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Local product, St. Marys standout, headed to Wagner College
Manteca resident Jessica Burdge signed her National Letter of Intent to play water polo at Wagner College in front of family and friends at her Manteca home Wednesday.
Continuing into college was the end-result goal of St. Mary’s High’s senior Jessica Burdge’s plan entering high school four years ago, and that result became reality when Burdge signed her National Letter of Intent to play water polo for Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y.

Wagner is in a NCAA Division I program that competes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference where the Seahawks were 6-4 and closed the season with a third-place finish in the MAAC Championship Tournament.

Burdge, a Manteca resident and Brock Elliot School graduate,  joins Wagner’s first-year head coach Chris Radmonovich who takes over for recently departed head coach Pat Beemer. Radmonovich was an integral part of St. Mary’s recent dominance over the Tri-City Athletic League, and now will look to rekindle the Seahawks’ dominance in MAAC play.

Wagner finished as the MAAC champion following the ’09 season, now Radmonovich inherits the task of getting the program back on top and into the NCAA Championships. Burdge will be ready to assist the challenge and has been preparing for this very moment since her first varsity season as a St. Mary’s freshman.

“I knew that I wanted to play sports in college, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to swim or play water polo,” Burdge said. “I definitely had no idea where I wanted to go. I am going in, not really knowing what to expect.

“I just want to go out there and work my hardest and be a contributor on this team.”

Burdge has most definitely been a contributor for the Rams’ water polo squad, garnering first team all-TCAL honors her junior and senior years after earning second-team all league honors as a sophomore. She helped the Rams land the TCAL’s No. 1 seed for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I girls water polo championships the past two seasons. Burdge also competed for the Rams’ swimming team as well, but is not sure about a commitment to the Seahwaks’ swimming program.

Burdge has grown accustomed to making CIF postseason appearances and now will forfeit the familiar sites of Northern California for the obvious attractions of the East Coast.

“I really wanted something different for college,” Burdge said. “I didn’t want to stay in California and have the same experiences I’ve had because I’ve always been here in California.

“Being in Staten Island offers a much different experience and environment.”

Wagner’s schedule will allow Burdge to get back to the West Coast with back-to-back tournaments scheduled in Southern California in March. The Seahawks are scheduled to compete in the Cal Lutheran Tournament in Thousand Oaks, followed by the Aztec Invitational in San Diego. From there, Wagner will kick off its 2011 MAAC schedule and usher Burdge through her first few winter months into the spring.

“Obviously, I am a little nervous about it,” Burdge said about the weather transition. “But I’ll be fine, I will just make sure I pack some warm clothes.”