NEWINGTON - Newington girls volleyballâ€™s senior star Madison Massaro-Cook knew where she would be playing in college, but she waited nine months to reveal her next step.
â€śI didnâ€™t want to tell anybody until I officially signed,â€ť Massaro-Cook said.
That official signing came last week, when Massaro-Cook signed her Letter of Intent to take the short trip down the road to Central Connecticut State University, where Massaro-Cook will begin a Division-I career after four memorable years at Newington.
Verbally committing to CCSU back in February was a cause for excitement in the Massaro-Cook household, but Massaro-Cook decided to keep the news to just her family and a few close friends, and kept it that way for nearly a full year.
â€śI wanted to keep it quiet because I just wanted to stay humble,â€ť Massaro-Cook said. â€śPeople would start talking about how itâ€™s Division I and I didnâ€™t want to be looked at like that.â€ť
Massaro-Cookâ€™s official commitment completes a timeline that stretches back to last September, when she began communicating with CCSU coaches at the start of her junior season. Massaro-Cook, who went on to earn her second straight all-conference nod as a junior after logging a team-high 164 kills (50 more than the next-highest mark), was offered a spot and given an April deadline to commit to the Blue Devils, but she only needed until February to make her decision. CCSU is where she wanted to be, and not just because of the Division-I appeal. Massaro-Cook was more interested in the top-notch academic opportunities.
â€śI looked at other colleges and communicated with other coaches, but there was something about CCSU when I visited and the atmosphere I really liked,â€ť Massaro-Cook said. â€śThe team at CCSU is so focused on academics and has the highest GPA of any team there, and thatâ€™s really important to me. The coaches really care and want whatâ€™s best for their athletes.â€ť
Of course, the lack of distance also appealed to Massaro-Cook. Newington High School is just a short two-mile drive to CCSU, giving Cookâ€™s close family and friends that have known about her choice since February plenty of opportunities to watch Cook in a Blue Devils uniform next fall.
â€śI love my home and my family, and I didnâ€™t want to be far from them,â€ť Massaro-Cook said. â€śI didnâ€™t want to leave them. When I was saying goodbye to my teammates, I was able to say that I was going to be right down the road and they could come to all my games.â€ť
Having made her decision back in February, just weeks before the coronavirus swept across the globe and resulted in the shutdown of all sports, Massaro-Cook was able to focus on her senior season without the concern of how she could salvage a recruiting experience, like so many others. While the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference worked through options for the fall season that included outdoor play and eventually indoor play with the addition of masks, Massaro-Cook knew if the season wasnâ€™t able to be played, there would be another season waiting a year later right down the road.
â€śThat was such a great feeling, especially with covid shutting tournaments down this offseason,â€ť Massaro-Cook said. â€śA lot of friends had potential film stripped away. I just played my senior year without a worry because it was like I was playing just to enjoy the season.â€ť
Massaro-Cookâ€™s senior season was certainly unlike any of her other years at Newington. From masks on the court to regionalized scheduling and the absence of a state tournament to a new head coach in Kelly Andrews, Massaro-Cook was able to embrace all of the unexpected change with the knowledge that she had some sense of certainty in terms of her future.
She attributed that security as a result of Newingtonâ€™s program, which served as her avenue to CCSU.
â€śCoach Chris Wanner made such a huge impact on who I am today,â€ť Massaro-Cook said. â€śShe left this year, but Kelly Andrews came and really pushed me to my full potential. They really prepared me and made me be able to push myself to be able to play collegiately.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org