Rusin, Lipsitz choose comfortable college atmospheres
Narrowing down what college to attend can be quite a challenge for any high school senior. But for Williamsville North’s John Rusin and Max Lipsitz, picking a school came down to what felt most comfortable.
Rusin and Lipsitz each signed National Letter of Intents last Thursday at North. Rusin, who starts in the outfield on North’s baseball team, had several offers before signing with St. Bonaventure University. Lipsitz, an All-Western New York first team volleyball selection at middle hitter, chose Penn State University over several top volleyball teams in California.
“I was actually friends with a couple players (on St. Bonaventure) from Florida two years ago so I knew some of the guys,” said Rusin. “I knew the coach (Larry Sudbrook) really well because he’s been recruiting me for like four years. It was kind of like a family atmosphere when I went down there to visit.”
“Everything felt more comfortable there,” added Lipsitz of Penn State. “The atmosphere was better. To pick between Penn State and California, it was a pretty tough decision. Long Beach was my top choice out in California but I found Penn State was more comfortable. I thought I fit in better with the kids.”
Lipsitz also received offers from Pepperdine University, University of California, Santa Barbara, California State University, Northridge, and the University of Southern California.
North head boys volleyball coach Paul O’Connor wasn’t surprised about Lipsitz’s decision.
“I figured that’s where he was going to go,” said O’Connor. “He loved going out west to look at those colleges but I didn’t think he would actually go there. I think a lot of it was because his friend from West Seneca (Matt Anderson) is actually starting on the left side. And that’s what Penn State really saw last summer, was the two of them together playing club ball (Eden Volleyball Club) in the front row and they liked both of them together. When they signed Matt Anderson, they really pushed to get Max.”
Lipsitz said he would like to redshirt his freshman year at Penn State but the Nittany Lions’ current starting middle hitter Nate Meerstein, is a senior.
“That position will be open,” said O’Connor. “I told him that if he wants that position next year, this is when he’s really got to excel... I definitely think he can (do it). When I went to All-Western New York voting, all the coaches were talking about him, saying he was the best front row player in Western New York.”
Lipsitz averaged 15 kills for a three-game match this season and put down 52 kills against Lockport in the Section VI Class ‘A’ prequarterfinals. He was named to the all-tournament teams at the Sweet Home and Williamsville South Tournaments. North’s season ended with a three-game loss to Hamburg in the Class ‘A’ quarterfinals.
“He has very good quickness and will be a physical middle for us,” stated Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik. “He is a conscientious person and certainly is looking forward to this level of play. He will help continue the tradition of strong middle blockers at Penn State.”
Penn State was ranked second last year in the country, losing in three games to fourth-ranked UCLA in the NCAA National Semifinal.
Rusin said practically every college in New York State recruited him as well as Northern Iowa but St. Bonaventure’s dedication to the baseball program wowed him. Thomas Marra, a 1980 St. Bonaventure alum, who played baseball at the school, recently donated $900,000 towards the renovation of the Bonnies’ home field, McGraw-Jennings Baseball Field. The focal point of the project will be to convert their home field from natural grass to an artificial surface.
“It’s a good program,” said Rusin’s high school coach Jerry Scarcella. “They were offering him to be their No. 1 guy, their go-to guy. They were showing confidence in him and that’s why he chose them.”
St. Bonaventure finished 24-25 last year, its first losing season since 1997. In 2004, they won the Atlantic 10 Tournament and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament, both firsts for the program.
“John is a well-rounded athlete and fits the mold of the type of player we look for,” said Sudbrook. “He has the ability to play all three outfield positions because he has a good arm.”
Last week, Rusin played on the Perfect Game National team in the World Wooden Bat Tournament in Jupiter, Florida This coming summer, he will play in the Florida Collegiate Wooden Bat Summer League for new collegiate players at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He batted .401 in 15 games last spring for North, helping the Spartans to a 24-4 record and the ECIC Division I title. This past summer, he played baseball for the Western Region at the Empire State Games.