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Small school, Villa Victoria Academy, scores big at math competition

A common trait of Americans is a love of the underdog.
Movies such as “Hoosiers” and “Rudy” have taken on cult-like stature because of this American love affair.
But just like the small town in Indiana that produced a high school basketball team devoted to hard work, there sits a small school in Ewing, N.J., with the same quality. The only difference is that the competition for the New Jersey school was academic, not athletic.
Villa Victoria Academy, a small all-girls Catholic school that sits on the banks of the Delaware River, recorded a national championship in the Catholic Math League (CML) Advanced Division. The math team is known as the VIL²A BE²S.
The VIL²A BE²S math team has been coached by Ann Conway-Konzelman since 1991. The team has quite a record of success. During those years, the VIL²A BE²S have won 41 awards and placed in the top four schools nationally 12 times. This year, the team reached the summit of mathematical excellence to be ranked number one in the country in the CML Advanced Math Division.
The CML is a national math competition that serves hundreds of Catholic schools. In addition, one Villa Victoria student, Jane Fan, Class of 2020, placed first among all competitors in the nation.
During the VIL²A BE²S’s 11 years in this Advanced Math Division, they have experienced many successes. The team members have submitted 29 perfect scores. Since 2009, the team has placed consistently among the top five schools in the Advanced Math Division of the Catholic Math League.
Not unlike a sports team, the VIL²A BE²S math team practices regularly with practice problems and routines similar to a basketball team practicing lay-ups and jump shots. For example, every week each team member submits a series of completed math problems to the coach. On the day of competitions, team members, dressed in their team shirts, walk into Conway-Konzelman’s classroom, each desk set with a brownie. After the team settles in and enjoys some of Conway-Konzelman’s famous brownies, the girls flip up their shirt collars, don their math team visors, and pray before beginning the test.
Like any successful team, the leader is instrumental in getting the most out of her “players.” Conway-Konzelman has an intellect and demeanor to instill a love of mathematics in her girls. That devotion has been also nationally recognized as Conway-Konzelman has received awards from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago for her teaching skills.
The members of the advanced math team at Villa are:
Macey Bartels, Class of 2021, of Allentown, N.J.;
Cady de la Cruz, Class of 2020, of Millstone, N.J.;
Lenna de la Cruz, Class of 2023, of Millstone, N.J.;
Eleanor Enright, Class of 2022, of Yardley;
Jane Fan, Class of 2020, of Shanghai, China;
Megan Hayhurst, Class of 2021, of Yardley;
Brianna Ly, Class of 2021, of Bordentown, N.J.;
Leigh Machion, Class of 2021, of Newtown;
Jamie Mersel, Class of 2022, of Bordentown, N.J.;
Kathleen Murray, Class of 2020, of Roosevelt, N.J.;
Crystal Ordonez, Class of 2023, of Hamilton, N.J.;
Emily Ordonez, Class of 2021, of Lawrenceville, N.J.;
Isabella Quinn, Class of 2022, of Holland;
Juliet Quinn, Class of 2020, of Holland;
Alyssa Romano, Class of 2020, of Burlington, N.J.;
Amiyah Singleton, Class of 2022, of Mount Holly, N.J.;
Elise Stankus, Class of 2021, of Ewing, N.J.;
Grace Yeretzian, Class of 2020, of Columbus, N.J.;
Shu Zhu, Class of 2020, of Shanghai, China.

Other individual winners for the 2019-2020 school year competition included:
Junior Elise Stankus placed third on the Villa team and placed fourth nationally in Division 3.
Seniors Alyssa Romano and Cady de la Cruz tied for 11th place in the Advanced Division.
Senior Shu Zhu placed third in the Advanced Division and second place on the Villa team.