By Pallavi Kawatra, Opinions Editor
The first NCAASigning Day took place at Trinity Hall on Nov. 8 to celebrate the signing of the National Letter of Intent (NLI) that is a binding agreement between a student-athlete and the university she plans to attend. This fall, four seniors signed an NLI to officially commit to playing a sport at the NCAA Division I or III level.
Athletic Director Ken Santos congratulated the student-athletes on their achievements, noting that these individual accomplishments contribute to the overall success of the school’s athletics program. “I am proud of the athletes for giving so much to our program. Their hard work, perseverance, faith, respect and leadership has been invaluable to us,” Santos said. “We have some very talented, smart athletes who are going to schools that reflect their academic and athletic abilities and are environments in which they’ll thrive.”
Erica O’Kelley found that environment at Stevens Institute of Technology, where she will play women’s soccer for the Division III program. “I picked Stevens Institute of Technology because all of the girls on the team were majoring in engineering, and the atmosphere made me feel at home,” O’Kelly said.
She began the process of looking at colleges for soccer starting her freshman year, and throughout her high school career she balanced both her academic and athletic commitments while also focusing on remaining in contact with colleges. Now that the “very stressful” process is over, O’Kelly is happy and excited to play for the Stevens’ women’s soccer team.
The other three seniors have committed to swimming at the NCAA Division I level; Caroline Gmelich signed with University of Virginia, Isabella Pabon with Iona College and Malia Wolf with Lehigh University.
“As soon as I stepped on campus I loved it. I really liked the coaches and team,” Pabon said of her official visit to Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. “The coaches did everything they could to make the [committing process] the best they could for me.”
Similar to O’Kelley, Pabon found the process, which started for her at the beginning of her junior year, stressful but, in the end, rewarding.
“It felt nice to be recognized for putting in all that work,” Pabon said.
Pabon’s teammate Gmelich also felt “the recruiting process was a long and difficult journey” but agreed that “it worked out in the end” when she committed to swim at the University of Virginia, a top 10 NCAA Division I program that won its ninth consecutive Athletic Coast Conference title last year.
“I decided to commit to UVA because it was by far the best college experience and overall fit for me,” Gmelich said. “The other schools I was looking at did not have the exact balance between academics and athletics I was looking for. The energy of the campus coaches and athletes were so welcoming and unifying that I felt at home when I stepped on the campus.”
Wolf also spent about half a year communicating with and visiting several colleges during the recruiting process, ultimately deciding to attend and swim for Lehigh University in Bethelhem, PA. “On my visit [to Lehigh] I immediately connected with the team, the coaches and the environment; I felt at home,” Wolf said. Although she knew she wanted to go to Lehigh, Wolf still had to keep an open mind about other schools and wait a couple of months before getting confirmation from Lehigh’s head coach of her admittance. “All in all, the recruiting process for me was a stressful six months but definitely worth the hard work and stress.”