Members of the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame are those that have made a lasting impact on the school’s sports program as either student players, coaches, or supporters. Often the student players have continued to influence their chosen sports after high school by ongoing participation in athletics.
1983 Girls’ Softball Team 2022 Inductee
After the first game of the 1983 season, a victory, the Ridgewood players filed back to the dugout and said “only twenty eight more to go” according to Kim Norris in her article about Ridgewood High School Girls Softball Team incredible 1983 softball season. “It seemed too unrealistic at the time to think about going undefeated” recalled head coach Debbie Paul. But the reality was that when the 1983 season came to a close Ridgewood did in fact go undefeated making them the only public high school to do so that year with a record of 29 victories, no loses and no ties, with the Championship of the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League’s Bergen Division, the Bergen County Championship with a hard fought 1-0 victory in eleven innings versus a very strong Ramsey team ( 25-3 Ranked # 6 in the state) and the New Jersey Group 4 State Championship.
The team received the #1 ranking by the Star Ledger as the Best Team in New Jersey after a 7-0 RHS victory over Cherry Hill West behind the pitching of junior Donna O’Connell’s 2 hitter.
According to Norris in her article about the team “Anyone fortunate enough to have seen Ridgewood in action could readily understand the reasons for their success.” Thoroughly coached in the basics of the game, the Ridgewood players displayed a discipline and knowledge of the game rarely seen at the high school level. As Norris recounts “each player was well versed in the A, B, C’s of softball.” Coach Debbie Paul also pointed out the contribution the teams skill in base running played during the season. Coach Paul considered that phase of the game “crucial” in order to have success in the high school game. She went on to explain, “In high school a lot of runners reach on errors and walks and base running becomes particularly important. If you run the bases intelligently, hitting is not that important.” Running the bases well offensively was an important part of the Maroons game as well as all of the other parts of the game on the defensive side of the diamond.
On the field, the coaching showed, as well as the players’ capabilities. Routine plays were executed flawlessly throughout the season with the players making the difficult plays look easy. In the County Final against Ramsey, the game was on the line as Ramsey was bringing the winning run home on a base hit when Karen Rannala made a great play and throw from the outfield to catcher Debbie O’Connell blocking the plate and tagging the runner out on a close play to end the Rams bid at victory. In the bottom of the 11th inning, Heather Halm led off with a single, stealing second on the first pitch. When the catchers throw went into the outfield, Halm raced home on the error giving RHS a 1-0 victory and the county tournament title.
Part of the reason for this kind of play was described by the team’s assistant coach Dick Bennett. “There was no weakness in the lineup. All the players were contributors with the key being the consistency of their performance. If one player was having an off day, others would come through to pick up the slack.”
As Debbie O’Connell recounts, “Most of our starters played together in competitive tournaments for many years. We traveled together, had fun together and were friends.” She goes on to explain, “We all had determination and focus on playing our best and winning. We believed in ourselves and each other. Everyone worked hard and always gave their best effort every day.”
Much of the motivation for the team’s success can be traced back to the leadership of their coach Debbie Paul. O’Connell states, “There was an expectation of excellence, without the pressure of expectation. Coach Paul would push us individually and as a team to excel in terms of the fundamentals, effort, energy, and then cheered us on to execute. If the execution didn’t go as planned, we learned and improved.” Much of this philosophy can be attributed to Coach Paul’s own background athletically. Growing up in Milford, Conn. in a time before Title IX, Coach Paul Played semiprofessional softball for the Raybestos Braketts for five years and went on to Springfield College where she was a member of the intercollegiate field hockey and basketball teams. Bringing her skills to Ridgewood as a teacher at RHS, she formed the first girls’ softball team there in 1974.The rest is history as they say. The RHSHOF committee would like to welcome to the 1983 softball championship team as the newest team to enter.
John Marshall, Jim Bruni, Mark Romeo, Jean Hughes, Chris Van Note, Nancy Hogan, RHS Football Team 1913, Don Taylor, Rachel Grygiel, John Cerf, Paul Tornatore, Michele Marangi, RHS Boys’ Lacrosse 1990-92
Craig Halyard, Tom Flatt, Tricia Pappalardo, Mike Henderson, Kandie Latham, Leigh Jester, Tom Dusel, Roger Sweeney, Linda Zabielski, Patty Capasso, Dennis Sullivan, Nick & Dottie Capasso, Track and Field (Bain-Daley-Oliver Era)
Kitty Batterson, Henry Blauvelt, Frank L. Bradley, Jr., Lucia Cancelmo, Chris DuFlocq, Renee DuFlon, RHS Girls’ Basketball 1922-1923, Harry Grundy, Jim Jones, Joe LeMay, Jen McDermott, Shannon McGarrigle, Tony Napier, Margaret Niemann, Vince Robertiello (Jamie Roberts), Damian Ross, Mike Springer
Paul Arrigoni, Pete Campbell, Doug Cook, Becky Deetz, Otis Grendler, Jodi Hartwig, Gene Links, Debbie O’Connell, Aimee McGuire, Walt Perdue, Tom Simos, Kazbek Tambi, Jack Van Yperen, Bob Whitaker, Margaret Scutro