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AK Valley athletes make early college commitments

| Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, 5:15 p.m.
Deer Lakes' #10 Danielle Kearns attempts to drive through Burrell's #21 Sydney Bordonaro during the basketball game at Burrell High School on Monday January 14, 2013. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Leechburg senior golfer Matt Barto follows his drive during a practice round at Willowbrook Country Club in Allegheny Township on Monday, Aug. 12, 2013. Barto committed to play golf at NCAA Division II Gannon.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Kiski Area's (L-R) Eric Kennedy, Patrick miller, and Morgan Kiebler run along the Butler-Freeport Trail in Freeport during practice on Saturday, August 24, 2013.
Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Riverview's Nick DiBucci delivers the pitch against Leechburg during the game Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at Riverside Park in Oakmont.

Almost two weeks before the holiday's arrival, several Alle-Kiski Valley athletes went ahead and had their Thanksgivings.

Thankful for scholarship offers from colleges, they gave their word to schools about where they'll continue their careers.

Commitments in different sports came at a steady rate from late Sunday through Monday. Leechburg senior Matt Barto, one of only nine golfers in WPIAL history to claim back-to-back individual titles, committed to Division II Gannon; Kiski Area senior distance runner Morgan Kiebler, to Division I St. Francis; and Riverview senior pitcher/infielder Nick DiBucci, to Division III Allegheny.

Working well ahead of schedule, Burrell junior Sydney Bordonaro, the Valley News Dispatch's most recent girls basketball player of the year, committed to Division I Pepperdine.

“I'm so fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to have all these coaches talking to me,” said Bordonaro, who also has scholarship offers from St. Francis and Cleveland State. “But it gets tiring. I'm so relieved to have this out of the way.”

Barto, who visited Gannon Saturday, will sign his binding letter of intent during the early signing period, which begins Wednesday and continues through Nov. 20 for all sports except basketball, cross country, football, field hockey, soccer, track and water polo.

“It's so reassuring that Coach (Dustin) Coleman is taking me in so well and all the players are welcoming me,” said Barto, who won the WPIAL Class AA title the past two seasons and also placed second in the PIAA as a junior. “And it's nice to know that I won't get lost in the shuffle like I might if I was a walk-on at a Division I school.”

Barto received interest from Akron, Bucknell, Drexel, Lafayette and Lehigh. But only Gannon gave Barto an athletic scholarship offer. And that reality, combined with the unappealing idea of weekly walk-on tryouts at such academically-rigorous institutions, swayed the senior toward the Golden Knights.

Barto will join another A-K Valley native on Gannon's roster. Billy Clark, a Valley alum, recently finished his freshman season with the Golden Knights.

Familiar faces might be difficult to find at first for Bordonaro, who will head to Malibu, Calif., to continue her hoops career. But that's a challenge she welcomes in order to fulfill her dream of a life on the west coast.

“Originally, my dream school was USC,” said Bordonaro, a 5-foot-7 guard who averaged 14.4 points and five assists per game for the Lady Bucs during a 2012-13 season in which they reached the WPIAL semifinals and went 24-4. “I visited and talked to the coaches a little bit, but the big thing is I want to play. I want to go somewhere and start or be a big contributor as a freshman. Pepperdine, being a mid-major school, it just clicked.”

Bordonaro's step sister lives about 20 minutes away from Pepperdine, so she'll have at least some family presence nearby. And Bordonaro believes a strong attachment to the Waves' coaching staff, which includes former Pitt assistant Mallorie Winn, also will ease the transition.

Her previous plan to hold off on a college choice until next fall changed when she considered the peace of mind that comes with an early commitment.

“There's no reason to (wait),” Bordonaro said. “This is what I want. They don't have to look for another point guard. I know this is a business, and I wanted them to know now that I'm their point guard.

“There's no doubt in my mind that my high school team can win a state championship, and now I can give my team all my focus.”

St. Francis-bound Kiebler will rejoin former Kiski Area standout Kylie Jackson, who is in her junior year with the Red Flash.

Because of his strong pitching performances last season for Riverview, DiBucci, who went 5-0 with 47 strikeouts, altered his recruiting outlook with Allegheny. The Gators initially pursued him as a catcher, but now might use him on the mound.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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