From Rivals To Roommates: Westhill’s Gambino, St. Joseph’s Williams Set To Join Forces At Manhattan

Former rivals Adriana Gambino (left) and Nicole Williams will be teammates — and roommates — this fall at Manhattan. (Photo: Austin Carfi)
Former rivals Adriana Gambino (left) and Nicole Williams will be teammates — and roommates — this fall at Manhattan. (Photo: Austin Carfi)

FAIRFIELD — For incoming freshmen, the process of finding prospective roommates has become like a dating service, with questionnaires providing information such as likes, dislikes, personal habits and preferences.

It is an inexact science. For two incoming Manhattan College students, it took just a few shared hours this winter and one common and important activity to bond, as they decided to share not just a dugout but a dorm room.

“We are both easygoing,” said Nicole Williams.

“We are nice people,” added Adriana Gambino.

Nicole Williams pitched St. Joseph to an FCIAC championship. (Photo: Austin Carfi)
Nicole Williams pitched St. Joseph to an FCIAC championship. (Photo: Austin Carfi)

What makes the situation unique is that Williams, the former starting pitcher for St. Joseph, and Gambino, an outfielder and pitcher for Westhill, are not just about to become teammates, but were generally considered the two best players in the FCIAC this past season.

“We’re excited,” said Tom Pardalis, the Manhattan coach whose program is starting to look like a former FCIAC All-Star team, with St. Joseph as the primary feeder. “I think both of them are going to help us. They give us a lot of depth. We’ve got a lot of pitching already and now we’ve got two more with Nicole and a girl from New York, and Adriana is going to give us a lot of depth on our bench, both in the infield and outfield, plus she has speed.”

Ironically, outside of their respective talents, Williams and Gambino may know a little less about one another than freshmen who go through the more defined process. They met last winter at Manhattan during an accepted students event.

“We kind of hung out the whole day, talked about softball and then there were four of us and we were like let’s just room together,” recalled Williams.”

Williams and Gambino will share a room in a four-student suite that will house two other members of the Jaspers’ six-player freshmen softball class.

Adriana Gambino was one of the FCIAC's top hitters for Westhill. (Photo: Austin Carfi)
Adriana Gambino was one of the FCIAC’s top hitters for Westhill. (Photo: Austin Carfi)

Said Gambino with a smile, “We will probably figure out more things we have in common as time comes along.”

Both players are coming off exceptional senior seasons. Williams helped lead the Cadets to the FCIAC championship. She finished 24-2, with an 0.60 earned run average, 323 strikeouts and 14 shutouts, and batted .382 with three home runs.

“Nicole is one of those special type pitchers you hope you can get,” Pardalis said. “She just loves to have the ball. She’s one of those people who doesn’t seem to show emotion, high or low, whichever way the game is going. She just goes with the flow.”

Westhill finished as the No. 2 seed in the FCIAC Tournament behind St. Joseph. Gambino batted .568, with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 7 home runs and 13 stolen bases, and had 2 wins and 10 saves pitching.

“I think we are going to use her strictly utility,” Pardalis said. “A little bit infield and a little bit outfield. “Plus she’s a lefthanded bat. It was a nice combination of things and there’s not a lot of pressure on her where she has to be an impact player right away. We have so many people back. She will be able to take her time and help us out any way she can help us out.”

Both Williams and Gambino stressed the family atmosphere they felt at Manhattan as being a factor in their decisions, and for each the roots are deeper. Gambino’s parents, aunts and uncles are alumni. Williams, who made a verbal commitment before her junior season, will be joining two former teammates from St. Joseph: Jenn Vazquez, a two-time All-MAAC player who was her battery mate as a freshman, and Lauren Pitney, the shortstop her last three seasons.

“We’ve had good luck with St. Joe’s players,” Pardalis said. “I like having a feeder program where I trust the coaches who are talking to me. They tell me the truth about all their players, which is really important when recruiting. I know what I’m getting and I know what I see. They work hard, they want to play and they are good students. That’s been a great place for us.”

Gambino, who underwent surgery for a torn ACL on Wednesday, said she was excited about being on the same team with Williams.

“I am looking forward to playing with her and not against her,” Gambino said.

Williams shared those sentiments.

“It will be someone to adjust with and go through the same things and push each other,” Williams said.

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