CRANFORD, NJ — When the Cieslinski triplets, Emma, Madison and Alexis, of Roselle Park, were little, their parents turned to sports to keep them occupied. They enrolled them in the town’s recreation T-ball program, not expecting them to become three outstanding softball players. Their talent on the softball diamond caught the attention of Shenandoah University in Virginia and Union County College, which plans on revitalizing its softball program in spring 2021.
With three student-athletes attending college at one time, all academic and sports opportunities were under consideration by the family. Although Shenandoah was a strong contender, Union moved up the list as the triplets learned more about the options offered by the college.
Then the pandemic hit in March 2020 and forced the triplets to reassess all their plans for college. Although Shenandoah had made a generous financial offer for all three to attend, the triplets felt that, given the current climate, starting their college education closer to home and staying safe while being student-athletes at Union was the perfect match.
Emma qualified for NJSTARS, a state grant program that covers tuition for high-achieving New Jersey high school graduates, and she is enrolled as an American Honors student, meaning she will receive one-on-one academic and transfer advisement, have access to the American Honors lounge and take honors courses. Alexis, who specialized in exercise physiology at the Union County Vo-Tech High School, plans to pursue study in the physical therapist assistant program. Madison is majoring in education and is happy to attend the same college as her sisters, since she views the three of them as a team.
The triplets played softball all four years for Roselle Park High School. In 2018, the team won the NJSIAA Group I State Championship. Alexis and Madison were named All-County Honorable Mention and Emma was named First Team All Conference. Emma plays first base; Alexis plays third base, outfielder and pitcher; and Madison plays second base.
In addition to softball, Madison, a left midfielder, and Alexis, a forward, will play for the women’s soccer team led by coach Angie Correia. Emma will join the women’s basketball team under coach Marbely Montas. For the past two years, the women’s basketball team at Union County College has been the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XIX Champions, advancing to the national tournament.
“The Cieslinski sisters are already outstanding student-athletes, and Union looks forward to helping them grow as athletes and scholars over the next two years,” Dean of College Life Tammy Smith said. “They are driven individuals who each have the energy and ambition to go far in their collegiate careers. We are excited that they are choosing to attend Union, and we look forward to helping them achieve their goals.”