“Do you have any more kids?”
That’s a question veteran Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School volleyball coach Henry Stachurski probably felt like asking Stephen and Kathryn Todd when they were in attendance at the school’s gym for a special event Monday (Nov. 14).
One of the Todd’s daughters – 17-year-old Roberta – was there to sign a letter of intent to play volleyball on a scholarship at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay for the Phoenix beginning next season.
And when that happens she’ll be following in the footsteps of her older sister, Rachel, who played two seasons of volleyball in the Quebec university league for the McGill Martlets.
Both of the Todd sisters excelled on the court for Stachurski at Newman, helping the Cardinals win a Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association senior girls’ championship.
One Todd sister wore jersey No. 1, while the other wore No. 2.
“I’m really excited,” Roberta said. “I can’t wait. Everyone is very nice and the coaches are amazing. The program I plan to go into is very good, too. I want to become a veterinarian.”
Roberta didn’t suit up for the Cardinals last season, opting to devote her full attention to club volleyball in Burlington (Defensa). However, she says she will split her time between Newman and the Halton Volleyball Club this season.
“I’ve known Roberta for a long time,” Stachurski said. “Her sister was a big part of the Newman teams. Then, when Roberta came to Newman in Grade 9 she played on the senior team with her sister and we won the championship. She ended up starting at the end of that year. So we knew right away she had a lot of talent.”
At 5-foot-11, Roberta is an outside hitter.
“Physically,” Stachurski said, “she is a tall girl with long arms. That’s great for a volleyball player. She has all the physical tools she needs to succeed at the next level. It doesn’t surprise me at all that she’s getting a scholarship.”
According the Cardinals coach, Todd is intense, works hard, and understands what it takes to be successful.
“She’s a great passer of the volleyball for a girl that tall. And that’s an important skill going to the next level where the left sides are 6-foot, 6-1 and 6-2. That will stand her in good stead.”
Stachurski points out that having Todd back in uniform this season will be a welcome addition to the Cardinals. “It’s an instant element of security and calmness for the team because of the experience factor,” he said.
There were two scholarship signings at Newman Monday. Minutes before Todd put pen to paper, golfer Ethan Bennett signed a letter of intent with Pennsylvania-based Gannon University. Said Todd: “We went all the way through the same elementary school in Winona — Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Jim Zvonar, golf coach at Newman, says Bennett displays some of the same endearing characteristics that made the late-great Palmer a hugely-popular figure in the sport.
“In this past year we lost Arnold Palmer,” Zvonar said. “Ethan kind of models himself after him in his demeanor and being a true gentleman.
“Ethan helps out with the younger players, giving the Grade 9s pointers. He tells them to keep working hard if they didn’t play well.”
The Erie, Pennsylvania-based Gannon University Golden Knights are an NCAA Division II school.
That signing comes on the heels of Johnny Travale verbally agreeing to a golf scholarship (beginning in 2018) at Division I Kent State University in Ohio. Travale, who attends Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School, and Bennett finished 1-2 in the individual standings on the four-stop Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic golf tour this past season.
“I’ve played a lot of junior golf with Johnny, too,” Bennett said. “He’s a fantastic player and a really good guy. We’re both from Stoney Creek.”
As a collegiate competitor, Travale will be following in the footsteps of Mackenzie Hughes, the Dundas native and Kent State graduate who is currently on the PGA Tour.
“Ethan has been on our team for four years,” Zvonar said. “He came in as a good golfer, but every year he’s shown improvement. He’s worked very hard at his game. This year he made a breakthrough and beat Johnny (Travale) in one of the rounds.”
Bennett, who plays out of Twenty Valley, and Travale (Hamilton Golf & Country) missed qualifying for this year’s OFSAA championship tournament by just one shot. They finished in a three-way tie for fourth spot at the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference tournament.
Bennett’s low score is 67. He shot that twice over the past two years, once at Hamilton’s Chedoke Beddoe course and also at Hunters Pointe in Welland.
“I received a very good offer from the coach at Gannon,” Bennett said. “It’s one me and my family (parents Laurel and Tim) are very happy about. I’ll be in the education program. I want to be a teacher, specializing in teaching English as a second language.”
Bennett loves the campus and respects the work of the coach. And there are two other big plus factors — closeness to home and the Golden Knights’ “fabulous” indoor practice facility.
Bennett had two first-place finishes on the Niagara District junior tour this past summer. He also managed to showcase his talents with a pair of solid placing at United States Junior Golf Association events.
The Newman golfer credits coach Zvonar for helping him develop a more relaxed attitude on the course.
“He noticed that I used to look very nervous and tense.”
And as for the coach’s comment comparing him with Arnold Palmer, Bennett said: “It’s certainly flattering. It means a lot.”