Former River Dell standout Alyssa May graduated from the regional district as an extremely accomplished two-sport student-athlete.
May excelled on the volleyball court as well as the basketball court.
She scored 2,157 points, pulled down 1,067 rebounds, and dished out 675 assists—all school records.
The Oradell native helped the Lady Hawks capture two North 1, Group 2 state sectional titles. May was an all-league, all-Bergen County, and all-state point guard. She was the North Jersey Player of the Year in 2006 and 2007.
She led the volleyball team to the state semifinal, and was an all-league and all-county selection during her tenure as a setter.
Yet despite all the accolades, May, a 2007 River Dell graduate, never let the superstardom go to her head.
“I was just doing what I love, doing what I do best,” said May, 22. “Those awards meant something to me but I didn’t really focus on them.”
Instead, May would rather forget about the statistics and look back at the items you won’t find in the box score.
May, who admits to being 5-foot-11 despite being listed at 6-foot in basketball programs, brought “heart and positive energy” to the court where she also “did all the little things.”
“Everyone talks about the statistics,” she said. “I never took a possession off.”
May said she brought a “consistent hustle and effort” and played “every minute like it was my last.”
Looking back to her freshman year—“If I can remember back that far,” she joked—May’s goal was to “help the team as much as I could.
“I was looked at to score,” May recalled. “That’s basically what I did—what coach Lou [Wejnert] wanted me to do and the rest just kinda fell into place.”
She went above and beyond during her time at River Dell and averaged 21.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 5.5 steals per game as a senior.
“Every year was memorable for different reasons,” May said, recalling her team’s upset of Holy Angels in the Bergen County Tournament her freshman year as well as playing in the Group 2 final twice.
“I guess the constant throughout my four years was the competitiveness within our league,” May said. “We had our rivalries with Ridgefield Park and Dumont.”
The rivalries existed on both courts and May wanted to beat the opposition, especially if they got the best of the Lady Hawks.
“My goal is to expect the best from myself and I held myself to that standard,” May said. “Losing wasn’t an option. That led to championships. That led to awards.
“I would take it a quarter at a time, a game at a time,” she added. “I never really looked ahead.”
May started playing basketball “as soon as she could pick up a ball.”
Her dad, Tom, who is also her role model, got her into the sport, and she “fell in love” with basketball in her back yard, playing pickup games versus her father.
“Despite the hardships in his life,” May said of her dad, “he’s the most positive person every day. He taught me ‘your attitude is what makes you who you are,’” a sentiment she carried on and off the court.
She also played for the Saint Joseph (Oradell) CYO team, where she confirmed her passion for the sport.
Coming out of River Dell, May received seven offers from colleges.
She narrowed her choices to three: Lehigh, Saint Joseph (Philadelphia) and Holy Cross, before ultimately deciding on attending the Worcester, Mass. school.
It was the “family atmosphere” that brought May to Holy Cross.
“If I didn’t have basketball would I be happy here?” she asked herself.
She came to the realization that she would, and felt right at home there.
May met the basketball team, whom she said was extremely welcoming, and the group felt like a big family, which is what May wanted.
“That’s really what’s most important,” May said. “It’s not the wins and the losses, it’s the relationships and the people that you meet along the way and the lessons you learn.”
To May, Holy Cross was “the perfect fit.”
She graduated in May with a degree in Economics. While at Holy Cross, she was the basketball team’s representative in the Student Athletic Advisory Committee.
When asked what she loved about basketball and why she chose to continue her career in the sport, rather than volleyball, she paused to think.
“I love basketball because…it’s the most competitive up and down sport that I’ve played,” May said. “Volleyball is really fun, but there’s something about basketball. There are so many great team aspects about basketball. You’re back and forth on offense and defense and you have to communicate with your teammates.
"Communication is key,” May added. “That fire and passion that I had for basketball, I haven’t found anywhere else. The love of the game brought me to the decision that I wanted to continue playing [basketball] until I couldn’t anymore.”
The Holy Cross squad didn’t have as much success as her River Dell team, but May said she still had a great experience because of her teammates, coaches, and the school’s atmosphere
May is currently working at Brown Brothers Harriman, a financial services firm in Jersey City, as an operations specialist in the corporate actions department.
She misses playing basketball regularly—even though she got the opportunity to play in a summer league—but “I like my job a lot. It challenges me every day.”
When asked where she would be without basketball, she replied, “I can’t even answer that question because it’s brought me to so many places.
“Basketball led me to Holy Cross, which brought me to Brown Brothers Harriman.”
Right now, May said she is fully invested in her job, but she wouldn’t rule out a future in coaching, so she could be around the sport she loves so much.