Cara Scalisi, ’11 and Christina (Scalisi) Martinez, ’11

Twin sisters Cara Scalisi and Christina (Scalisi) Martinez have always been inseparable and competitive. During their formative years they were constantly seeing who was best, whether they were playing basketball or comparing grades they got in school. As they got older they realized the value of working together and achieving success together.

Throughout their time at Liverpool High School the Scalisi twins played basketball. They knew they wanted to continue playing in college and hoped to do so together. As graduation neared in 2009 they received an offer they couldn’t refuse. “We were approached by an OCC assistant basketball coach and a former Liverpool player who was at OCC. They told us the College wanted both of us to play together there. The possibility was too good to pass up,” said Scalisi.

The Scalisi twins came to OCC and played integral roles in the Lazers coming within one win of a title. The 2009-2010 team lost in the national championship game, finishing the season with a 35-1 record. “To this day we still talk about that final game. To come so close is something that still eats at us, but we know we still made history and it’s something we’ll always have,” said Martinez.

Women’s Basketball Head Coach Mike Wheeler has fond memories of his former players and what they accomplished during their two years in Lazer uniforms. “They are great young ladies and two of the hardest working players that I’ve ever had. Being able to coach the only set of twins to play for us who were that talented was a fantastic opportunity,” he said.

The sisters were also successful in the classroom but in different majors. “I always loved art. I knew OCC had a great Art program with a concentration in Graphic Design which would help me enter the workforce quickly,” said Martinez. She credits Professors Phil Austin and Christine Kukenberger with providing a great foundation and giving her the confidence to further explore her passion.

Cara Scalisi’s interests were related to health care. While focusing on math and science classes she connected with a former basketball teammate who was enrolled in the medical imaging program at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Scalisi realized how much she liked medical imaging sciences, worked with OCC Anatomy and Physiology Professor Tom Keenan to make sure she had all of her prerequisites and applied. “He helped me achieve success in class by taking the extra time to work with me, by creating an easy-to-learn environment, by showing students many study tips and displaying a real care and concern for all of his students. When I was accepted into Upstate’s program it was very exciting,” said Scalisi.

Since graduating from OCC in 2011 the sisters are continuing to experience success. Martinez works in graphic design at Cooper & Clement in Syracuse. Scalisi is an x-ray technologist at St. Joseph’s Imaging Associates in North Medical Center in Liverpool. Martinez recently got married and Scalisi is interested in getting back into basketball part-time as a coach.

Their time spent together at OCC is never far away. “We keep in touch with many of our teammates. Our bond was tremendous, much like a family,” said Scalisi. “Coach Wheeler emphasized the importance of academics and for us to look out for one another. It all carried over into our life beyond OCC,” said Martinez. The sisters joined several former players in February 2015 for the first ever Women’s Basketball Alumni Game at Allyn Hall.

The sisters have advice for current students and new graduates:

  • Don’t give up on your dreams.
  • Have fun and be passionate about what you want to do.
  • Be ready to work. The more you put in the more you get out.
  • Don’t settle.
  • Networking is critical. Don’t be afraid to meet people.
The Women's Basketball program held its first-ever alumni game in February 2015.
The Women’s Basketball program held its first-ever alumni game in February 2015.

Women’s Basketball Alumni Game

The Onondaga Lazer’s held their first women’s basketball alumni game on Saturday, February 7 at the Allyn Hall Gym. More than 40 women who played at OCC between 2007 and 2014 came back for the game. They enjoyed seeing each other again and rekindling old friendships.

Twin sisters Cara Scalisi, '11 (left) and Christina (Scalisi) Martinez, '11 returned to campus for the Women's Basketball Alumni Game.
Twin sisters Cara Scalisi, ’11 (left) and Christina (Scalisi) Martinez, ’11 returned to campus for the Women’s Basketball Alumni Game.

“It was like we were never apart, we never skipped a beat. It was great to get together again,” said Christina (Scalisi) Martinez, ’11. The event also gave her the opportunity to reflect on her time here. “Me and my twin sister played here and it was probably the best two years of our lives. Head Coach Mike Wheeler was amazing to play for and drove us not only on the court but in the classroom. It propelled me to success in the work field.”

“We talked about holding one of these games for years,” said Wheeler. “Putting together the first one was a big challenge.” Wheeler credits assistant coach Kelly Grinnell with making the game happen. She played under Wheeler at OCC and maintained contact with dozens of former players.

Wheeler enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect and hopes this will be the first of many alumni games. “It’s great to watch everyone grow up. One is a New York State Trooper now. Another has her own graphic design company. It’s wonderful to see them take that next step. I’d like to continue this every year.”

Sports Success

Onondaga’s Men’s Lacrosse team celebrates its 6th consecutive national championship following a 12-7 victory over Nassau Community College on Nassau’s home field.
Onondaga’s Men’s Lacrosse team celebrates its 6th consecutive national championship following a 12-7 victory over Nassau Community College on Nassau’s home field.

Onondaga Lazers athletics experienced an unparalleled level of success during the 2013-14 academic year. Six of the College’s 15 sports teams played for national championships:

Men’s Lacrosse
2014MensLacrosseTrophyDefeated host Nassau Community College 12-7 to win their 6th consecutive national championship, their 8th in the last 9 seasons, and extend their all-time college lacrosse winning streak to 87 games. Nick Garbarino (Binghamton) scored 5 goals in the championship game and was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Tyson Bell (Everest Academy/St. Catharines, Ontario), Tim Barber (West Genesee), and Parrish Young (The Hill Academy/Fair Haven, NJ). Vaughn Harris (Haggersville/Six Nations, Ontario) was named Offensive Most Valuable Player for the tournament. Goaltender Warren Hill (The Hill Academy/Oshweken, Ontario) was named the tournament’s Defensive Most Valuable Player. Hill was also named the National Defensive Player of the Year for the second season in a row. Barber was chosen as the National Offensive Player of the Year. “To go through your career at OCC, never lose a game, win two national titles, and be part of an 87-game winning streak is all amazing,” said Barber. Head Coach Chuck Wilbur said the latest title has great meaning, and is optimistic about next season. “Every year is a different group of kids. This year was really special because 75 to 80 percent of our kids were new. Next season we will have a great core group coming back. If they step up we can have another great season.”

Women’s Lacrosse
Finished second in the country, losing to Monroe Community College 11-8 in the national championship game. Four Lazers were named to the All-Tournament Team: Makenzie Annable (Onondaga Central), Jenna Battaglini (Vestal), Alexis Czyz (Baldwinsville), and Claire Wigler (Henninger). The women’s lacrosse team last won the national title in 2012.

Men’s Tennis
Finished in 5th place at the national championship in Plano, TX. Six Lazers competed at nationals: Christian Barnes (Sodus), Elliot Dunn (Alexandria Bay), Jacob Gosier (Rome Free Academy), Michael Mares (Sodus), Matthew Schrader (Homer), and Jesse Zavaro (Camden). The men’s tennis team last won the national title in 2008.

Men’s Golf
Finished 7th in the nation at the national championship tournament in Chautauqua. It was the Lazers first appearance in the national championship as a complete team. Mike Marshall (Westhill) was Onondaga’s lowest scorer in the tournament. Other Lazer standouts were Gus Gosson (Westhill), Austin Chandler (Camden), Bryan Semple (West Genesee) and Cody Nellis (Wayne).

Women’s Basketball
Finished fourth in the national tournament at Rochester, MN. Onondaga lost the first game by one point to eventual national champion Northland Community and Technical College, but rebounded with two wins to finish the season with a 31-5 record. The Lazers had a balanced offensive attack throughout the season with five players averaging in double figures: Allie Taylor (Hannibal), Lauren Roy (Bishop Ludden), Jenn Deuel (Whitesboro), Kayla Kibling (Bishop Ludden), and Amanda Marcely (Bishop Grimes). Head Coach Mike Wheeler won his 300th game during the season.

Men’s Cross Country
Finished in 7th place at the national championship meet in Northfield, MA, the highest finish ever for the Lazers. Justin Garn (Marcellus) was Onondaga’s top runner, finishing in 16th place among team scoring runners. Other scoring runners for the Lazers:

  • Anthony Mitchell (Canastota) in 23rd place
  • Jevar Carter (Corcoran) 36th
  • Zach Fenner (Onondaga Central) 47th
  • Jason Naughton (Onondaga Central) 58th
  • Anthony Feocco (Auburn) 64th
  • Lenoi Carter (Jamaica) 91st

Visit from the Champ

Women's Basketball attendees wait patiently for an autograph from Breanna Stewart.
Women’s Basketball Camp attendees wait patiently for an autograph from Breanna Stewart.
OCC Women's Basketball Coach Mike Wheeler presents Breanna with an OCC t-shirt.
OCC Women’s Basketball Coach Mike Wheeler presents Breanna with an OCC t-shirt.

Young athletes attending OCC’s Basketball Camp in Allyn Hall gymnasium got the thrill of a lifetime when an unexpected visitor arrived. Loud cheers and applause greeted Breanna Stewart, arguably the best collegiate Women’s Basketball player in the country. In her first two season with the University of Connecticut, the Huskies have won two national championships and Stewart has been named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player both times.

Stewart held a question-and-answer session with campers. Most questions focused on basketball, but there was the occasional non-basketball question such as, “Do you like tacos?” “Yes I do!” she replied. After answering questions, the 6’ 4″ Stewart towered over awe-struck young women as she patiently signed autographs for each of the 80 campers and posed for dozens of cell phone pictures.

Having the opportunity to meet a champion made quite an impression on the campers:

  • “It inspires me to be better and live up to my full potential as Breanna did.” -Allison Cole
  • “I’m not going to be as tall as her but I hope one day I can go into the WNBA. She’s really good and I hope I can be at least half of that.” -Alexia Chemotti
Breanna with OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill and senior vice president David Murphy. She's holding an "ESPY Award" she had just won from ESPN.
Breanna with OCC President Dr. Casey Crabill and senior vice president David Murphy.

They weren’t the only ones having fun. Stewart got just as much out of the visit. “I love the opportunity to spend time in the community and give back,” she said. “I want to show people, especially young girls in this community, they can reach their dreams if they really set their minds to it.”

Stewart’s visit to OCC was the result of a strong connection between the College and Cicero-North Syracuse High School from where Stewart graduated. Her high school coach, Eric Smith, spoke at camp earlier in the week. OCC’s Women’s Basketball coach Mike Wheeler is a C-NS alum, and a freshman on his team this year will be Samantha Roberts, a former high school teammate of Stewart. “Having Breanna come to our camp was wonderful,” said Wheeler. “She’s a fantastic person and a tremendous role model for all women’s basketball players.”