By David Hibbard, The Daily News
ROCHESTER — Add another honor to the list for Alyssa D’Errico.
The former Byron-Bergen and Penn State volleyball star was inducted into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame Sunday at the stadium that the Rochester Red Wings call home.
“Last year, I was up for it. I heard from people and people were sending me messages and trying to send e-mails around to get people to vote for me. And I kind of figured out what it was from there and found it out,” D’Errico said. “And obviously there are a lot of great people that have been inducted into it, so it’s a huge honor. And I am still quite baffled.”
D’Errico was inducted in the amateur sports category with three other honorees, including former Jefferson High star Bob Marella, who went on to a long career in professional wrestling under the ring name Gorilla Monsoon.
Two amateur coaches, three professional athletes, two “teams of the ages”, three contributors/administrators, two media members and a chairman’s choice — the Rochester Americans Booster Club — also were honored prior to Sunday’s baseball game between the Red Wings and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
D’Errico found out about her selection quite by accident — her dad read about it in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
“We had no idea. I hadn’t heard anything from anybody,” D’Errico said. “I didn’t even know that I was up (for the honor) and being voted for. So it was a huge surprise to me. I didn’t even really know what was going on (laughs). I was a little bit confused for a second. But obviously once I figured it out, I was honored.
“Shortly thereafter, I got an e-mail from (Dan Guilfoyle, chairman of the Walk of Fame committee) and just started sorting out details on when it was, who we were inviting and all those glorious things we had to figure out.”
D’Errico issued several invitations, and approximately two dozen people whom she knows attended the festivities.
“The cool thing about coming from a small town and making it to the big stage is you have a lot of support through it all,” D’Errico said. “I just remember back to my Senior Night at Penn State, I had 50-plus people from family and friends from home that came down and supported me — and not just for that one game. I had friends and family that came down for a lot of other games. Every weekend, there was more than just my mom, my dad and my sister there. Obviously, that small-town community family feel doesn’t really ever leave.
“And (Sunday) at the game, same thing. Four or five families that I’ve been close with and people I’ve played with in the past and old coaches attended. And it’s just nice to feel that support from a small town and be able to share it with a community I grew up loving.”
And now she is on the same Walk of Fame as one of her favorite athletes, soccer superstar Abby Wambach, who was inducted in 2005 in the amateur sports category.
“I think that Abby has done a lot for just female sports in general,” D’Errico said. “And giving a face and a name to female athletics ... anywhere in Rochester that you go, you can say ‘Abby Wambach’ and people know who it is and know what sport she plays and know that she’s just a great role model for young, aspriring female athletes in general. And I think that athletics is a huge opportunity for females to advance their lives, their careers, their personalities — everything.
“So to be placed on a Walk of Fame with somebody like that — and obviously plenty of other people that have been Olympians and All-Americans and great role models in the community — it’s incredible.”
D’Errico led the Byron-Bergen girls volleyball team to five Section 5 titles and three New York State Class C championships before attending Penn State on a full scholarship.
She played a lot as a reserve during her first two years of college, then was the Nittany Lions’ starting libero — and a team captain — as a junior and as a senior. D’Errico helped Penn State win an unprecedented four national championships and finished her career in the top 10 on the school’s all-time list in digs and aces.
After graduating from Penn State in 2011, D’Errico spent last year playing for Feel Volley Alcobendas in Superliga Femenina 2 in Spain, where her team came within two game points of winning the league title.
D’Errico was chosen to the league’s postseason all-star team. She was named the league’s player of the week twice and was selected to the weekly honor roll six times. D’Errico’s performance during the league’s in-season Princess Cup earned her tournament most valuable player honors.
She has not signed with any pro team for this season, although she did receive an offer from a team in the Canary Islands.
“But financially, it’s a little bit of a questionable situation because Spain’s economy right now is not great and the team was kind of a little iffy when it came to communication,” D’Errico said. “So I don’t feel secure and I don’t want to go someplace where I don’t feel secure signing a contract and feeling OK leaving and going there. I mean, I’m going to be there for seven, eight months at a time if I do sign and go, so I want to make sure that it’s the right fit and it feels OK.”
Instead, she has accepted a position as a volunteer assistant coach at Georgetown University.
That opportunity came out of the blue.
“I worked a camp with the assistant coach (Sarah Cullen) and I ended up having one of my camps get cancelled, so I was free. And their Georgetown camp was the same days that mine was and it was supposed to be in Virginia, so I was going to be down there anyway,” D’Errico said. “The assistant coach was like ‘Why don’t you volunteer with us?’ — just joking around — and I was like ‘Hmm. If I don’t go play anywhere, that sounds like a really good idea, actually.’”
After speaking with Hoyas coach Arlisa Williams, D’Errico was offered the volunteer position and accepted it.
“Coaching is where I want to be when I’m done playing. And I’m kind of in that transition phase right now where I don’t know if I’m done playing yet or if I’m going to be playing and then coaching. It’s all up in the air right now,” D’Errico said. “But the chance to get in the gym with a program again and the chance to work with female athletes and student-athletes at a university is just great. I missed it so much.
“Playing overseas was an awesome experience, but the feeling of being in a program in a university where there’s some pride and loyalty and all of the things that go with NCAA athletics is kind of something that you take a little bit for granted when you’re in it. So coming back to it, it’s really nice to be a part of something like that again.”
D’Errico is able to work with the Georgetown players in the gym, as well as learn some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of college athletics such as statistics, video, budgets and coordinating travel. The only thing she is not allowed to do is recruit players, due to the fact that she’s not a paid, on-staff person.
“The chance to learn and further my chances as a coach by being aware of databases and programs and all of that stuff is a great opportunity for me,” she said.
D’Errico said she did have a few offers to become a full-time assistant coach at the collegiate level, but turned them down because she wants to be able to continue playing if a good opportunity comes along.
“It’s something that I don’t take lightly. And I do want to have the opportunity to keep playing if I can. And I wouldn’t say no unless it was something like the whole Spain situation,” said D’Errico, whose Spanish league team had financial problems late in the season. “So if it’s something that comes up where I want to leave, I would never say no to that. And the head coach knows that at Georgetown and she wants me to continue playing and knows that that’s my passion.
“But she’s being very, very helpful and allowing me to learn from her and learn from the program, knowing full well that I could be on a plane by the end of August or the first week in September.”