Philadelphia >> There is no better feeling for an athlete than reaching a personal milestone that plays a pivotal role in their team's victory in a rivalry game.
On Jan. 6 against bitter rival Jefferson University (formerly Philadelphia University), that is exactly what former Episcopal Academy star and current University of the Sciences standout Sarah Abbonizio got to experience when she scored her 1,000th career point in an important 72-67 overtime win.
"I knew I was close (to scoring 1,000 career points) so I had a feeling it was coming soon," said Abbonizio, who collected career points 999 and 1,000 on a pair of free throws with 1:53 remaining in the second quarter. "It's definitely more memorable since we won an important game. If we had lost it would have made the moment bittersweet but since we won a high tension, high rivalry game it was special."
"It was great to see Sarah reach a personal milestone during a big win and especially after missing almost her entire sophomore season," said University of Sciences head coach Jackie Hartzell. "What is most impressive about Sarah's personal milestone is that she scored 1,000 points while being a team player and sharing the basketball. Sarah cares more about the team success rather than individual accolades and that makes me really proud as her coach."
Abbonizio finished the Jefferson game with 26 points on a career best 10-for-14 shooting from the field and 5-for-6 from the free throw line. She led all players that day with three steals and also added five rebounds and three assists.
As of Jan. 9, Abbonizio leads the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) in points per game (17.3), is fourth in free throw percentage (86.9), ninth in field goal percentage (47.1), 11th in 3-pointers per game (2.0), 12th in assists per game (2.9), 13th in 3-point percentage (.375), 19th in assist/turnover ratio and 29th in steals per game (1.2).
Abbonizio, who became the 18th player in University of Sciences history to eclipse the 1,000-career point mark, is a dedicated performer, having overcome a torn ACL injury she suffered in her sophomore year.
"I have been a competitor my whole life and I have been playing the game too long to stop playing," said Abbonizio, whose mother is a University of Sciences alum. "I knew my time was not up especially since I had two more years of eligibility. Also, I loved the team and knew special things were in sight and I did not want to miss that."
"Sarah's leadership has been crucial to our team's success over the past two seasons," said Hartzell. "Along with the other seniors on our team, she has really helped changed the culture of our program by putting the team before herself. She works extremely hard on the court and in the classroom and we are really lucky to have her."
Episcopal Academy girls' basketball head coach Chuck Simmonds added, "Sarah was always about winning. She approached every day at practice like it was the biggest game of the year. That creates an atmosphere that will bring success. She has endured season ending injuries in high school and college, but she loves the game so it always brings her back. I am so happy for all the deserved success she has had on the court and the classroom at University of Sciences."
The torn ACL injury was the second one she suffered, with her first one occurring sophomore year of high school, which ironically enough led Abbonizio towards her career path choice of physical therapy.
"After I tore my ACL sophomore year of high school I had a great therapist, Linda Gillespie, who helped me recover," said Abbonizio. "Working with her really gave me great insight about helping athletes get back to achieving their goal and I knew it was something I wanted to do.
"Tearing my ACL the second time just reinforced what career path I wanted to take. Seeing how these people impacted my life was important and it's something I wanted to do."\
Abbonizio arrived at University of Sciences following a stellar career at Episcopal Academy, where she helped lead the Churchwomen to back-to-back Inter-Ac championships (2012-13 and 2013-14).