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Coupeville honors d'Almeida, Savalza as top athletes
They took different paths to their athletic success, but the depth of the impression each left on Coupeville High School is equally as deep.
Seniors Amanda d'Almeida and Danny Savalza received CHS's top athletic honor, Athlete of the Year, May 30.
D'Almeida, who collected multiple all-conference awards in soccer and district doubles titles in tennis, and is noted for her leadership and work ethic.
Though Savalza played football and soccer, his greatest impact on Coupeville High School athletics may have been in sports he did not play.
Both were surprised by their selection.
D'Almeida, a four-year letter winner and starter in soccer and tennis, said, "It felt very good to be recognized. I was completely surprised when they called my name. Usually Athlete of the Year participates in three sports, but because I play club soccer and put my academics before athletics, time did not allow for this. I was really humbled that they still recognized my dedication and hard work to soccer and tennis."
Savalza, who lettered three times in football and once in soccer, said, "It was a total surprise to receive this award; I was and still am in total shock. Hearing my name called was a really great feeling, I could hardly feel my legs as I walked down the stairs to the stage. I'm going to remember that moment for the rest of my life."
He added, "I was born and raised here in Coupeville, and I feel that this is a great way to go out, better than I would have ever imagined. I am truly humbled and honored."
D'Almeida, a three-year soccer team captain and 4.0 student, said she wants to be remembered "as a good teammate first and foremost" and as an example that hard work does lead to success. She stressed it's "important to balance academics with athletics."
She said she will most remember the support of her teammates and coaches.
D'Almeida considers any win by the high school soccer team and her first district tennis doubles title with fellow freshman Jessica Riddle her greatest athletic achievements.
Coupeville tennis coach Ken Stange said, "Rare is the person who possesses both natural talent and a strong work ethic. Amanda embodies both of those qualities. Three district tennis titles, valedictorian, playing soccer at a highly respected college. These accomplishments did not come easily. Some kids text during road trips, Amanda does calculus. She is living proof that hard work pays off."
He added, "Quit is not in her vocabulary."
Dan d'Almeida, Amanda's father and high-school soccer coach, said, "She pushed her teammates to work hard during practice and scrimmages. And most importantly, she gave 100 percent every minute of every practice and game, leading strongly by example. She was also very good of supporting our underclassmen in their development which will show next year as they fill the holes left by eight graduating seniors."
Savalza, like d'Almeida, was lauded for his leadership and work ethic.
Soccer coach Paul Mendes said, "Danny is a fierce competitor with indomitable spirit. Danny is representative of this fine senior class, committed, disciplined, team oriented in every way."
Football coach Tony Maggio said, "He was our emotional leader...and was key in our victory at South Whidbey, playing what I thought was the best game I have ever seen him play on defense. Our young players looked up to Danny; he would always give them help if they needed it, encouragement if they were down and a little discipline if they were loafing. I know he is involved in many extra activities, yet he still managed to come to practice and put out great effort every single day without any complaints."
Savalza considered the win over South Whidbey his greatest athletic achievement, calling it "by far the most intense football game I have ever played during high school."
He added, "We brought the bucket back home where it belongs."
"Playing sports for Coupeville, you're always considered the underdog, and I will always remember that feeling," he said. "Opponents think that they have a win before the game even starts. You can either embrace the title and use it to your advantage, or play like you're already beat. I chose to embrace the fact and used it to fuel my fire out on the field."
Savalza’s impact carried far beyond the football and soccer fields. His willingness to support his fellow athletes left a lasting impression. Dressed as the Shaman, Savalza fired up the CHS rooting sections at volleyball and basketball games.
He said, "I believe that school spirit is a very important part of high school, as it's a big morale booster for sports teams, knowing that your student section and classmates are behind you cheering you on and getting crazy. I hope they say: 'Man, do you remember the first Shaman? Shaman Savalza? Those were some crazy times at the volleyball and basketball games.'"
Savalza thanked his coaches, teammates, teachers and parents for his success.
He said of his parents Hank and Deb, "I don't think they missed a single one of my games."
D'Almeida will attend Carleton College in Minnesota and major in premed.
Savalza, also an honor student, will go to Western Washington University and major in environmental geology and minor in secondary education.
Amanda d'Almeida won three district doubles titles in tennis. (Jim Waller photo)