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05/25/2023 07:43 AM

Atkinson, Ball Win SCC Comeback Player of the Year

North Haven’s Julia Ball and Branford’s Avery Atkinson are the recipients of the 2023 Southern Connecticut Conference “Comeback Player of the Year” awards. Photo courtesy of Al Carbone

Two student-athletes, Julia Ball (North Haven High School) and Avery Atkinson (Branford High School), are the recipients of the 2023 Southern Connecticut Conference “Comeback Player of the Year” awards. Both students suffered severe injuries yet were able to overcome them to become outstanding role models in their respective schools.

A long-time corporate sponsor of the SCC, Connecticut Orthopaedics offered a Comeback Player of the Year Scholarship for student-athletes who participated in an interscholastic sport during the 2022-’23 academic year and showed great leadership both on and off the field after their severe injury.

Coaches and school’s athletic directors nominated these student-athletes after they each suffered an unfortunate injury that prohibited them from playing for their high school teams. Both will receive a financial scholarship to be used for their college education.

“This is our 13th year awarding student-athletes from the SCC with scholarships,” said Susan Bader, CEO of Connecticut Orthopaedics. “Our goal is to acknowledge student-athletes who have overcome the challenges of an injury and, through hard work and determination, become positive role models for their fellow teammates. As sports medicine specialists, we understand intimately what it takes to recover from an injury and return to playing sports at a high level.”

“Many thanks to the doctors and staff at Connecticut Orthopaedics for their support of the SCC and these scholarships,” explained SCC Commissioner Al Carbone. “Our league has many outstanding student-athletes who excel in the classroom and on the playing fields, but it is a tremendous gesture to recognize traits like courage, perseverance, and selflessness.”

A member of the Nighthawks’ basketball squad, Julia Ball suffered a season-ending ACL injury just seven games into her junior year. A true leader on and off the court, Julia worked tirelessly through the mental and physical aspects of the injury and rehabilitation to return to the court this past winter.

She served as the team’s captain and was a key part of the squad’s outstanding 18-7 final record that helped the team reach the Class L state quarterfinal round. Julia led the team in scoring (19 points per game) and was named All-SCC First Team and’s All-State Third Team.

Julia will attend Roger Williams College in the fall.

Avery Atkinson played football during his freshman year at Branford and, following the season, was diagnosed with “Bilateral L4 Spondylolysis,” which is a fracture of the L4 vertebrae on both sides.

After months of healing and physical therapy, he was cleared to limited activities (excluding football) but was allowed to play basketball and run track. He served as a captain of the Hornets’ basketball squad this winter and is captaining the outdoor track and field team, where he competes in the 300-meter hurdles and the javelin.

Avery will attend Coastal Carolina in the fall and major in sports management.

The 2022-’23 academic year marks the 29th year of existence for the Southern Connecticut Conference. The SCC is comprised of

23 high schools with more than 23,000 students representing 16 communities. Recognized as one of the best athletic conferences in the state, the SCC also has a great tradition of offering first-rate non-athletic programs and events that enrich the overall high school experience of our young people to help them become responsible students, athletes, and citizens.