Samantha Liberti, a senior at St. Joseph's College, died suddenly on Monday, a week away from graduation.
Liberti, 23, a 2007 graduate of Sachem North High School and a dance team coach in the Sachem district, died from what is believed to be a brain hemorrhage.
Liberti, an elementary education major, was set to walk across the stage at the Nassau Coliseum next Tuesday as a newly minted graduate of St. Joe's. The college will observe a moment of silence in Liberti's memory at the ceremony.
“The College community was shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news of Samantha’s sudden passing and extends its prayerful sympathy and support to her family and friends,” St. Joseph’s President S. Elizabeth A. Hill said.
"To anyone who knew Sam, whether it was for a short period of time or over several years, loved her," said Tracey Maczkiewicz, who has coached several Sachem middle school Arrowette teams over the years.
Liberti served as Maczkiewicz's assistant coach at Samoset Middle School last year before taking over the North JV squad this year.
"She was everything; beautiful, sweet, funny, and super-talented," said Maczkiewicz, who was also Liberti's dance team coach at St. Joseph's College.
Katie Prusinski, the head coach of the Arrowettes varsity team, said of Liberti's death: "They say there are experiences in life that have no words. This is one of those experiences for the Arrowette program. We have suffered a traumatic loss and it will take a long time to move forward."
Prusinski, called Liberti, whom she coached on the varsity team, an "amazing young woman" and a "true leader."
"Sammy is everything you wish a member of your team could be," said Prusinski, who led the Arrowettes to a national this year. "Talented, hard working, committed, sincere and sweet as can be. She has forever impacted my life as a coach and as a person. I will miss her beyond words and so will her Arrowette family."
David Maczkiewicz, Tracey's younger brother, grew up dancing with Liberti all the way from Ronkonkoma's Roseland School of Dance in 1995 to graduating together from Sachem North in 2007. They were among "the 7 of 07," as seven varsity Arrowettes graduated that year.
Maczkiewicz, now the assistant varsity coach at North, said there were no words to describe Liberti, whose biggest dream was to become a dolphin trainer.
"She was everything a perfect person should be and was always told so by so many people. She was so dedicated to everything and everyone and had the biggest heart," David Maczkiewicz said. "She was a role model to so many."
Heather Dougherty met Liberti when they were both on the Sagamore Middle School dance team. After ninth grade, when the high school split, Dougherty went to East, Liberti to North.
"Sam was an incredible person and dancer," Dougherty said. "The Arrowette community will remember her amazing talent, infectious laugh and the way she made everyone feel part of a team. A family."
Janet Hishmeh's daughter Jenna was on the Samoset team under Liberti last year.
"Jenna would like to say that Sam was there for them - bringing them all together and choreographing the pom routine last year," Hishmeh said in an email. "She loved SKITTLES. She had a huge bubbly personality...always a smile on her face. She was a very talented dancer and always gave the girls good advice. Jenna looked forward to seeing Sam when she tried out for JV in 2013. Samantha will be truly missed by all the Sachem Arrowettes."
As Liberti's family and friends grieve her death, she is being remembered as a great dancer, but an even better person.
"To those who knew her through dance will always remember her hip hop and acrobatic moves, as those were some of her strongest styles, Tracey Maczkiewicz said. "But to the Sachem community who knew her, she will be known as a beautiful, hard-working girl who could light up a whole room with her smile and personality."
A wake for Liberti will be held Friday from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at on Ronkonkoma Avenue. The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Joseph Church in Ronkonkoma.