Dakota Vastola ’24 and his passion for ice hockey have found a home in Ranney’s Upper School, as Dakota participates in the Co-Op Team with St. John Vianney. Athletic Director Natalie Gorman worked with SJV’s Athletic Department to help Ranney School’s interested ice hockey students apply, through NJSIAA procedures, to transition from a club team into an opportunity for Ranney ice hockey players to combine with St. John Vianney’s existing team.
As stated in the NJSIAA Guidelines, Policies and Procedures: The purpose of a Cooperative Sports Program is to provide opportunities for participation when none would otherwise exist.
“I love the coaches at SJV, I have made new friends, and making Varsity as a freshman is really exciting for me,” said Dakota.
The feeling is mutual, as Coach Mick Messemer had glowing things to say about the Class of 2024 Panther. “So far the co - op has worked, considering the quality of student athlete that Dakota Vastola is,” said Messemer. “Not only is he a top freshman hockey player in the state of NJ, but he is an even better student and person. He comes from a great family and is the student body president for his grade. Anytime you have a chance to coach a kid like that, the better your program is. We're fortunate that he has gelled both on and off the ice (considering the circumstances). We hope that the partnership can grow in the coming years now that we are successful with the addition.”
Heading into something entirely new with a new group of students can be daunting, but Dakota took the challenge head on, with great results.
“It was very exciting for me to join the SJV team this year and play high school hockey,” said Dakota. “It was something I never thought would come to fruition. I am especially grateful to Mrs. Gorman and Coach Spernal for turning this into a reality. I have the best of both worlds... I get to play high school hockey and remain at a school I love to attend.”
“Hockey is a small world, you know kids from all the tryouts you go to and everyone basically knows each other from playing travel hockey. There were a few guys that I knew, some I have played with in the past and some which I have played against. I am hoping being on a team with them gives us the camaraderie to be successful.”
As far as looking ahead, Dakota said, “I think every hockey player my age aspires to play D-1 hockey at an amazing school. I hope the fun I am having playing hockey brings me to the point of fulfilling that dream!”