Junior finds success at home with new program

<p>Junior diver Carissa Santora won both the 1-meter and 3-meter
dives Friday.</p>

Junior diver Carissa Santora won both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives Friday.

High school seniors face the difficult decision every year of either staying home to earn their college educations or venturing away from everything they know to school in a different state.

Rutgers junior diver Carissa Santora chose the latter three years ago.

But it took only a two-year stint at Virginia Tech for Santora to realize how much she missed home, and the first-year Scarlet Knight believes she made the right choice by returning to New Jersey.

“I was pretty home sick,” Santora said. “A lot of people from my high school go here, so it wasn’t really a hard transition. I love my team and my coach, so it worked out.”

Homesickness was not a cause of concern for the diver initially.

During her senior year at Mainland Regional High School, Santora narrowed down her diving destinations to Virginia Tech and Rutgers. She chose the former, much to the disappointment of Rutgers head diving coach Fred Woodruff, who recruited her to stay home and compete for the school he coached at for the past 18 years.

“It bummed me out at the time,” Woodruff said. “Then she decided she wanted to come back home, so I was really excited when she wanted to do that.”

Santora looks back on the decision with a laugh and a smile.

“You live and you learn,” Santora said. “But now I’m here and I love it so far. I like it a lot here.”

The decision to return home benefited both Santora and her new team. The Knights hold an unblemished 4-0 record entering Friday’s Big East meet with Texas Christian and Seton Hall.

The junior quickly became an integral part of Woodruff’s squad, helping aid the Knights’ strong start. At last weekend’s meet against Wagner, Santora took home both the 3-meter and 1-meter dive events that propelled Rutgers to a 165-121 home victory.

Santora credits her teammates as the reason why the team continues to experience a strong start to the season.

“I’m really excited about that,” Santora said of the team’s success. “It’s so nice to come into a program that is working so hard together. Everyone is getting better and working really hard.”

While the Somers Point, N.J., native is new to the program, being from the Garden State made it easy for Santora to get along with her teammates and feel at home at the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center.

“Carissa is great,” said junior diver Valentina Gordon. “She is really fun to be around and there really isn’t a dull moment with her.”

Even though the junior lived in New Jersey for most of her life, Rutgers presented somewhat of a different feel than when she used to swim for the Hokies.

“The diversity on campus is different,” Santora said. “Virginia Tech is way down south in the middle of nowhere, so you’re not in the city life at all. Coming here has been pretty cool.”

While the move benefited her on the boards, Santora knew returning to New Jersey would get rid of the homesickness she experienced for two years in Blacksburg, Va.

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