SuburbanOneSports.com recognizes a male and female featured athlete each week. The awards, sponsored by Univest, are given to seniors of good character who are students in good standing that have made significant contributions to their teams. Selections are based on nominations received from coaches, athletic directors and administrators.
Univest’s SuburbanOneSports.com Featured Female Athlete for week of Nov. 9, 2021.
Caroline Hughes will never forget that moment. As a sophomore in the fall of 2019, the Abington center back made a bad pass back to her goalie that directly led to an overtime game-winning goal for Wissahickon that spoiled the Ghosts' Senior Night. Hughes, who still takes the blame for that one, was despondent on the field when Abington coach Rick Tompkins had a few choice words for her – “The Sun will come up tomorrow.” "That game is burned into my brain," Hughes said. "We, as a team, lifted our heads up and moved on, but he loves to joke about it and brings it up all the time because he knows it's a touchy subject for me. It was a miscommunication and mis-hit by me, I still take all the blame for that, but he lifted me up."
So, the sun did come up the next day, Hughes came back to practice and went right back to work. The ability to get over a mistake and just keep going is only a part of what made Hughes a standout four-year contributor to Abington's girls' soccer team but also speaks to her role on the girls' lacrosse team and involvement outside of athletes in the school. Tompkins had high hopes for Hughes when he made her the only freshman on a senior-laden squad in 2018, hopes the defender exceeded with her play but even more so with her personality and leadership. "She's the epitome of toughness," Tompkins said. "She works as hard as anybody, her skills have improved over four years, her leadership is unparalleled, and she does it nicely. She's a really, really good person and it's going to be a big hole to fill because for four years, I had a plug-in center back to run the defense."
Some players are on the field to score goals, others to win the ball, but there's a special place for those who live to deny the ball from going in the back of the net. It's sometimes an unforgiving job, as each mistake is amplified, but it just felt right when Hughes moved from front to back of her team's formations. "She holds herself very accountable, she doesn't make a lot of mistakes," Tompkins said. "But, playing in the back is not like playing up front where you take 10 shots, miss seven or eight of them, still score two and you're the hero. In the back, that usually ends up with a defeat. There weren't a lot of those when she was playing, and she also covered up a lot of mistakes."
Hughes not only earned a spot as the lone freshman on the roster, but also a starting nod as an outside defender. "It wasn't easy being the only one, I definitely felt like I was on the outskirts for the while, so I just had to plug away and ignore any bad energy or negativity, I had one job to do, and I think I did a pretty good job," Hughes said. "It wasn't that easy for me coming into the team and the way I was treated as a freshman wasn't the best, but I took away the good from that year and wanted to give it to everyone. Even as a sophomore, I introduced myself to all the freshmen and told them if they needed anything, I was always there. I wanted to be someone who anyone could come to with any issues and really tried to make it a positive environment."
On top of her athletic feats, Hughes is very involved within the school. The senior is a National Honor Society member and beyond that, is part of the Red Cross Club that organizes blood drives and recruits donors. She participates in the UNICEF club and is one of six organizers for Abington's Mini-THON, which raises funds and awareness to battle pediatric cancer. Hughes hasn't decided on her future plans yet, although she would like to play soccer collegiately if the right opportunity presents itself. Tompkins believes Hughes has the mettle and ability to do it, and she is hoping to catch some program's attention with a couple club tournaments she has left. In international soccer, the No. 10 jersey is sacred, usually gifted to a team's most dynamic playmaker. At Abington, that number has belonged to Hughes and while she hasn't been breaking down defenders or burying goals, it was fitting that she carried the number that identifies a player so integral to their team's success. "She's like the story of the swan," Tompkins said. "She started out like the ugly duckling, she was afraid, anxious and nervous and really blossomed by the time she was a senior. It's a difficult hole to fill, losing her both as a person and a player, but I know she's going to do well no matter what she tries because she gives everything her all and has that infectious personality."
To read Hughes’ complete profile, please click on the following link: https://www.suburbanonesports.com/featured-athletes/female/caroline-hughes-0097765
Univest’s SuburbanOneSports.com Featured Male Athlete for week of Nov. 9, 2021.
Comparisons were inevitable. Alex Checchia knew as much before he set foot at Council Rock South as a freshman. With four older siblings – three brothers and a sister - who excelled on and off the athletic field, it was bound to happen. “It wasn’t something I wasn’t used to,” the CR South senior said. “In elementary school, I always heard, ‘Oh, you’re Matt’s brother’ or ‘You’re Tony’s brother’ or something like that. I was kind of used to it, but it is difficult because they were all really, really good kids, good role models. It kept me in check a lot. I had to make the right decisions, I had to be above the line when I was in school, someone was always watching. It was a really good thing because I definitely was a little bit wild when I was younger.”
Competing in sports was a natural progression for Checchia. “I would say I got thrown into the fire, not necessarily by choice,” he said. “My parents were supportive of whatever we wanted to do, and it kind of became – what sport are you interested in? For me, it was football and basketball. I fell in love with football.” Tony Checchia – 11 years Alex’s senior – has had a front row seat to his youngest sibling’s football career, most recently as the assistant head football coach at Rock South. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself sometimes because he appreciates there is a legacy,” Tony said. “He sees his brother Matt who is close to him in age, and he’s playing at West Chester, so he’s coming from a line of us that have all left their mark at South. He’s always put that on himself – to be a captain, to have a successful season, to have a successful high school career. There were always some ups and downs, and this season wasn’t the most successful, but just the way Alex attacked it – prepared and his work ethic in the weight room - I think he was highly, highly motivated – ‘Hey, I want to put my stamp on this legacy.’”
The Golden Hawks struggled this fall during a season of transition, winning just two games. “To Alex’s credit and to a lot of the guys’ credit, they always approached it the right way,” Tony Checchia said. “Alex didn’t have a ton of catches just because of the nature of his position in our offense, playing tight end and playing a little wide receiver, we’re just not a high-volume passing team. I think at times inside it was frustrating, but on the outside, he was team first, leading by example. Even on the defensive side of the ball – from week to week, his role fluctuated. He had a real strong game against Truman. There were other weeks it wasn’t his kind of game defensively, but being a senior captain and leader, he understood that what we’re trying to do is what’s best for the team. Here’s a guy getting a lot of attention, whether it’s Division I, Division 2 or Division 3, with a pretty high profile, and he’s on board, he’s buying in. There’s something to be said for that. At any level, you need your top guys to be bought in. All of our seniors – those guys gave their very best effort to make it work.” Despite the Golden Hawks’ struggles, Checchia never stopped working, providing a positive role model for the young players. “The most important qualities are Alex’s passion, enthusiasm and hard work,” head coach Vince Bedesem said of his senior captain. “He is consistently early and stays late during the practice week, emphasizing to his teammates his desire for them to be the best student-athletes they can be. In addition to his excellent leadership qualities, Alex is a dependable team player. He is truly going to be missed.”
Checchia is undecided on his future – he’s been talking to schools at all levels. The three he’s been in communication with the most are Pitt, Yale and West Chester. He also holds an offer from Clarion. When it comes to a major, Checchia has narrowed it down to two decidedly different fields – political science and athletic training. Checchia took several AP classes last year and has always been enrolled in honors classes. “I’ve always known – you’re a student first and then you’re an athlete,” he said. “If you can’t hold up the student part – what kind of athlete are you going to be?” Checchia is looking to join the basketball team this winter for one last go-around after stepping away for two years. He is involved in the school’s Athletes Helping Athletes program. When he’s not in football season, Checchia works at the Northampton Township Civic Center.
To read Checchia’s complete profile, please click on the following link: https://www.suburbanonesports.com/featured-athletes/male/alex-checchia-0097771