The Hunt to D3


Photo By Teri Kearns My junior year, first year of varsity, we won the district championship at Edsel High School beating Wood Haven High School. Teammate Peyton Podina to the right of me.

I have always had the mindset that if I were given the opportunity to play my favorite childhood sport at the next level that it would be a privilege. I’ve witnessed that for those that were able to make it, the individual had to put in lots of hard work, take responsibility for his or her actions, and show a tremendous amount of self-discipline and dedication to improving in multiple areas. The process of getting recruited can be different for every athlete. Kids have been fortunate to have had college coaches all over them, and practically begging the top recruit to commit to joining their program. While others are seeking out a coach to find them, that was more or less how my journey went. It came with many setbacks and stressful times trying to find a college that you’ll excel at. 

I knew I wanted to play college soccer after a club coach of mine, Denis Darnoa who was my coach from freshman year through my junior year, told me that it was actually possible. This was a coach that not only made me a much better soccer player but also taught me many life lessons. One being that life is tough and when times get tough, don’t ever quit. At the time I was much smaller than most kids my age, so I had to be told this at a young age when I was a young ambitious player wanting to play, that I wasn’t going to play a lot because of my size. So even through tough times, I persevered, I didn’t quit because I knew one day I would get my credit. I knew he was tough on me because deep down it was all for a reason. That reason was getting me ready to play in college.

Photo By Teri Kearns This was my sophomore year, we had just started off our JV year by winning the Dearborn Invitational. Teammate Peyton Podina holding the trophy to the right of me.

What started my journey to play at a colligent level was when a coach from a Divison 3 school called North Central came up to me after a game I had in Las Vegas in February 2020. He told me that they were looking for a player like myself and to keep in touch. I was nervous talking with him. It felt like I had finally been given some sense of hope that I could play in college. I felt like I was finally getting the credit I deserved. I had previously emailed coaches to come to watch me in showcases to no avail. So I had to be persistent with reaching out to coaches. I had to be the one to write emails, give them my schedule, and get their attention. It was very frustrating. Days and eventually weeks would go by with no responses and I would feel helpless and kept thinking I would never be able to play at the next level. Tensions were running high at home from the constant pressure from my parents, school work, practice, and juggling a social life.

As my time became shorter in trying to find a college where I could further my academic and athletic career, I made more of a conscious effort to bring more attention to myself by actively emailing college coaches. I got better at the whole process of talking with coaches, looking at schools, and putting together emails. This was crucial in the process because when my junior year was coming to an end and COVID hit, I was still worried that the pandemic would affect my chances of getting recruited. I was able to put together a video of highlights from my junior year of high school and from the club season. This was key in the process because at the time of doing this I had no idea COVID-19 would strike, no one did and once it did I couldn’t play, hence coaches weren’t able to come to watch me play. So having a highlight reel was very important at this point because coaches were able to get an idea of how good I was without having to come to watch me play at this time.

On March 6, 2020, which was right before COVID hit Dearborn and the schools and everything closed,  I was able to visit a small Divison 3 school outside of Columbus, Ohio called Otterbein, for an ID camp. An ID camp is a soccer chance that basically gives kids the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of multiple college coaches. I played really well at this ID camp and was told to keep in touch with the head coach of Otterbein. Since everything was shut down now there wasn’t much I could do, so I worked on my grades and soccer skills. 

However, as crazy as life was at this time, with the coronavirus and not being able to gain the attention of coaches through playing, I continued to email other schools to try to get as many options as I could. Adrian, Hope, Ohio Northern, Ohio Wesylan, U of M Dearborn, and Otterbein were all on my radar, which is all division 3 schools. Division 3 schools are only allowed to give the students scholarship money for their academics, other than Division 1 and 2 where they can give you money for athletics as well. After talking with my club soccer coach, counselor, and parents, all of those schools seemed reasonable for me to attend in the sense that I would fit in the grades wise and would be able to play a good amount of minutes for the soccer team my first year. My overall goal was to try to ensure opportunities for playing time wherever I went.

Photo By Teri Kearns
Senior year I was the captain of the varsity team. I’m meeting in the middle of the field for the pregame coin toss against Franklin High School at Dearborn High.

So at one point or another over the next year of quarantine, I had a conversation either over the phone or on Zoom with one of the coaches from each of these schools. I started to narrow down my options around November or December of 2020. I had to participate in online virtual tours since I couldn’t visit any of the campuses because of COVID. Then one day at the beginning of December, I received an email from the head coach of Trine University, a Division 3 school in Angola, Indiana. I had heard of the school before because my best friend’s brother plays there and has been there for two years now, yet didn’t think the program’s coaches would look at me because of the school’s highly ranked soccer program. Trine is in the MIAA conference which has the #1 team in the country for Division 3, Calvin College. I had emailed Trine a month prior and didn’t receive a response until that day. The coach asked me if I wanted to Facetime the next day and talk about possibly joining Trine University. I was super excited and told him I couldn’t wait, it was relieving to tell my parents because tensions in the house had been high while trying to find a college. When we talked I could tell there was a passion and fire in this coach that I hadn’t seen in any other coach I talked to. He was very energetic and straight to it. He said, “I’ve heard very highly of you and want you on my team next year!” He told me I was being highly recommended by my current club coach, who was the head coach for the Wolves, and a few other coaches in the club. He eventually stated that he wanted me to play for him at Trine for the 2021 season. My mouth remained open for a few seconds because he had never seen me play in an actual game before, so the confidence in his offer was surprising. I knew three players on the Trine soccer team. One is the brother of my best friend and the other being twins that I used to play soccer with when I was 10-12 years old. So through word of mouth through my club coach and other players, I was given an opportunity to play for Trine University in 2021. I was sent the signing papers and received the news that I had been accepted into the school in the first two weeks of January 2021 and committed right away.

Looking back at the whole process it was very stressful and hectic, all of the countless ignored emails, being told I would never play college soccer, and stressful conversation with my parents. However, it got me more equipped to take on the college journey by myself and excel. This wouldn’t have been so without all the setback of being told I would never make it to the next level, I can’t wait to take the field for the first time and further my education at Trine University!