They have been classmates since elementary school and their lifelong friendship will continue when they attend the University of New Hampshire.
But Lynn English seniors Taylor Newhall and Jessica Della Zoppa aren’t ready to head to the Granite State just yet. As second-year captains of the English softball team, they’re hoping to conclude their athletic careers by leading the Lady Bulldogs to a berth in the State Tournament.
Newhall is the starting shortstop for the Bulldogs who have a 3-2 record after five games. She has already hit a grand slam this season. Della Zoppa is the starting center fielder and leads the team in doubles.
Newhall won three Northeastern Conference championships as an All-Star center for the English basketball team.
“It was a fun four years with Mr. [Fred] Hogan,” said Newhall, who sat out her junior season following hip surgery. “We’re trying to finish up strong in softball now.”
Newhall and Della Zoppa’s 13 years in the Lynn school system began at Sisson School, continued at Pickering Middle School, and are winding down toward graduation day at English. In August, they will become members of the UNH Class of 2016 and begin studies in the school’s nursing program. Another English senior, Marisa Hoctor, will also attend UNH.
“It’s a really good feeling to know that you have someone that you know going to the same college as you – and especially someone that you know so well; if you need them, they’re going to be there,” said Dellazoppa.
Both personable and confident, they share a mutual respect for each other’s scholastic and athletic prowess.
“Taylor is so sweet and she’s so good at sports,” said Della Zoppa. “She’s a wicked good friend.”
“Jessica is a great person and my best friend and she’s coming to school with me,” said Newhall. “We’ve been together since kindergarten and we’re going off to college together.”
They played “a little basketball” together growing up and teamed up in softball in Wyoma Little League and Greater Lynn Babe Ruth. They won the Lynn City Series as teammates for the Wyoma Diamondbacks.
Newhall and Della Zoppa reunited as varsity softball players at English. Last year the Bulldogs had a winless season.
“Last year was tough, but I think it taught us a lot,” said Della Zoppa, daughter of Richard and Jean Della Zoppa. “We learned to play because you love the sport more than just to win.
“It was rough, but we had the best sportsmanship on our team,” said Newhall, daughter of Joe and Christyn Newhall. “Everyone worked hard and we stayed together.”
The youthful Bulldogs have banded together this season behind Newhall and Zella Zoppa, and Lauren Pohlmeyer, another experienced player.
“We’re going with the wind,” said Della Zoppa, whose brothers Rich (Classical) and Chris (English) were former varsity athletes. “We almost made the tournament when we were freshmen and we hope to get there this year. We want to go out playing the hardest we ever played.”
“We have a lot of good, young talented players that came into the program this year,” said Newhall. “We have two amazing freshman pitchers, Shanna Zeramby and Brooke Holey, and Molly Cullen, who’s really good, too.”
Newhall said a trip to the State Tournament would be a great way to end their careers.
“We both have a great mindset that it’s our senior year and we’re going to play the best softball we can and we’re going to make it to the states because we’ve never done that before,” said Newhall. “That would be a great way to leave high school.”
Both students agree that the English faculty and guidance department prepared them well for college and the admissions process.
“All my teachers at English were great,” said Newhall.
English softball coach Alisa Fila said that the two seniors have been outstanding leaders through the good times and the tough times.
“They’re great leaders – to hold the team together when we were 0-20 last year, it’s a tribute to their leadership,” said Fila. “They set a good example for the kids. They showed up every day ready to practice and ready to play, regardless of what our record was and that speaks volumes for them and their character.”