Vineland High School's Aria Asselta will continue the connection between the Fighting Clan girls crew team and West Virginia University in the new year.

Asselta, a Vineland resident, signed a national letter of intent to attend West Virginia and will row for the Mountaineers on a partial athletic scholarship.

Asselta follows in the footsteps of former Vineland rowers Jeannine McCarty, who rowed for four years for West Virginia, and Tamyra Roberts, who is a Mountaineers senior.

"It really came down to St. Joseph's and West Virginia," said Asselta, a 17-year-old senior. "Both were phenomenal programs. At West Virginia, I really liked the team. They were very friendly, and they worked hard and were very competitive and determined. I definitely felt it was the place to be."

Asselta said she also liked the city of Morgantown, where the university is located.

"The campus takes up the whole city of Morgantown," Asselta said. "I really liked the feel of the school and the campus. It's mountainous and hilly, and that's interesting coming from Vineland, which is not like that."

Asselta, who will become a fourth-year member of the Vineland girls crew team in the spring, won the junior varsity girls division in March at the Greenhead Sprints indoor rowing regatta in Brigantine. She rowed in the junior eight, junior four and junior double for Vineland during the 2013 season.

"Aria works very hard, and she's dedicated and focused," said John McCarty, who was the Vineland girls crew coach the last two years and is Jeannine McCarty's father. "She has been a leader since her freshman year. She has the drive and intensity. She's very smart, so she'll do well academically at West Virginia."

John McCarty assisted for the Fighting Clan girls crew team for six years prior to becoming the head coach, and will return as an assistant in the spring. Lauren Lillie, an assistant for the team last season, will be the new head coach.

Jimmy King is West Virginia's women's rowing coach, and the Mountaineers' website lists several other New Jersey residents on the team's roster: Brianna Dendler, a junior from Galloway Township, and Caitlin Madamba, a junior from Mays Landing. West Virginia's boathouse is located along the Monongahela River.

The Mountaineers' rowing program competes in the Big 12 Conference but is also an affiliate of Conference USA, an arrangement that helps the latter league have the required minimum number (six) of rowing members to qualify for nationals.

Asselta also is in her fourth season with the Vineland girls swimming team. In addition to relays, she swims the 100-meter freestyle and the 100 backstroke.

"Swimming is a little different," Asselta said. "The breathing is different. Swimming and crew are good cross training for each other. I like going from one sport to another. It keeps me on my game, and I like the challenge."

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