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By Brian Fees
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — For Tess Cites, the past year has been magical.

The Horseheads graduate had a special season for Villanova softball, ending with being named Big East Player of the Year after hitting .378 with 15 doubles, seven home runs and 45 RBI.

On Wednesday, the former Blue Raiders star was back in the area as one of the coaches at the Train with the Champions Softball Clinic at East Waverly Park.

“It’s awesome, it’s cool seeing kids from different high schools I played against in different sports,” Cites said. “I played like Waverly in basketball and softball, so it’s cool to be able to instruct kids from my own area. And, just having the feeling of being home. It’s comfortable here, and talking to people that know the area pretty well. It’s pretty nice and it’s kind of a full circle moment. It’s cool working with my coach (Villanova coach Bridget Orchard) to so close to home. It’s been awesome today.”

It’s crazy for Cites just to be a coach now when it doesn’t feel like that long ago that she was at these camps herself.

“I did a little question and answer talk with the girls and they were like how do you go to camps and I was like oh my gosh, I was just going to camps,” Cites said. “It’s definitely a scary time going through the recruiting process, because you want to try and go to as many camps as possible. It’s definitely crazy because I feel like I was just going to these prospect camps and now I’m running them, which is crazy. Life moves really fast.”

Everything that she’s accomplished in the last year is still just sinking in for Cites.

“I haven’t really fully (processed everything),” Cites said. “It’s been a couple months and I still haven’t really comprehended it yet. And, it’s awesome just being around people who respect you and look up to you. It’s a cool feeing. Being around these kids a lot, it’s great that they look up to you and even ask questions about college and the recruiting process. It’s very special to me because these people are from my home area.”

The camp had a number of coaches with ties to the area. Cites is a Horseheads grad and Orchard is a former all-state standout at Binghamton. Zoe Mennig and Sam (Mennig) Jilson both helped with the camp and are Waverly graduates.

Binghamton University had coaches at both the clinic for the kids, and also at the coaches clinic at night. Binghamton assistant coach Michaela Transue was working with the kids during the day, and as a player she played in Section 4 at Chenango Forks, before becoming a standout at Division I Hofstra, where she was named first-team all-conference as a senior. She was a four-time all-state pick in high school.

“It’s amazing to be home coaching at Binghamton, and then to be able to give back two the community that I came from,” she said. “I can’t ask for anything else.

“I think just getting out in the community and being part of it and showing them we (Transue, Orchard, Cites and all the other players from Section 4) did it before and they can do it still. It’s something I like to do. I like to give back and be part of Binghamton and the surrounding area.”

For Transue at times it doesn’t feel that long ago she was at these camps, at other times it feels like a long time ago.

“Sometimes it feels like yesterday, other days it feels like it has been 20 years, but it’s amazing to be back,” Transue said.  

Cites knows how special it is for the kids to get a chance to learn from people who came out of Section 4.

“I have told this to many people, it goes to show it doesn’t matter where you are from, you can have success at any level if you work hard enough,” Cites said. “It’s awesome to that this is coming so close to so many people. It is really cool that this has that home town feel. It’s like I’m from Upstate, N.Y., I’m from Binghamton, I’m from Horseheads, and it’s such an inclusive group because it is such a small area, so when people do make it out and have success it makes it that much cooler.”

Cites herself followed in the footsteps of another former Section 4 star at Villanova, as Binghamton H.S. grad Paige Rauch earned the honor for Villanova in 2021.

“I definitely still do look up to Paige from a softball standpoint,” Cites said. “You can’t say enough about Paige’s playing, it is crazy too. I always looked up to her. Going to camps, even going to Villanova camps down in Philly and just seeing her run the camps and now that’s kind of me. It’s kind of strange, a very full circle moment. It’s just really cool. It’s also a little sad to because it means I’m getting older and I really only do have one more year, but it’s exciting to say the least.”

Cites knows that what she did, what Rauch did, and what all the former Section 4 players who success in college are doing is helping to put the section on the map.

“It’s special to me because we are making a name for Section 4 softball,” Cites said. “You know your teams in the cities, and higher populated areas, but now when people hear Section 4 maybe it might be like, oh that’s where those two players came from, so really just being able to pave the way for Section 4 is awesome. And, maybe being able to make a name for Section 4 and also inspire girls from the section as well.”

And, Cites enjoys not only representing the section, but Horseheads.

“It’s awesome being able to represent my home town,” she said. “I’m very proud of where I come form. It’s very special for me to be able to represent a school like Horseheads. It’s crazy because sometimes people will say it’s a game, but it’s so much more. I’m able to represent who I am, and where I come from, and hopefully where I am going. And, not just Horseheads softball, but Horseheads athletics in general, because I played multi sports and being able to tell people where I’m from, and I’m proud of it.”

It’s crazy for Cities to think she is wrapping up her college career soon.

‘It’s very strange,” she said. “My senior year (In H.S.) was a little different because I graduated during Covid. It’s crazy, it’s been four years and my college career has gone by in the blink of an eye. I really cannot believe I am going into my senior year. Even Bridget and the whole recruiting process, I feel like I was just meeting them and stepping on campus. To say the least it’s been a fun three years, and hopefully I have a fun fourth.”

Whle Cites was working with kids on Wednesday she doesn’t think coaching is in her near future, but you never can say never.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I definitely want to coach when I have kids and stuff like that, I’d like to coach their teams. My career path I’m on right now, it’s not a career path of coaching. But, who knows what the future holds. I certainly would not be opposed to some type of coaching, but it’s very funny because you never really know where life is going to take you. But, currently I’m not on a path to coaching, bout you never know, you never know where life takes you.”



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