In October, Warwick Valley High School senior Paige Girardi signed a National Letter of Intent to play guard on the Quinnipiac University Bobcats, a NCAA Division I basketball team in the Metro Atlantic Conference. The university awarded Paige – a standout student, athlete, and class leader – a full athletic scholarship, and she is planning to major in Physical Therapy, with a possible minor in Sports Psychology.
Paige was instrumental in the Wildcats’ 18-2-0 season last year, which led to the first Section IX Championship for Warwick Valley since 2011. It was Paige who put the game “safely out of reach” with a bucket in the final minutes of the championship.
Paige said even though she’s counting down the days until college, she’s trying to stay present and appreciate what time she has left in Warwick. She would love to go out on a high note, the way her senior teammates did last year.
“Last season was a great run, so I think we have high expectations this year,” she said. “We have a lot of good competition and it’s a rebuilding year, so we have to work really hard for it. But, yeah, I’m excited for the season.”
During her letter signing, Director of Athletics Gregory Sirico ran down a list of honors Paige has earned on and off the field.
“She is a First Team All-Section selection, as well as an All-State selection in basketball. Paige is a member of the National Honor Society and has been recognized by the New York State Public High School Athletics Association as a Scholar-Athlete every year since she was in eighth grade.”
Paige is currently working on an unbroken streak of Honor Roll appointments that goes back to her freshman year, and maintains a GPA over 95%. This year she’s taking what basically amounts to a year of college courses so she can pick up college credits to avoid feeling overloaded during her first season with the Bobcats.
“Yea, I’m taking a lot of AP [classes] this year – AP bio, AP world, college statistics, AP psych,” said Paige with a laugh. “A lot of people are confused as to why I’d do this to myself, since I’m already committed, but keeping up a hard academic schedule and athletic schedule is going to help prepare me for next year.”
Basketball runs in the family. Paige’s mom was a collegiate player and her sister, WVHS freshman Reese, is starting her varsity career this season. Paige started playing in second grade, before moving on to the CYO team at St. Stephens, and eventually AAU basketball. The people she’s met along the way, she said, have become some of her best friends.
Paige will be co-captaining a young Wildcats team this year. Even though the Wildcats said goodbye to some key seniors and a lot of experience, there are five returning seniors and a junior.
“And we have a whole group coming in from last year’s JV team who are really focused,” said Paige with excitement. “A lot of the JV girls got pulled up for sections last year, so they were able to be a part of that and be around that success. They’re really eager to pick up where we left off!”
Paige is particularly proud and excited to be playing alongside her sister this year.
“It’s our first time playing together,” Paige said with a smile. “She’s a freshman, and she’s looking really great!”
Having shared her basketball skills and work ethic with Reese over the years, Paige said she loves opportunities to mentor young players. A big part of her mentoring approach has been developing her own understanding that individuals have different relationships to the game.
“Realizing that basketball isn’t everyone’s number one sport, that’s important. For a lot of girls, this may not be something they do outside of school or that they’re going to do in college. So we just try to be there for them when they have questions, to help them through stuff, and develop off-court relationships with them.”
She added, “I know when I was one of the young ones, I always had great people on the varsity team who were there for me.”
Paige and her teammates often head down to the middle school to work with younger players, even after completing their own day of classes and varsity practice. Paige also coached a rec team last summer 0and found the experience very rewarding. Her favorite part has been seeing the young girls she worked with then, trying out for – and making – the WVMS modified team now.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “Women’s basketball doesn’t always get the best representation, so anything high school athletes like us can do to encourage young females and empower them to love basketball and have fun, that’s what matters.”
Paige’s interest in physical therapy grew from her own experience with the rehab process. During her eighth grade year, Paige was on the varsity team when she tore her ACL.
“Yea, that was a lot of fun,” she said. “A ten month long recovery, a lot of hard work. But, that’s when I fell in love with the physical therapy process.”
Paige’s physical therapist and surgeon were great role models, and during her treatment she learned a lot from them about the field and how it helps so many people, especially athletes. She has since gotten close with Sports Medicine Club advisor Ms. Sue Abel, and has been very active in the club.
“I’ve loved Sports Medicine Club, learning about the rehab process and the strengthening process behind it,” Paige said. “We get into specific athletes and injuries. We’ve done a lot of hands on things, taping and wrapping ankles, that kind of stuff.”
Paige already knows she’ll be leaving for college just two short weeks after graduation this year.
“So I can get there in time for workouts and everything,” she said, “It’s hard to believe the first quarter of my last year in high school is already done.”
Not surprisingly, Paige has also already scheduled a few classes to take this summer at Quinnipiac, so she can be even more focused when the season starts. With dedication like that, you’ve got to ask, what words of wisdom would she like to share with the girls coming up behind her?
“Listen to what your coach is saying, take things one step at a time, work and stay 100% invested in practice,” said Paige. “And I feel like high school goes by so fast. Enjoy it!”
Keeping up a hard academic schedule and athletic schedule is going to help prepare me for next year. - Paige Girardi