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Royals to play for the University of Albany women's basketball team in 2011

POSTED November 10, 2010
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON- Heart.

It’s a word that was used often on Wednesday night when Torrington High School senior, Sarah Royals, signed a letter of intent to play Division I basketball next winter at the University of Albany.

Royals, a three-sport star (soccer and track) for the Red Raiders, earned a full scholarship to play for the Great Danes. Their new coach, Katie Abrahamson-Henderson came looking for Royals after hearing great things about her from local AAU coaches.

The youngest of three stellar THS athletes (Jen and Michelle preceded Sarah, although Sarah played with Michelle during her freshman year), Sarah Royals has taken traits from her sisters and combined them with some great natural ability to become the player she is today.

The senior point guard got some of Jen’s toughness, a touch of Michelle’s finesse and a growth spurt at just the right time.

At 5’10”, Sarah Royals creates match-up problems each time she takes the court, the track or the soccer field.

A fiercely competitive individual on the court, Royals looks forward to taking her game to the next level at a school that plays in the tough America East Conference.

The school and her new head coaches outlook on what they expected from Royals was a big part of why she fell in love with the school.

“The first thing coach told me was that family came first, then academics then basketball,” Royals said. “Going from here, where I have always had tremendous support from family, friends and coaches, to a place that values the same thing, made it an easy choice.”

That intense desire to succeed will serve Royals well as she play teams in the AEC including, Boston University, Jen Rizzotti and the Hartford Hawks, Stony Brook University and the University of Vermont.

Out of conference matchups include a visit to Durham, North Carolina to play the Duke Blue Devils and a trip west to play Syracuse.

Abrahamson-Henderson (known to her players as coach Abe) comes to the Great Danes from Indiana University where she served as associate head coach.

Previous to that point, a five-year stint at Missouri State saw her team make the NCAA Tournament three times and included a WNIT championship in 2005.

U-Albany posted a 11-19 record a year ago, but with a new coach and some hungry recruits, the Great Danes are looking to rebuild.

All Sarah Royals has done in her three-plus years at THS is dominate whichever sport she plays.

The All-NVL honors have been flowing since she was a sophomore under current head coach Mike Fritch, who will send Royals out on the court for one more season in a little more than a month, has enjoyed the ride.

“I have known you since you were five years old,” Fritch told Royals. “It has been a great pleasure coaching you and watching you grow up.”

Mario Longobucco, the current THS soccer coach who will be hoping to get some magic out of his star on the soccer field today when the Raiders host Masuk in a Class L tournament game, has also coached Royals on the fields from the middle school to the high school.

“Sarah could play Division I water polo if she wanted,” Longobucco said with a laugh. “Whatever she puts her mind to, she does. She has something you can’t teach and that’s heart.”

Longobucco watched Royals play against the boys on travel teams years back and remembers a player that more than held her own.

Next spring, Royals will be back out on the track with the Red Raiders, something her future college coach liked.

“Coach loves the fact that I play three sports,” Royals said. “I am already conditioned from track when it comes to getting ready for basketball season.”

Her focus at Albany will be all basketball though, and Royals see’s herself staying around the game even after she completes her four years.

“I can see myself being perhaps a graduate assistant,” Royals said. “I don’t ever want to get away from the game.”

Royals is the first THS girl to go to a D-I school since Christine Arsego did so back in 2001.

That gives the Red Raiders girls and boys basketball programs two (Jordan Williams in 2009) D-I players in the three years.

One thing was certain Wednesday night in the THS library - those who had helped Royals get this far were paid back by a graceful, grateful and humble senior with high goals in mind.

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