Pinelands Regional’s Dean, Ventresca and Papernik Sign With NCAA Division I Colleges

Nov 21, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Pinelands Regional field hockey player Rachel Papernik signs her National Letter of Intent to play at Quinnipiac University on Nov. 14.

At one time, Noah Dean and Joey Ventresca not only dreamed of playing baseball in college, but had hoped to take the same field together.

“We talked about that for the longest time,” said Ventresca after he signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Monmouth University, while his teammate signed with Old Dominion University. “He’s my boy. And it would have been awesome to play with him in college. But that’s not the way it worked out. That’s OK, though. Maybe we’ll see each other on the field in a region final or something.”

Amid family and friends on Nov. 14, the Pinelands Regional seniors inked their commitments to play at the NCAA Division I level, along with classmate Rachel Papernik, and each talked about their “dream come true.”

“Words can’t even explain how happy I am to get the chance to play at that level,” said Dean, who made his decision to sign with the Monarchs in October. “This was my goal since I was a little kid. I’m really excited for this.”

Papernik, who signed with Quinnipiac to play field hockey, said she’s most excited to compete at the Division I level not just because it’s the highest level of collegiate sports, but more because she wants to embrace the challenge of being a good Division I player.

“Ever since I knew what Division I was, I knew I wanted to play at that level,” said Papernik, who began playing the game when she’d attend practices at Pinelands Regional Middle School, where her mother coaches, in the mid-2000s. “Once I knew that was the top, that’s where I wanted to go. I love playing field hockey, and I figured if I’m going to play in college, I may as well go for the highest level. I believe I have the potential to be good at that level, and I can’t wait to work hard to be that player.”

One of the many reasons Papernik chose Quinnipiac – besides its being one of the best schools in the country for her chosen fields of interest, occupational or physical therapy – was that the Bobcats are soon slated to enter the Big East Conference after many years with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, where Monmouth resides.

“When I was looking at schools, I noticed Quinnipiac was merging into the Big East, and that caught my eye,” she said. “Then I saw pictures of the campus and thought it was great. But then I noticed they were building a new stadium just for field hockey and thought, ‘OK, this is really awesome!’ The facilities and programs are great, and when I met with the coaches and players, I really felt like I belonged there.”

Ventresca explained a similar sentiment regarding the Hawks. He described the coaching staff as “a great group of guys who are down to earth and love the game.”

“I’m ready for this,” said Ventresca, who plans to take up either broadcast communications or criminology. “I’ve been training my whole life for this moment. This is why I’ve made all the sacrifices I’ve made over the years. It’s crazy how fast it’s gone, but I’m ready to go work hard, and I’m looking to get a starting spot right away.”

As for Dean, the lefty pitcher knows he’s going to face a lot of tough competition while in Norfolk, Va. – Florida Atlantic is on the rise in Conference USA, and mainstays Rice and UTEP have been solid for years – but he believes he’s “going to be OK.”

“The coaches are going to make minor tweaks to my windup, and they’ve already told me I’ll have to get bigger and stronger,” said Dean, who plans to major in either business media or computer engineering. “But they’re going to make me a better baseball player, and I’m excited about that. I’ll probably be a little shaky at first because it’s a big jump going to Division I from high school, but it’s going to be so much fun. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Of course, if Dean ever gets back on the same field with Ventresca, that may be an interesting matchup – one Ventresca said he’d rather avoid.

“No way,” he joked. “I tell my family he’s the last guy I want to face in the batter’s box. He’s lefty, funky; his fastball moves a lot. But he’d probably start me off with that knuckleball or whatever that pitch is he throws. I’d be lucky to hit him once.”

— David Biggy

Pinelands Regional baseball player Noah Dean signs his National Letter of Intent to play at Old Dominion University on Nov. 14. (Photo by: David Biggy)
Pinelands Regional baseball player Joey Ventresca signs his National Letter of Intent to play at Old Dominion University on Nov. 14. (Photo by: David Biggy)
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