Petruzzello picks Illinois
CHAMPAIGN - Alyssa Petruzzello has known the University of Illinois women's swimming coach since she was a pre-teen swimming laps for a local club team.
Next season, the Centennial senior will be calling Sue Novitsky her coach.
"I've known Sue for a really long time and they were one of the most interested schools," Petruzzello said. "I've really developed a good relationship with Sue and I know a lot of the girls on the team already, so it seemed like a good fit academically and athletically."
Petruzzello, who orally committed to the Illini last week, will make her decision official during the early-signing period for the national letter of intent. The eight-day signing period begins Wednesday.
The Charger standout is a three-time IHSA state qualifier in the 100-yard butterfly and will attempt to advance a fourth time on Saturday, when Centennial hosts a sectional meet. As a sophomore, Petruzzello placed 10th in that event at state. She also was a state qualifier in the 100 backstroke as a junior.
Petruzzello's most notable club performance came in the 2007 National YMCA Short Course Championship in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where she finished 16th in the 100 butterfly.
Petruzzello took her official visit to the UI in mid-October, viewing an Illini swim meet at her future pool in the newly remodeled Activities and Recreation Center. Of course, much of what the Champaign native saw during her campus tour was familiar territory.
"It's obviously like home," Petruzzello said, "but it really did feel like home to me."
A product of Champaign swim clubs, Petruzzello first became acquainted with Novitsky through the now-defunct Champaign County Aquachiefs.
"I would talk to (Novitsky), not even thinking that's were I would someday go to school," she said.
More recently, Petruzzello has joined with some of Novitsky's Illini swimmers on relays during the club season through the Champaign County YMCA Heat.
There's yet another link. Petruzzello's coach at Centennial, Alison Czmarko-Kutzler, swam at the UI during Novitsky's coaching tenure there.
Petruzzello also took an official visit to the University of San Diego. Although she had yet to be offered a scholarship by the California school, Petruzzello doubts she would have accepted one anyway.
"I didn't feel like that's where I wanted to be," she said. "I didn't pursue many other places. From the get-go, I knew I wanted to go to the University of Illinois."
Petruzzello's wish became reality last Wednesday during a phone call - and scholarship offer - from Novitsky.
"This is all pretty amazing," Petruzzello said. "It's always been a goal of mine to swim in college, but to swim at a Big Ten school such as Illinois, it's still kind of surreal to me. It's still sinking in that I have that opportunity."