Around The USCAA – 9-10-2018
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PSUGA Helps Gerardo Diaz Find Success on Field & in Life
Growing up in Puerto Rico, Penn State Greater Allegheny Alumnus and Men’s Soccer Player Gerardo Diaz was surrounded by friends and family, in a town where everyone thought the same. After playing soccer his whole life in his hometown of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Diaz was searching for a place to take his skills to the college level.
His journey took him 1,706 miles to the small town of McKeesport, Pennsylvania where he found Penn State Greater Allegheny. The transition was a culture shock to the young man at first, but he was quickly helped by the core of Puerto Ricans present at PSUGA.
“It was a whole different experience compared to what I was used to,” said Diaz. “With my team back home, we were all from the same country and had the same culture and beliefs. When I came to PSUGA the team had players from all over the world. It wasn’t easy to adapt at the beginning, but at the end everything worked out better then I could ever hope for.”
When Diaz arrived, he would immediately make his mark on campus as a member of the first ever PSUGA Men’s Soccer team. The team of 19 players, including 14 freshmen, were tasked with starting and building a program that would not only stay alive but be competitive in the ever growing Penn State University Athletic Conference.
After finishing that first year just 3-10-1, Diaz and his team would go on to make the playoffs in the next three seasons including a trip to the PSUAC Championship game in 2015. Diaz takes pride in being one of the pillars of what has turned out to be one of the most successful programs on the campus since its beginnings.
“Making it to the PSUAC Playoffs three out of the four years I played was a really big thing for me because I was on the team since day one and I was proud to see the program growing each year,” said Diaz. “The feeling I had when Marin Marina scored in the 87th minute of the quarterfinal round and when I scored in the 89th minute of the semifinal round of our championship run was something I had never felt before. The adrenaline, the pressure, the celebration, the hugs, and the tears are all part of a beautiful memory.”
As Diaz was finding success on the field, he found it in the classroom as well. With a strong support group of fellow Puerto Ricans that included PSUGA students Jose Pablo Bonilla, Jonathan Reyes, and Josh Arroyo, Diaz was able to find his footing on campus and make the most of his time at PSUGA. However, Diaz credits former PSUGA soccer coach Achilles Vasilicos for putting him on the right path and setting him up for success both in college and in life.
“I think my third year in college was the turning point in my college career because it was the year I started to figure out what I wanted in life and also realized what I wanted truly for myself,” said Diaz. “I can say there is one person who made all the difference, Achilles Vasilicos. All throughout the three years that I played for him he helped me grow up from the kid I was entering college to the man I am today.”
Diaz would graduate from PSUGA in the spring of 2017 with a degree in Business Management – Marketing. While his time as a student had come to an end, his time on the campus was not over yet. With the hiring of Dale Odim as the head men’s and women’s soccer coach in the summer of 2017, Diaz would return to the team to help Odim as an assistant coach for the 2017-2018 season.
After being one of the pillars of a strong foundation for the PSUGA Men’s Soccer team, Diaz felt it was important to keep contributing to the program and spread the knowledge he had gained over his four years to the next generation of PSUGA Men’s Soccer players.
“I decided that I wanted to come back as an assistant coach because there was still more that I could do for the program,” said Diaz. “Since I was a member of the program since day 1 it was something that I loved and was not ready to let go. It was different being on the sideline, but I also had a great time. Coaching soccer at a competitive level is my dream and I think PSUGA helped to start building up towards my goal.”
Under Diaz’s leadership, the PSUGA men’s soccer team had one of the most historic seasons in program history finishing tied for a program record going 9-4 and finished with their best conference record in program history finishing 7-3. They would capture the number two seed in the PSUAC playoffs and a first-round bye before eventually falling to PSU-Hazleton ending their season.
Amidst the historic season and the success he was seeing at PSUGA, Diaz’s hometown was stricken with tragedy that would affect thousands of Puerto Ricans. Hurricane Maria struck the island of Puerto Rico on September 20th 2017 leaving thousands of people without power and killing over 2,900 people in what is one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. History.
It was a very difficult time for Diaz, who was unable to communicate with his family and was unable to figure out if they were ok. The recovery process has been long and hard, but Diaz and his fellow island mates are a resilient bunch and have begun the rebuilding process. He believes that he and his fellow Puerto Ricans will come back bigger and stronger than ever.
“[Hurricane Maria] was a terrible experience even for me who didn’t personally go through the hurricane because I lost communication with my family for weeks,” said Diaz. “The recovery process was very tough; my family did not have power for five months after the hurricane which practically forced them to live in their company offices to have power and electricity. Now the island is trying to get back up on their feet and it is going to take a long time, but I believe our island will come back stronger from this.”
Today, Diaz is employed as an office representative at Canon Business Processing where he works with many different people on a day-to-day basis in the business world. He credits his many public speaking classes at PSUGA for helping him to be able to hold a professional conversation. He is working towards a new opportunity working at his parent’s company in the business of exporting metals and recycling materials on an international level and he thanks PSUGA for his ability to be in position to succeed.
For anyone looking at PSUGA Diaz offers this advice. It will be tough but stick with it and you will come out of it a better person.
“I would tell them at first it is not easy,” said Diaz. “Things can get tough and challenge you as a person and an athlete. You may doubt your abilities at times and may feel full of many doubts, but don’t worry they will go away. Don’t ever give up and keep pushing through. Everyone will be going through similar situations and someone will help you through this experience. But most importantly, trust your abilities.”
Through all the good times, the struggles, the excitement, and the tears Diaz has stuck to his work ethic and created opportunities for himself. With the help of a PSUGA education he is now equipped with all the tools he needs to succeed now and in the future.
*Article Courtesy of Penn State Greater Allegheny
Former Player & Assistant Emily Piazza Signs With University Of East London
Takoma Park, MD - Head Coach Jered Lyons has announced that former standout and assistant Emily Piazza has signed to play basketball as a graduate student at the University of East London in the United Kingdom for the 2018-19 season.
UEL is a public university in the London Borough of Newham, London, England on the campus of the Docklands. UEL has 26 different sports clubs and participates in the British Universities and College Sport (BUCS) league. "Going to UEL is a perfect opportunity for me as a recent graduate to continue to play while furthering my education. WAU Women's Basketball program laid a grounded foundation for me here not just basketball but for life. I thank Coach Tope and feel very blessed to be able to continue doing what I love, develop as a player, and make connections with a different culture" stated Piazza.
UEL Head Women's Basketball Coach Tope Alli-Balogun said "Adding Emily to our program is a great advancement for us. She's going to help us move forward in so many different ways. Her experience and leadership will be great for younger players on our squad to learn from."
Lyons stated "EM is one of the most hardest working individuals I have ever had the chance to serve. She has propelled our program forward through her incredible work ethic. We have talked about this moment ever since her last season and to see it come to fruition is a testament to the God we serve. She was diligent in her pursuit and God honored her diligence. I know she will make an impact and add value at UEL as she did here."
Piazza will be the first Lady Shock to play overseas while earning a Masters in Sports Administration. Piazza will join fellow American player Ashley Brown (LIU-Brooklyn) as a member on the team. Piazza will report to UEL to begin training and classes Sept. 23.
*Article Courtesy of Washington Adventist University
Key Weekly Matchups
9-12-18 – Andrews University at Rochester College TBA
9-15-18 – Berkeley College NY at Bryant & Stratton-Syracuse 1:00 P.M. EDT
9-15-18 – Southern State Community College at Penn State Greater Allegheny 4:00 P.M. EDT
9-10-18 – Christendom College at Washington Adventist University 7:30 P.M. EDT
9-11-18 – Rochester College at Clearly University 7:00 P.M. EDT
9-15-18 – SUNY Delhi at Penn State Hazleton 1:00 P.M. EDT
9-15-18 – University of Maine-Machias at NHTI 1:00 P.M. EDT
9-11-18 – Washington Adventist University at Mid-Atlantic Christian University 3:00 P.M. EDT
9-14-18 – Southwestern Adventist at Mississippi University for Women 3:00 P.M EDT
9-14-18 – Mississippi University for Women at University of Dallas 7:00 P.M. EDT
9-16-18 – Valley Forge at Washington Adventist University 1:00 P.M. EDT