By Shelley Handley
Glendale Community College hosted its first Athletics Hall of Fame April 2.
Families, students, faculty, coaches and administrators attended a fundraising event to honor past and present student athletes and coaches who have accomplished high goals and made meaningful contributions to our community.
Approximately 200 attendees participated in this fundraising event to raise money for athletic scholarships and the program.
Under the direction of communication faculty Dr. Loren Schwarzwalter, two Forensic students, Ms. Destinee Sior and Mr. Kyle Backer, hosted the event throughout the evening.
A special induction tribute was made for Herb Boetto, First GCC Baseball Coach (1967); Paul LoDuca, GCC Baseball (1991) MLB Los Angeles Dodgers (2001); Paul LoDuca, GCC Baseball (1991), MLB Los Angeles Dodgers (2001); Pete Pisciotta, GCC Assistant Football Coach (1967) GCC Athletic Director (1975) GCC Head Football Coach (1979-1980); and Phillippi Sparks, GCC Football 1988 National Championship Team (NJCAA) and NFL New York Giants (1992).
Sparks was a highlighted speaker. He began his greeting by honoring and thanking God and his mother for what he has been able to obtain in life.
Sparks never thought he would be a National Football League (NFL) player.
He grew up just about five miles from GCC in Maryvale and in 1987 he graduated from Maryvale High School.
In 1988 he became a GCC student and football player. He was instrumental in leading GCC in winning the 1988 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Football Championship. From there, he chose to attend Arizona State University until he was drafted in 1992 into the NFL by the New York Giants.
The newest stars to be added to GCC’s list of illustrious athletes are Haley Christiansen, NJCAA Region I Championship (2014 Volleyball Team Member), and Isaiah Lopez, NJCAA DII Region 1 Honorable Mention (2015 Men’s Basketball).
“I chose GCC because it has always been one of the top volleyball programs in Arizona, and I had heard great things about Lisa (head coach Lisa Stuck). I knew I would have an amazing volleyball experience there and thought it would be a great fit for me!” Christiansen said.
She came to GCC after graduating from Campo Verde High School in Gilbert, AZ. She earned the Presidents’ Honors Scholarship, and as a GCC student she has continued to be an academic scholar.
Christiansen, who began playing volleyball with her two older brothers from a young age, officially committed to a club team at the age of 10. “I have been playing competitively since then,” she said. “It took a lot of time, energy, and hard work to make it this far, but it has all been worth it because I have made meaningful relationships and memories throughout my two years at GCC that I will never forget.”
She will be graduating in May with her Associate in Applied Science degree (AAS). She has plans to complete her studies in occupational therapy at a university.
A few months ago her coach texted her about being inducted into GCC’s Hall of Fame.
“This experience is very meaningful to me. I never expected to get an award such as this one. It is a very humbling experience and I never could have done it without my teammates, coaches, friends and family,” she said. “My dreams and aspirations for my future are not only to continue my volleyball and education experience, but also to someday settle down and have a good job and family.”
Lopez chose GCC because of the basketball program and it’s coaching staff’s stellar reputation as well as the great faculty on campus.
“I desire to learn from the best both on and off the court,” Lopez said.
He is a 2013 Agua Fria High School graduate who wants to continue his education at a university to complete a major in business/sports management.
“I am currently in the process of deciding what is the best school for me as far as my education and basketball for the next two years,” Lopez said.
He desires to play basketball at a university and then in a foreign country.
“I wish to one day coach basketball at the college or professional level. I just want to stay around the game of basketball because they say do something you love and you will never work a day in your life,” he said.
The Gauchos’ Men’s basketball head coach, Damin Lopez, told Lopez that he was finalist for the Hall of Fame. He received an official letter a few week later confirming the award.
“This is by far one of the most amazing and humbling experiences that I have been a part of. Everything about this ceremony has been such an incredible experience. It allowed me to really show my appreciation and thank everyone who made me into the man, basketball player, teammate, and student I am today,” he said.
Lopez said that he has worked hard spending countless hours on the court, in the library, and at home to stay an Honors student and top athlete.
“The whole time in the gym or library I was driven by being the best player/student I could possibly be and know that no matter what I can say I did all I could,” he said.
In her welcome speech, GCC’s President Dr. Irene Kovala said with her right fist a foot above her head that the victory athletically is fabulous, but the academic completion is the higher achievement for the student.
Approximately 75 Scholar Athlete Awards were presented recognizing academic excellence to students with a GPA of 3.5 or above for the 2015-2016 year.
Lopez said that this fundraiser is crucial. This event “brings students, faculty, and the community together while at the same time benefits current and future students financially, which is an area almost all students stress about.”