Preston hockey star makes the Empire State Games

Tiffany Melillo has been working hard on the ice for eight years now, ever since playing Morris Park roller-hockey as a little girl.

Her hard work has paid off.

The Preston High School student and resident of Van Nest Avenue just completed her junior year, and come spring she tried out for the challenging Empire State Games.

She made the team on the first attempt.

The Games are held in Buffalo, New York and are known to be the destination for the most talented high school athletes all over the state in a wide array of sports including hockey, archery, swimming, basketball, and more.

“It was rigorous,” Tiffany said of the tryout, “but also kind of nice.” Tiffany actually enjoyed a tryout that other kids have complained is long and grueling.

Not only that, but she also will fill a new position when she plays at the Games.

“I’ve played defense most of my life, but I’ll actually be playing forward for this game. We tried different dynamics out, and for this team I’m better at forward,” she said.

Tiffany’s mother said that this was the ultimate payoff — and well-deserved — for her daughter’s outstanding effort in school and on the ice.

“She’s an officer in National Honors Society, Italian Honors Society, the Metropolitan Club” she said. “With all her activites, between hockey and extracurricular stuff too, we never see her!”

Tiffany is also on the student council, involved in campus ministry, and plays on the volleyball team as well.

“She does everything,” said Sister Laura Donovan, dean of students at Preston. “Everyone here is so proud of her. We made a big deal out of it over the P.A. when she made the team. She was embarrassed, but happy.” Donovan also joked that, “Looking at her, you would never think she plays hockey. She’s the nicest person in the world.”

Tiffany’s coach feels the same, and is not very shocked that she made the team.

“It’s not a surprise at all that she made the Games this year,” said Ashley Trimble, who coached Tiffany for two years on her travel team, the Mamaroneck-Rye Ice Caps. “She has a tremendous work ethic, and she’s very mature. She’s one of those girls no one on the team wants to go up against in practice.”

Tiffany, meanwhile, is trying not to bother feeling nervous about the Games, even though she has heard that talent scouts come to watch the kids compete.

“I’m trying not to think about it, I don’t want it to get me off my game,” she said.

Trimble agreed: “If scouts are there, it’s a bonus, but I think the girls that make it just want to have fun. I try and get their nerves off it a little bit,” she said.

If she does see scouts, Tiffany isn’t sure she would worry so much about impressing them anyway.

“I’m more academic than hockey, so I’d love to go to U Penn,” she said, discussing how her focus really isn’t necessarily on getting recruited to a school for hockey. “But if I would go to Fordham, I would get to play club hockey there, which is cool.”

She’s also looking at Quinnipiac in Connecticut.

Right now, when not working her summer job, she’s practicing. She talked about the challenge of gelling as a team when there’s only a short time provided.

“With the Empire State Games it’s interesting,” she said, “because we only have a month to become a team and get to know each other. Now we’re coming together as a team, and getting excited to go up there.”

Tiffany will head up to Buffalo with the New York City girls ice hockey team on July 23.

Her dad will come watch and support her, as he has for her entire hockey career.

“My dad was my big hockey influece, he encouraged me to work out and work hard,” she said.

Hockey must run in the family. Tiffany’s little brother, a 15-year-old Fordham Prep sophomore, also tried out for the games, but didn’t make it. “He still has a few more years to get really good,” she said.

He’ll hope to be the next Melillo to make the Games.

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