By Mina Johnson
One of the most unique aspects of the Geneseo Intercollegiate Athletics Department is the countless number of family ties, especially siblings, which exist within it. Throughout the years, there has been a lot of repetition on our sports' rosters. We reached out to a handful of siblings within the department to find out what it's like to have a little bit of home so close by and how that's impacted their experience at Geneseo.
Abigail Max '15 had the opportunity to spend two years with her sister, Elyssa Max '13, on the women's swimming and diving team, competing on four All-American Relays together.
"I started swimming competitively when I was eight because Elyssa did it. She always brought out the best athlete in me and I wanted to continue my final years as a swimmer with her by my side pushing me to be my best. I was nervous about coming to Geneseo but Elyssa was really good about reassuring me that I would fit right in and love being a part of a team with such a strong bond."
Abigail will be making her fourth-consecutive appearance at the NCAA Championships (March 18-21) while Elyssa competed at nationals in her final two years with the program. When asked about whether there was any type of sibling rivalry, Abigail stressed they were always one another's biggest supporter.
"I found myself getting more nervous for her races than my own, and Elyssa would say the same thing. We always wanted to see each other succeed and reach our highest potential. We always knew when the other needed a little extra push and Elyssa was a great support system and encouraged me every day in practice."
James McKenna '15, a forward on the men's basketball team, is the older brother of Allison McKenna '16 of the women's basketball squad. Their ties to the university actually began with their father, John McKenna, who graduated from Geneseo in 1982. With James and Allison, being on the same campus makes it easier for them to get through the long winter season.
"Having the comfort of knowing my sister is right on campus with me is something very few people have when attending school six hours away. When my parents and Allison dropped me off my in August of my first year, I could see it on my sister's face Geneseo was where she wanted to go."
James added that his experience during his first year with the team further motivated his sister to attend Geneseo with him. Their experiences together as student-athletes are ones he will never forget.
"I fell in love with the school and the guys on the team after only spending a few hours on campus. My first year at Geneseo was such a tremendous experience for me and I would always talk so highly of it when I came home for breaks. Allison and I have such great memories together that will last a lifetime. Between driving to and from school together on breaks and team bus rides all over the state for basketball, we always knew we had each other. Geneseo is such a special place and it has been an experience that we will never forget."
Allison attested to the fact that she knew Geneseo was the university for her once it came time to move James in.
"The first time I visited Geneseo was on James' first-year move-in day and I immediately fell in love with the campus and the people. The fact that James was already at the school definitely impacted my decision to come here. Being at college with him has been the best experience of my life and I am so happy that I chose Geneseo."
Having a family member by her side is what made Allison's collegiate experience that much more enjoyable. The additional support is what helped her adjust to life away from home.
"I was nervous about the new experience of college and being homesick, but having a piece of home with me gave me so much comfort. James has always been the protective older brother and has never stopped looking out for me these past three years while going out of his way to make sure I'm okay. We have been each others' biggest fans on the basketball court and love to see each other succeed. Being able to watch all of James' games and have him in the stands cheering at all of mine is something so special."
Being student-athletes of the same sport allowed James and Allison to watch one another play, while also making it easier for their parents to attend games. Neither mentioned a rivalry or competitive nature but rather both stressed how grateful they were to have a sibling just a few blocks away.
"Playing the same sport as James has allowed my parents to come see our games almost every weekend. What other college student gets to spend almost every weekend with their Mom, Dad, and brother? Some nights all four of us stayed in the same hotel room and it made me feel right back at home with my family. Geneseo has become a home away from home because James is here and it wouldn't be the same without him. If I had to make my decision all over again I wouldn't change a thing."
On the other hand, Richard Bellusci '15 of the men's soccer team didn't anticipate his younger sister Marissa Bellusci '17 of the women's cross country and track & field teams would join him at Geneseo, but he's sure glad she did.
"I chose Geneseo because of its high academic quality and the experiences I had on my official visit. I never expected my sister to come to Geneseo, but since she has, it has brought us closer. It is really special that we not only represent the same family, but the same school."
Marissa, like Allison, immediately felt a connection to Geneseo when she came to campus for her bother. While their schedules vary compared to that of the McKennas, she still finds comfort in knowing he's so close by.
"Hearing how much Rich liked it at Geneseo and becoming familiar with the college through his experiences really helped me grow to like it. Even though it was before I began thinking about where I wanted to go to college, when I tagged along for my brother's first campus tour, I instantly felt at home. The best part about having Rich so close by is that even though we have completely different schedules and social circles, I know if I ever need anything, he is never more than five minutes away and is always willing to help me out."
Both the men's and women's lacrosse programs have had numerous siblings on their teams, including Liz Felix '16 and her older brother John Felix '13.
"John told me all the great things about Geneseo and introduced me to people when I came up on a tour and to watch one of his games. I met such nice people and really liked the campus, the women's lacrosse coach and the girls on the team, so it felt like the perfect fit," said Liz.
Liz truly enjoyed having her brother around, especially during her first year away from home. She also adds that John's success only motivated her to take her game to the next level.
"It was great to have my brother here as a support system; he looked out for me and helped me adjust to life away from home. He gave me lots of advice and calmed my nerves before tryouts freshman year. John's success here always motivates me to be the best athlete I can be and I've never felt a rivalry or the need to exceed his accomplishments. He always shares how proud he is of what I have done here already and how excited he is for my junior and senior year."
Family ties within an intercollegiate athletic department make for unforgettable experiences but managing siblings, especially twins, can be a daunting task. However, women's tennis head coach, Jim Chen, quickly figured out the similarities and differences between seniors Minxuan and Dexuan Yuan '15 and has made sure to bring out the best in them.
"Their high school coach told me to be careful recruiting them because, on occasion, they would ask not to attend practice due to their academic work but that suited the Geneseo atmosphere well. They both equally wanted to attend Geneseo and I knew I wouldn't have trouble working with them because of their commitment to academics."
Coach Chen adds that, while they both share the same attitude about becoming a student-athlete at Geneseo, their personalities and preferences on the court certainly differ.
"They are the same in many ways but on the other hand they are quite different. When the team goes out to dinner, they always order two different dishes, one twin will eat a half of one dish and then turn it over to the other twin for her half. Dexuan prefers singles while Minxuan likes doubles and the idea of having a partner. Currently, Minxuan is the best doubles player on the team and the other players admire her for that. Dexuan is more competitive, which in some ways is demanded by singles. The team recognizes what they both bring to the team and respects them for that."
The common thread running through the stories of these sibling student-athletes lend credence to those who compare the connections between teammates to those of family. For more than just a handful of past and present Knights, those bonds have been made even stronger by their shared experiences at Geneseo.
Siblings in Geneseo Intercollegiate Athletics (Over the last five years):
Caroline Bates – Field Hockey '18
Mike Bates – Men's Lacrosse '16
Marissa Bellusci – Cross Country/Track & Field '17
Richard Bellusci – Men's Soccer '15
John Bender – Men's Lacrosse '17
Will Bender – Men's Lacrosse '19
Marissa Benson - Women's Soccer '16
Michaelyn Benson - Women's Soccer '18
Jesse Berube – Men's Cross Country '10
Lee Berube – Men's Cross Country '12
Lauren Boyce – Women's Swimming & Diving '14
Jeremy Boyce – Men's Swimming & Diving '11
Sami Brown – Softball '15
Niko Brown – Men's Track & Field '11
Jen Costanza – Women's Lacrosse '13
Tommy Costanza – Men's Lacrosse '08
Dennis Costanza – Men's Lacrosse '10
Erin Cregan – Women's Lacrosse '18
Steven Cregan – Men's Lacrosse '15
Liz Felix – Women's Lacrosse '16
John Felix – Men's Lacrosse '13
Courtney Gibbons – Women's Swimming & Diving '17
Jenna Gibbons – Women's Swimming & Diving '16
Marcus Hoy – Men's Basketball '13
Michael Hoy – Men's Basketball '12
Brett & Jasper Humphries – Men's Track & Field '18
Aileen Kurpis – Women's Lacrosse '15
Brendan Kurpis – Men's Lacrosse '12
Bob Mascia – Men's Lacrosse '13
Shawn Mascia – Men's Lacrosse '08
Abigail Max – Women's Swimming & Diving '15
Elyssa Max - Women's Swimming & Diving '13
Allison McKenna – Women's Basketball '16
James McKenna – Men's Basketball '15
Nancy Nasky – Women's Swimming & Diving '19
John Nasky – Men's Swimming & Diving '15
Dani Sayler – Volleyball '17
Abigail Sayler – Field Hockey '12
Kevin Schaub – Men's Swimming & Diving '17
Bryan Schaub – Men's Swimming & Diving '15
CJ Schaub – Men's Swimming & Diving '12
Emily Topping – Field Hockey '15
Chris Topping – Men's Lacrosse '13
Stephanie Verdino – Women's Soccer '13
Meghan Verdino – Women's Soccer '11
Stephanie Wilcoxen – Women's Swimming & Diving '15
Kaitlin Wilcoxen – Women's Swimming & Diving '13
Mike Yehl – Men's Lacrosse '18
Zach Yehl – Men's Lacrosse '15
Dexuan & Minxuan Yuan – Women's Tennis '15