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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Freshmen athletes make dazzling first impressions

Freshmen Stella Malinowski, Jaylon Joseph, Mark Butler, Nadia Zaffanella and Ida Moczerniuk (left to right) have been tearing it up for the Leopards. (Photos courtesy of GoLeopards)

The future shines bright for Leopards athletics as first-years from all different sports have been winning awards and breaking records at a breakneck pace this year.

Ida Moczerniuk

On Jan. 27 at the Lafayette-Lehigh Dual Meet, sprinter Ida Moczerniuk of the women’s track and field team secured first place in the 60-meter dash with a 7.72 finish. That performance broke a program record.

“My experience as a freshman collegiate athlete has been a transition, to be honest,” Moczerniuk said. “It was much harder than expected at first to juggle all the expectations that came with being a student, friend and athlete all at the same time.”

Moczerniuk thanked her fellow teammates for their continued support. 

“I would attribute my success this season to the support of my teammates,” Moczerniuk said. “I actually would not be performing as I am without them by my side. The team dynamic we have at Lafayette is such a privilege, it’s been made clear during meets that other teams do not have the same connection that we share.”

Jaylon Joseph

Defensive lineman Jaylon Joseph also had a productive start to his collegiate career. Joseph was a standout player for the Patriot League champion football team and a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award. The trophy has been presented to the top freshman in the Football Championship Subdivision since 2011. 

“My experience as a freshman having to come in and make an immediate impact was amazing,” Joseph said. “I attribute my success to the Lord and my savior Jesus Christ. He prepared me mentally and physically. The success us freshmen had as a whole impacted the team because we had great chemistry and wanted the same goal just like the older guys.”

Andrew Seumalo, the recruiting coordinator and outside linebackers coach, placed Joseph in the same category as other standout freshmen throughout the years.

“Obviously, we had Jaylon this past year,” he said. “And we’ve had Malik [Hamm] and I think Keegan [Shoemaker] won [Rookie of the Year] freshman year — I’ve been here so long. I remember everybody. But we’ve had a lot of success and I think the biggest thing is just for those incoming freshmen, is that they want it, they gotta go get it, and we’ll meet them every step of the way in terms of their growth and development.”

Nadia Zaffanella

Lafayette women’s soccer also had exceptional freshman showings, with particularly impressive play from midfielder Nadia Zaffanella, who was selected as Patriot League Rookie of the Year. During the season, Zaffanella earned recognition for her skillset and determination by being named Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week once and Patriot League Rookie of the Week twice. Zaffanella continued the trend of team-oriented recognition in her reflection on her freshman season.

“Entering preseason as a freshman can be very stressful, but with the help of my coaches, athletic training staff and most importantly my teammates, I found myself welcomed and at home,” Zaffanella said. “Our team culture supported a competitive environment while still making everyone feel comfortable, leading to success across our freshman class and the remainder of the team … At the end of the day, my success this season is due to my teammates’ support on and off the field, which allowed me to perform at my best.”

Head coach Mick Statham has nothing but respect and admiration for Zaffanella as a player and a person.

“Psychologically and emotionally, she’s about as good as we’ve ever had,” Statham said. “And from a maturity standpoint, from a perspective standpoint and I use a phrase with the players, ‘What will you do when the critical moment arrives?’… When the critical moment arrives, she’s unflustered, she’s confident, her belief in herself is very, very good. Her maturity, emotional intelligence and her psychological profile is unbelievable.”

Mark Butler

Mark Butler of the men’s basketball team has also had a monumental rookie season. Butler has been named Patriot League Rookie of the Week twice so far this season, and is spearheading the operation for the freshman.

“My experience as a collegiate athlete so far has been really fun,” Butler said. “Competing at the next level was always a goal of mine and now that I’m here I’m just enjoying the process and trying to get better everyday. I attribute my success this season to the work I’ve put in during the summer, my coaches for putting me in the right spots and trusting me and my teammates for allowing me to be myself day in and day out.”

Stella Malinowski

Stella Malinowski, member of the field hockey team and recipient of the Patriot League Rookie of the Year Award, continued the trend of exemplary success among the freshman, which her coach, Jennifer Stone, can attest to.

“Right from the beginning, she made her mark as an attacker, and scored a good amount of really important goals for us and was one of our leading goal scorers on the team,” Stone said. “She has an incredibly bright future. She’s gifted, she’s talented and she is incredibly driven and motivated to be her best.”

Grace Sanborn ’25 contributed reporting.

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Luke Gutleber
Luke Gutleber, Staff Sports Writer

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