehanna and Alvernia. “I thought it would be best for me education-wise too.
“I’ve been playing softball ever since I can remember. At first it was just for fun, but I realized when I was 10 years old – there’s nothing I’d rather do than play softball.”