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MCCC Selects Two Grads for Scholar-Athlete Awards


West Windsor, N.J. -- Mercer County Community College honored graduates Mark Pratico, of Hamilton, and Jessica Villalba, of Cookstown, with its 2011 Scholar-Athlete Awards. Each student received a Dr. Cynthia Schaffer Memorial Scholarship and an MCCC Athletics Scholarship during Honors Convocation preceding commencement on May 26.

A graduate of Notre Dame High School, Pratico played on the Vikings men's soccer team for two seasons, his first year under Coach Charlie Inverso and his second year under Coach Larry Povia. Pratico says he was unsure about whether he would be able to make the transition to the demanding level of play at Mercer. But his hard work paid off, earning him a spot on defense. "I did my part to help the team," he says.

He notes that the team gave him lots in return. "I became a better player. And I played with guys from all over the world. I was happy to play alongside them."
This year, the Vikings regained the Region 19 title and fell one game short of a trip to the NJCAA national tournament. (They were defeated by Monroe CC , Bronx, NY, in the Northeast District final.)

A Dean's List student, Pratico studied Liberal Arts at Mercer and will transfer to Rider University in the fall to prepare for a career as a secondary English teacher. He also hopes to get some playing time under his former coaches, Inverso and Povia, who have reunited at Rider as head coach and assistant coach respectively. In addition to teaching, Pratico hopes to one day coach soccer.

Soccer players Mark Pratico and Jessica Villalba are MCCC's 2011 Scholar Athletes. They are pictured with Assistant Dean and Athletics Director John Simone.

A forward on the women's soccer team for two seasons, Jessica Villalba says some of her best moments at Mercer took place on the soccer field with teammates who also became her friends. From early in her sophomore season, she played a leadership role and was named Athlete of the Week by Coach Jodie Ricciardi. The team had a successful year, reaching the Region 19 final, where they suffered a 2-1 overtime loss.

A graduate of Bordentown High School, Villalba studied Exercise Science at Mercer, earning Phi Theta Kappa and Dean's List honors. She will transfer to Rowan University to pursue a dual major in Physical Education and Special Education. In addition to her awards for athletics, she also received the MCCC Faculty Association Scholarship in honor of Professor Emeritus Davis E. Collier, which is awarded to a high-achieving student who plan to enter the teaching field.

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