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02/23/2022 11:00 PM

Zanzalari Brings Lots of Heart to the Knights

Senior Xan Zanzalari is a three-sport athlete Westbrook High School who is currently leading the girls’ basketball team as a senior captain. Photo courtesy of Xan Zanzalari

Alexandra “Xan” Zanzalari is the epitome of an experienced and hard-working athlete for the girls’ soccer, basketball, and tennis teams at Westbrook High School. Xan brings her very best to whatever sport she’s competing in and is currently wrapping up her senior season with the basketball squad, serving as one of three captains for the Knights.

Xan fell in love with sports immediately. She has played goalkeeper in soccer since she was a youngster, and her passion for the game came from her parents. After moving from Long Island to Connecticut when Xan was in 1st grade, her parents started up a travel soccer team for a town that didn’t have one at the time. Xan’s father Richard served as head coach and proved an influential mentor in her career. In addition to her father’s 10 years of guidance on the soccer pitch, Xan wanted to follow in her dad’s footsteps by playing basketball, too.

“I want to play,” says Xan. “I have a passion and a need to be the best I can possibly be at whatever sport I play, and you have to be committed to it.”

At the conclusion of the basketball season, Xan will start preparing for her final campaign as a member of the Westbrook girls’ tennis team. Thanks to a recommendation from assistant basketball coach and girls’ tennis Head Coach Paula Fitzgerald, Xan’s love for sports continues year-round on the tennis court. She’s always doing something. While staying active throughout the entirety of the school year, Xan puts her heart into everything she does for her school, her teammates, and her family.

“I’m always there to support my teammates, and they’re so important to me, because you’re a family,” Xan says. “I’m there to support them.”

After starting out as a freshman who was just getting used to competing on the high school level, Xan has established herself as a leader for her teams and at Westbrook in general. As a senior captain in basketball, Xan leads by example and serves as an excellent role model for her teammates to follow.

“Xan is our leader that provides direction, perspective, and motivation to the Lady Knights,” says Sean Donadio, the head coach of Westbrook girls’ hoops. “You always know she’s going to bring those characteristics.”

In his first season at the helm, Donadio has leaned on Xan to lead the team, while also helping him out as a coach who is familiarizing himself with the program. Xan’s leadership presence is playing in integral part in Donadio’s debut campaign with the Knights.

“She’s everything you want in a captain,” Donadio says. “Xan is one of those kids that you know has a bright future ahead of her.”

This season, Xan has been put into situations that she’s never been in before. A guard, Xan is taking on the challenge of running Westbrook’s offense for the first time as she leads her younger teammates. As she steps into a bigger role, Xan is competing as hard as ever for the Knights, who qualified for Shorelines and states this winter. Most important, Xan is doing all of it while displaying great determination and a love for the game.

Xan attributes her love for her three sports to the uniqueness that each one of them presents. As a goalie in soccer, Xan feels like she’s part of a team, yet still has to rely on herself to make saves in net. She’s also learned a lot about individual responsibility while playing both singles and doubles for the tennis squad.

Basketball presents a unique situation for Xan in which she has to effectively mesh with her four teammates on the court.

“Basketball can be a little more stressful,” says Xan. “It has a lot more thinking for me involved in it.”

Outside of playing sports throughout the fall, winter, and spring seasons, Xan also loves spending time with her family. Xan’s parents, Richard and Loretta, along with her older brother Zachary and younger brother Nicholas, have supported her dreams throughout her career.

On top of her constant “no days off” mantra that comes with the hefty expectations of being a three-sport athlete, Xan also has a love of music and art that stretches beyond the Westbrook campus.

“It’s a part of me that most people don’t see,” Xan says. “And I love it.”

While balancing the workload for all three of her sports, Xan plays the saxophone in the high school jazz band and participates in its singing group. She also taught herself how to play guitar during the COVID-19 pandemic and continued practicing her passion for painting.

Xan’s desire to be an artist led her to an opportunity to paint two murals in the town’s Elks Club.

Following her athletic career at Westbrook, Xan is planning to attend Montclair State University in New Jersey as a student in the school’s Family Sciences and Human Development program. She has an interest in playing club sports for the Red Hawks, particularly soccer and ice hockey.

Hockey will be just a dream for Xan until she learns how to skate, but as someone who’s been playing sports her whole life and is dedicated to becoming the best version of herself both on and off the field, that dream could very well become reality.

“It’s not about being the best. It’s about how much effort and heart you bring into it,” Xan says. “The rest just unfolds itself.”