Senior Kyra Ugglione has started all five game for NV/Old Tappan this season after missing the last two with two torn ACLs.
OLD TAPPAN – Northern Valley/Old Tappan senior Kyra Ugglione remembers the date and the circumstances vividly. It was June 22, 2017 and she was playing in a basketball summer league game between her freshman and sophomore years when she cut one way and her right knee refused to follow.
“We were playing IHA and I was running down the court on the right side. Noelle [Gonzalez] stole the ball and started in the opposite direction. I went to turn and go to, but my foot just did not come with me,” said Ugglione. “Half my leg turned, my foot did not and I felt a pop. I was carried off the court, I sat down and put ice on it and walked out of the gym, so I didn’t really think that anything was that wrong. I went to the doctor that next Monday, got an MRI and then the doctor called my mom and said I completely tore my ACL. It was gone and I had to get surgery.”
That certainly was no fun, but this being sports, injuries are part of the game and surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament, this one in Ugglione’s right knee, are all too common and have a tremendous success rate. It was a bummer that Ugglione would miss all of her sophomore seasons in both soccer and basketball, but she worked her program, did all she could to get back healthy.
It was a full nine months of rehab, but she did get to participate in most of the spring track and field season and was a go for summer league basketball with plenty of time to prepare for her junior year.
It was on June 17, 2018, Father’s Day as it turns out, that the story turns from one about bad luck and recovery to one about downright cosmic cruelty.
“We were playing up in Albany at a tournament. A girl was dribbling down the court and I went to go take a charge. She stopped and did a crossover and I stepped to the side, but for some reason my left leg just buckled,” said Ugglione, who drew cringes to the faces of the three other participants in the interview that took place just before Christmas. “I went down and I landed like this [my arms locked behind me].”
The result? Another torn ACL, this time in her left knee, to go along with two broken wrists. And it happened in the same week as final exams at Northern Valley/Old Tappan.
Disaster, out and out disaster.
Ugglione needed a scribe to complete her finals and then faced another long rehab on three different body parts.
“You never want to see anyone go through all of that, but when you know a kid like Kyra for as long as we have known her, it is that much harder. She is a great kid from a great family, and she was a starter for me as a freshman playing JV. I never took her off the floor and we were looking forward to her coming up,” said Christine Massaro, the assistant girls basketball coach at NV/OT and a caring mentor to many students at the school. “The first time you think, Wow, that is bad luck, but the second time you are just like, where is the karma? It was all just not fair to this kid and for it to happen during the week of finals made it so much worse and on Father’s Day no less. I was worried for her physically and I was worried for her academically.”
Ugglione is a Northvale kid, who grew up playing every sport she could through the recreation department and with the Friars basketball team run out of the local church. Next to her in just about every game for just about her whole life was and is Lauren DeGennaro, Ugglione’s best friend and a fellow senior at NV/OT.
They have been through a lot together and DeGennaro offered support and a shoulder to cry on.
“I’ll never forget the first time she went down on the court. I was on the bench and I saw it happen and at first we really weren’t expecting the worst. When we found out it was really upsetting because I was think, ‘Oh, no. I am going to be going a year playing without her. We have played together forever. Every team, every sport I had Kyra with me. I was sad for her and me, but I knew I had to be there for her,” said DeGennaro. “The when it happened again…I wasn’t at that Albany tournament, but when I got the news that she tore her ACL again, I couldn’t even believe that that was even possible. I was angry. That was so unfair. We didn’t even get to step on the court together, I was doing lacrosse and she was doing track, before it happened again. It was a long time of having to see her struggle all over again, but she put in the work and here we are.”
Where are we exactly? We are at the start of the 2019-20 high school hoops season and Northern Valley/Old Tappan has played five times. The Golden Knights have won three games, lost two and have started a senior forward named Kyra Ugglione in all five games. She is getting the high school basketball experience that was taken from her in each of the last two seasons and Massaro still bends over to knock on the hardwood floor every time she talks about Ugglione’s comeback.
“On opening night, she was in the starting lineup and I made sure that her name was called last and I got a little choked up when she ran out. I looked at her mom Kathy and she was choked up. It really was a great moment to see her run out there,” said Massaro. “I am so happy for the kid because of how far she has had to come to get back to this point.”
Ugglione is not just a good story, however. She is also a good player and she is off to a good start individually as well as fitting back in with the team seamlessly.
“She plays hard and she is playing well around the basket for us. She has become a real inside presence for us,” said Old Tappan head coach Brian Dunn. “She is typically more of a guard/forward type player, but now she has to play more around the basket to help us out because we don’t have a lot in terms of height. She is doing a great job.”
And there is more good news. The top school on Ugglione’s college wish list is the University of Rhode Island and she has already been accepted and will attend after completing what she, and the rest of us, hope will be a healthy senior year.
“It feels amazing to be back. I played freshman year and now to be able to play senior year with my teammates. I want to kill it this season with all of my friends,” said Ugglione, who pointed out one friend in particular. “From the very beginning Lauren [DeGennaro] and I have been hip-and-hip. We have always have had the greatest relationship and it is nice to know that I always had someone like that on my side. She has supported me the whole way, I will support her however I can and we just want to have some fun and play together in our senior year.”
Knock on wood that will happen.
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