While Venizelos Had Lost Senior Year for Hun Softball, She Earned Scholarship Award on the Way to Colgate
SCHOLARLY APPROACH: Gigi Venizelos tags a runner in a 2019 game during her junior season for the Hun School softball team. While Venizelos didn’t get to compete in her senior year as the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she did receive a special honor, getting named as a recipient of the Trenton Softball Hall of Fame scholarship award. Star infielder Venizelos is headed to Colgate University, where she will be playing for its Division I softball program. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
For Gigi Venizelos, traveling to Florida every spring for the Hun School softball team’s annual preseason trip proved to be a highlight of her high school career.
“I think what will stand out the most is how much the Quirks [head coach Kathy Quirk and assistant coach Bill Quirk] made the team and the program into a family,” said star shortstop and team co-captain Venizelos.
“Going down to Florida for the week before the season started was a staple in our team growth and becoming a family unit. I would say that is the most important thing of how much of a family we became.”
The jaunt to Florida this March will leave Venizelos with some unpleasant memories, as that is when she and her fellow seniors were called back to New Jersey and the players never saw the field together again as the season was ultimately canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was tough, being the seniors, we were really looking forward to getting to play out our last season with the team,” said Venizelos.
“We had awesome chemistry this year, we had great underclassmen who were so fun.”
While Venizelos didn’t get to compete this spring, she did receive a special honor, getting named as one of the six recipients of the Trenton Softball Hall of Fame scholarship award earlier this summer.
“It means the world, it was so nice to meet the committee and everyone in person,” said Venizelos, a standout infielder who is headed to Colgate University where she will be playing for its Division I softball program.
“We got to do a mini banquet at the Ewing Babe Ruth field which was really nice. I am thankful that the Quirks introduced me to that scholarship and gave me the chance and opportunity to apply for it.”
Venizelos is thankful for how the Quirks have influenced her over the last four years.
“They gave me so many opportunities to learn different ways to be a leader, to learn how to be a good teammate, that kind of thing,” said Venizelos.
“I am so thankful for everything they have done for me and the other girls.”
Having served as a team co-captain the last two seasons, Venizelos showed her leadership skills in keeping the Hun players motivated after the season was canceled.
“We would do team Zoom calls where we would have little competitions like sit-up competitions, push-up competitions which was all fun,” said Venizelos. “It was so nice to see the girls.”
Working out at home, Venizelos kept up her conditioning. “I actually have an old squat rack in my basement so I have been able to keep up with my exercising stuff,” added Venizelos.
“Our strength coach [Na’ati Akauola] was willing to send out workout regimens and stuff like that like. With the COVID, my dad was able to stay home from work and we were able to go over to a cage near our house and I hit quite often.”
This summer, Venizelos got back on the diamond, competing for the New Jersey Outlaws Gold team.
“My travel team has been keeping up,” said Venizelos. “We practice twice a week, we play in tournaments on the weekend. I was getting much more ball than I was expecting.”
Over the last four years, Venizelos did more than she expected off the field.
“I am super thankful for my years at Hun once again, they have given me so many opportunities to try things I would have never thought of doing,” said Venizelos, who earned Citizenship Awards from Hun in 2017 and 2019 and logged 125 hours of Community Service, getting named to the Hun Community Service Executive Board for the five students who participate in the most activities.
“My freshman year, I wanted to be part of the community service club and went to the first event. I fell in love with it and that became a staple for me in high school. It was something that became a passion and I honestly would have never expected it to be. It is not something I would have tried.”
Hun head coach Kathy Quirk loved having someone like Venizelos on her squad.
“She was involved with the Red Shield Society, she was involved with community service, and she was a national honor society member,” said Quirk.
“She was a house leader. People know who she was. It is always those leadership things that keep coming back to tell you what type of person that she is. I wish every player was as dedicated as she was. I think she got from Hun everything that she possibly could.”
In Quirk’s view, her star shortstop gave everything she could on the field during her Hun career.
“She was an impact player her freshman year and has been one ever since,” said Quirk of Venizelos, a three-time All-Prep A and All-MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) performer.
“I have really enjoyed coaching Gigi; she will definitely be missed on and off the field. She will always have a special place in my heart.”
It was special for Quirk to see Venizelos get named as a recipient of the Hall of Fame scholarship award.
“She is the third girl from Hun to win this award,” said Quirk noting that Aly Kemmer and Julie Fassl were the previous Raider players to be so honored.
“I think that tells you what type of softball player she is and what type of student athlete that she is. I am really happy for her. She has been nothing but a pleasure to coach. She is an outstanding athlete and an outstanding leader. She just represents what we at the Hun School would like to see in or student athletes. I am just proud of her. It is a great honor for both her and Hun.”
Quirk believes that Venizelos will emerge as an outstanding player for Colgate.
“I think she is going to surprise them; she probably won’t play shortstop, she will probably be a second baseman,” said Quirk.
“She is going to do well. The coach [Marissa Lamison-Myers] is getting a nice little player and knows it. She has been very happy with her. Gigi works hard because she wants to. It is not only to prove things to herself, but to prove things to other people that you picked me for a reason and I am going to show you that I can do it.”
Venizelos, for her part, picked Colgate because it exuded the same positive vibe she found at Hun.
“I was looking at the high academic schools, whether it was D-I or D-III,” said Venizelos, who considered several New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) and Ivy League programs.
“When I visited Colgate, I got the same strong community feel that I had when I visited Hun. It was a feeling that I knew I wanted to be there. I met the girls on the team and coaches and it was the same family feel that I felt at Hun and with my travel team. It is something that I really, really wanted to be a part of the second I was there.”
Getting in contact virtually with her future teammates, Venizelos is already developing bonds with the squad.
“We have been doing a lot of Zoom calls and stuff back and forth, they have been doing a lot of TikTok and video stuff online,” said Venizelos.
“They did send out a workout plan; it is nice to be on the same path as the girls that are already there.”
With Colgate students currently slated to be on campus this fall, Venizelos is looking forward to working out with her new team in person.
“They have a six-week plan to get us practicing as a team,” said Venizelos.
“It starts out where we can’t practice as a whole unit but since we are a pretty small team compared to sports like football or lacrosse, we will be able to practice as a whole sooner than them. I am upset that I can’t have fall ball but the girls are super welcoming.”
While not getting the chance to play her senior season at Hun was upsetting, it will give Venizelos a keener appreciation of things when she does take the field for Colgate.
“It has definitely opened my eyes to being on the field with my girls,” said Venizelos.
“It is good to be able to play travel and everything but missing that last senior season at Hun was really upsetting for me and all of the other seniors.”