The spotlight moved to the Hauppauge auditorium where five exceptional student-athletes took center stage. Flanked by four of her classmates, tennis star Jennifer Kellner signed her college letter of intent Thursday to attend Notre Dame next fall. The five-time All-State selection said her decision was an easy one.

"Once they offered, I didn't hesitate," she said. "I took it right away. It's Notre Dame."

Very smart girl.

Members of the administration, media and parents all clicked away as Hauppauge's Fab Five inked Division I letters of intent to kick off the start of the early signing period.

Kellner was joined at the table to her right by Zack Losco, who will play lacrosse at the University of Pennsylvania and Rich Akpinatis, a shutdown lacrosse goalie, who heads to Manhattan. To her left were Matt Reistetter, who shunned dozens of Division I offers to stay home and catch for the Hofstra baseball team, and Harvard-bound Steve Dill, a power hitting first baseman, who scored a 2,060 on his SAT.

"The workload and the demands of the program are a great challenge," said Dill, of his Harvard opportunity. "But the course load at Hauppauge was also demanding and I'm prepared for the next level of education."

Losco wants to study to be an orthopedic surgeon. "I have a great opportunity ahead of me," Losco said. "This shows that all the hard work pays off."

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New beginnings are a short time away for this impressive collection of student-athletes. They were all happy to free themselves of the burden of the recruiting process.

"It's a big weight off my shoulders and I'm excited about Hofstra and the direction of the program," Reistetter said. "They have a new coach, who's really committed to turning the program into a winner and I want to be on the ground floor of that turnaround."

Reistetter was one of a bumper crop of exceptional baseball talent on Long Island. Five local players have garnered special attention from major league organizations and all of them committed to big-time schools. First baseman Jon McGibbon of Lindenhurst chose Clemson, outfielder Mark Podlas of Westhampton picked Virginia, outfielder Bryan Verbitsky of Island Trees selected Hofstra, righthander T.J. Pecoraro of Half Hollow Hills West chose Vanderbilt and shortstop Brandon Stahl of St. Dominic will go to Old Dominion.

"My parents and I are excited about the opportunity to play at Clemson," McGibbon said. "My school coaches taught me the right way to play the game and my summer league organization, the Long Island Titans, gave me the chance to play in front of so many college and pro scouts."

Long Island is known to be a boys and girls lacrosse hotbed and it was evident in yesterday's signings with more than 70 commitments between Divisions I and II. South Side's soccer standout Crystal Dunn signed with North Carolina. North Babylon's Bria Hartley signed with Connecticut to play women's basketball and Sachem East's Kristen Doherty chose Boston College to play women's basketball.