EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 31, 2014

Saluting the Area's Unsung Heroes

Michael Muldoon

---- — Saluting the overachievers, the quiet leaders and the often overlooked athletes in local high school sports.

Coaches or ADs should send nominations to Unsung Heroes writer Michael Muldoon at mmuldoon@eagletribune.com.

Kelly Sullivan

Central Catholic Track

Vocal Supporter

Coach Katie Andrade loves Sullivan’s passion for track and her teammates.

“She truly embraces the concept of team,” said Andrade. “If she’s not competing, she’s undoubtedly cheering on her teammates and is the first person to great a teammate at the finish line with a hug and a water.”

Kelly plays soccer in the fall, does the 300 and 4x400 in the winter, and plans to run spring track for the first time. Her brother, William, is a freshman runner at St. John’s Prep.

The 5-6 senior from North Andover is a fan of “Bridesmaids”, chocolate, soccer player Alex Morgan, math teacher Sully Grella and singer Kenny Chesney. But most of all she loves spending time at the family beach home in North Carolina.

Kiana Rodriguez

Greater Lawrence Basketball

Reggie Leader

The Reggies think enough of Kiana to have named her captain the last two years.

“She’s a great kid, a leader on and off the court,” said coach Tara Mansour-Neilon. “She holds things together for us.”

Born and raised in Lawrence, Kiana also runs cross country and this spring the former softball player intends to run track. Rodriguez works at Orange Leaf in Andover.

She stays in shape by boxing at Canal Street Boxing. Rodriguez is studying health careers and hopes to become a registered nurse. Curry is her top college choice.

Rodriguez has dedicated her season to her brother, Cesar Rodriguez, who died in a New Year’s Eve crash.

Her favorites include Celtic star Rajon Rondo and gym teacher/coach Tara Mansour-Neilon.

Matt Arena

Haverhill Hockey

Matty Ice

Arena, an alternate captain for the Hillies, has picked up the cool nickname “Matty Ice.” He’s playing a lot better than the other Matty Ice, struggling Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

“He has an unbelievable work ethic and gives unbelievable hustle every shift of every game,” said coach Joe Roberts. “He makes things happen with his physicality.”

His first goal of the season was a big one, earning the Hillies a 2-2 tie with Methuen.

His father, George Arena, is among the all-time leaders at Nichols College in at-bats and singles. Matt, who works at Renaissance Golf Club, hopes to play college hockey with his father’s alma mater one of his favorites.

Arena’s favorite teacher is Italian teacher Antoinetta Diskin.

Erin Nastari

Andover Basketball

Mature Leader

Nastari plays behind standout freshman Alyssa Casey but never complains.

“That is a very difficult role. She has handled it well and is a very good leader,” said coach E.J. Perry.

The senior tri-captain also is an outfielder for the softball team, is a CCD teacher, babysits and volunteers at the Lahey Clinic in Peabody. She hopes to follow in her mother Alison’s footsteps and become a nurse. UMass is her top choice of schools.

The 5-7 forward is known for her amusing laugh. She’s a fan of the movie “Titanic”, caesar salad, the TV show “The Bachelorette”, singer Taylor Swift and Miami Heat star Ray Allen.

Erin’s favorite teacher is Spanish teacher Peter Hall.

Ercilio Liriano

Lawrence Wrestling

Balancing Act

Coach Rob Niceforo said, “Ercilio has balanced wrestling, work and ROTC for the past three years which shows a great amount of commitment.”

Liriano is second in command for the school’s ROTC program, volunteers at Cor Unum and works at Wendy’s. He hopes to study law enforcement at UMass Dartmouth.

Wrestling isn’t easy but Liriano said, “I really love the sport.”

The senior 140-pounder moved from Syracuse to Lawrence in eighth grade. Before his matches he psyches himself up by listening to “Fast Lane” by Eminem. His career highlight was going undefeated on the JV team as a sophomore.

Ercilio’s favorites include the movie “Transformers”, gold medalist wrestler Jordan Burroughs and teacher Major Kathleen Romano. His dream car is a Bentley.