BEVERLY, Mass. – During the entire 2018-19 academic year, the Endicott Athletics & Recreation Department will celebrate 25 years of men's and women's athletics at the NCAA Division III level. This landmark achievement will be commemorated throughout the year via special events, alumni spotlights, giveaways, and much more. For our second installment of our alumni feature, www.ecgulls.com reconnected with women's basketball/softball Hall of Famer Melissa Tarpy '98 to highlight her experiences as a Gull. Here's what Tarpy said about her time at The Nest.
ECGULLS: Describe your overall experience as a student-athlete. What does it mean to you now/what did it mean to you while you were a student-athlete?
TARPY: My experience as a student-athlete at Endicott was amazing from start to finish. From the very first day on campus, I knew it was the right choice. I wasn't a number, I was part of a family. Being welcomed on the first day by the great Dr. Wylie, Thomas Redman and AD Larry Hiser, to meeting life-long friends that I immediately clicked with, to having such inspiring professors/mentors like Dina Gentile and Richard Nastasi. The mix of offerings Endicott provided, including the internship program, really pushed me out of my comfort zone and also helped me solidify I was in the right major. I got to work at Boston University with the women's basketball program, which put me with one of the most winningest coaches in BU history. The lessons and skills she taught me still sit with me today. Looking back, I know I wouldn't have had the same experiences and successes on the court/field had I gone anywhere else. The smaller class sizes were comforting, the internship program was priceless and the professors were top-notch. Athletically, our "home" may not have been at the level where it is today. For basketball, "home" was a tiny gymnasium with a stage that held roughly 100 fans, and for softball, it was right outside the gym, on the side of the road with an unforgettable blue collapsable fence in the outfield that more often than not was never standing up straight. In between the walls and stage and inside those foul lines and blue fence, a lifetime of memories was made with awesome teammates, the best athletic trainers like Deb Swanton and unforgettable coaches like Mark Veilleux. The facilities we were provided may not have been state of the art, but we made it our own and embraced it. We all packed into a tiny weight room in the basement underneath the gym, we created a hitting cage back behind the curtains on the stage, for our cardio, we would run down Hale Street to the mailbox and back. We made do with what we had and loved every second of it. I will never forget when the Post Center opened the year after I graduated. While I wished we had something like that during my time there, I don't regret the memories that were made because I know we created the foundation for all that is there today.
ECGULLS: Your 1995 softball team won the first-ever conference championship in Endicott athletics history. What does that mean to you?
TARPY: That team was a lot of fun to be a part of, but it really comes down to that Endicott hired the best possible coach. It was Coach Veilleux's first year coaching and he was handed a team he didn't necessarily recruit, but he just knew how to get the best out of us. We had so many key players on that team that all somehow meshed into Coach's vision. Being able to be part of that championship team and play for such a decorated, successful coach is something you don't ever forget. Coach Veilleux brought that program from nothing to one of the most respected programs, and again, I am grateful to say that I could be part of that foundation.
ECGULLS: It's safe to say that you and your classmates set the foundation for success for female student-athletes at Endicott. Discuss this and what it means to you/why it is important.
TARPY: I think we came in during the beginning of a great era for Endicott. Previously it was just a two-year, all female little college. It went co-ed our freshman year, so it was just the start of all the changes. Dr. Wylie was just starting to get his creative vision flowing and we were just pieces to his puzzle.
ECGULLS: What was your favorite memory of being a student-athlete at Endicott?
TARPY: Endicott allowed me to be consumed in sports, which has always been my passion. From playing two sports to majoring in sport management, I was always either training for a sport or learning all about them. Being a small school, if you were a student-athlete, everyone knew you. We had professors attending games and keeping tabs on your progress, student-athletes from other teams supporting you, Dr. Wylie cheering for you on the sideline. Aside from our team accomplishments, being recognized as one of the Hall of Fame members and being the first female athlete to break 1,000 points in basketball was pretty memorable. Men's player Jon D'Orlando and I both broke it in the same week, which was fun to experience together during our junior year.
ECGULLS: What was it like to be a two-sport student-athlete?
TARPY: Being a two-sport athlete in college was everything I would have hoped for. Being able to play basketball and softball at that level and dedicate my time to that and school was my perfect world. Time management had to be on point, but coming from playing three sports in high school helped prepare me for that.
ECGULLS: What do you miss most about your Endicott experience?
TARPY: There is nothing like the EC atmosphere. Even though it is not too far from my hometown, everything we needed was right on campus or close by. The way the staff and administration were there to support your every move is something you only know until you experience it. You can read about it in a brochure, but until you get your feet wet on campus and dive into all that EC provides you won't really understand all the benefits of belonging to Endicott.
ECGULLS: What are you doing now professionally? How did your overall experience at Endicott get you to where you are today?
TARPY: I work for Haverhill High School and coach girls varsity basketball here as well. I also help run our travel basketball program in Haverhill and run basketball camps throughout the offseason. Being able to further my education in sport management and gain experience through my internships helped guide me to know that being involved in athletics, and basketball, in particular, is what I wanted to pursue.
ECGULLS: Give me your thoughts on Endicott's continued success both athletically and as a college as a whole.
TARPY: Endicott has come so far since I left campus. Athletically, the teams seem to be more and more successful every year. Success attracts success, which stems from all the work that has gone into the facilities, hiring experienced, high-level coaches and attracting high-level student-athletes makes all the difference in growing the college as a whole. Brian Wylie and his staff have committed themselves to make EC the best of the best. The campus has grown immensely since back in the day but it always has had a beautiful backdrop. EC has changed quite a bit, but the foundation of hard work, dedication, and that family feel still shines through the second you step on campus. When students tell me they are interested in going to EC I can't help but crack a smile and say proudly that I am a Gull.
MORE ABOUT MELISSA TARPY '98
A basketball and softball player, Melissa Tarpy put up stunning numbers in both sports despite missing most of her senior year with a knee injury. She became the basketball team's all-time leading scorer with 1,564 career points and established virtually all the program's shooting records including three-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage. She set the single-game scoring record with 36 against the University of Rochester in 1997 and had seven games in her career over 30 points. Her talents earned her First Team All-Conference honors in both the NEWAC (1995) and GNAC (1996-97).
In softball, she was the nation's third-leading hitter at .587 as a freshman. She was also a three-time First Team All-Conference honoree in softball, finishing with a .490 career batting average. Her 1995 team was Endicott's first to win a conference championship (NEWAC) as an NCAA Division III member.