Cowboys in College: Sports Edition

Following graduation, Pascack Hills Alumni gear up for their next step in life, whether it is going to trade school, taking a gap year, or going to college. While the majority of graduating Hills students head to college, a fraction of the group takes it one step further: they are also playing a sport at the collegiate level. Featured in this article are Ryan Lipinski, John Aquaviva, Nicole Vadon, and Maddie Valko’s retellings of their experiences playing sports in college and what the athletic program at Hills did to help them succeed at a higher level in both sports and life. 

Lipinski (PHHS Class of 2016) played baseball at Ramapo College for two years after graduating from high school. He was on the baseball team at Pascack Hills from the 2013 season through the 2016 season, a player for all four years of high school. When asked about what Hills Baseball taught him he said he learned “to put the team first, always,” which changed his focus from only caring about personal statistics to “caring about the wins and the losses more than anything else.” 

While in the Pascack Hills baseball program Lipinski learned perseverance, teamwork, and selflessness, making him a more versatile player heading into college. Lipinski does not regret his decision to continue playing baseball even though a shoulder injury stopped his career short. He knows that going to Ramapo College for baseball was the best decision for himself. “Everything happens for a reason,” he stated. 

This optimism comes from the roots planted in a young freshman baseball player who grew into an amazing teammate by learning how to grow on the field and into an even better person off of it with the help of Pascack Hills Baseball. 

Aquaviva (PHHS Class of 2016) is a senior at Salve Regina University and played football at the school for his freshman year of college. Aquaviva played football at Pascack Hills for four years and decided to continue his career on a college level; however, when he first got to college he believed continuing playing football was going “to affect [him] negatively,” and was the wrong decision, as it conflicted with other parts of his life. Now Aquaviva sees that “college football was a growing experience and [he] learned a lot about [himself] through the process.” Even though he did not enjoy his time playing football in college, his time at Pascack Hills taught him that “the team as a whole relies on leadership,” and that “leadership is motivating teammates to reach their full potential.” Aquaviva explained how he carried these lessons into college, but not only onto the football field: he carried them into the classroom and will be carrying them into his future profession. Aside from the hardships and deciding to stop playing football in college, playing football, at both levels, helped Aquaviva grow as a person and gave him the skills necessary to succeed in life. 


Vadon (PHHS Class of 2018) currently runs track at The College of New Jersey and was a key part of the track and field program at PHHS. While in the track program at Hills, Vadon learned patience. Through teammates and coaches, Vadon was able to become not only a more patient person in life, but especially in track. When Vadon went to college she was injured for the first time and put in a boot for nine months where she had to “watch her peers grow and excel in track,” while she had to “watch from the sidelines;” however, the patience learned from her time running in the Pascack Hills Track and Field program made her a better athlete and teammate. Vadon was able to still be happy for her teammates while waiting to get back, quite literally, on track. Vadon stated, “My decision to play a sport in college has affected me positively so far,” because of the time-management skills and patience gained by running track in high school and college. These skills have helped her succeed academically in college so far and will continue to help her for the rest of her life. Vadon’s advice to any Hills student considering playing a sport in college is this: “there will be a lot of sacrifices made . . . but if you are doing something you truly enjoy, then it’s very worth it.” 

Valko (PHHS Class of 2019) currently plays volleyball at Montclair State University. During her time playing volleyball for Pascack Hills, Valko learned that “no matter what is happening in the game you need to play together and stay positive,” because when a team starts to work against each other, “nothing will get accomplished.” Valko brought these lessons learned at PHHS to college, saying they “have helped [her] team in big-game situations,” including having a winning record this 2019 fall season. The decision to play volleyball in college “has definitely affected [Valko] in a positive way,” and she does not regret her decision to play the sport past high school. Playing a sport in college has helped Valko make friends, stay on track, and manage her time well. Valko loves volleyball and says, “It has really helped me push myself to be a better version of myself.” 

Each program Valko was a part of from high school to college grew her into the person she is today and playing a sport in college will help her past graduation. 

Pascack Hills athletic programs do not only produce college athletes who are skilled at what they do, but it also produces athletes with the proper attributes to not only succeed in the sports they play but to succeed in life. Students who continued playing sports into college have had great outcomes, even if it had nothing to do with the sport itself. If you are a student who is interested in continuing their athletic venture, remember what you have learned playing sports at Pascack Hills High School. Chances are, it will 100% help you in your future athletic journey.