MILLERSTOWN - If Greenwood can find two more scholarship athletes in field hockey, then the small Perry County school will be able to say it's sent a team to college.
On Wednesday, three graduating seniors from the Wildcat program announced their intentions on the national signing day for collegiate letters of intent.
Katie Osborne will go to Wake Forest in the fall. Taylor Tompkins is headed to Providence. Mackenzie Wirth will stay in the state, at St. Francis.
Sentinel photo by JEFF FISHBEIN
Greenwood field hockey players, from left, Katie Osborne, Mackenzie Wirth and Taylor Tompkins signed letters of intent Wednesday to continue playing at the Division I level.
The trio brings to six the number of NCAA Division I scholarships that Kent Houser's program has seen come to its members in the past three seasons, and brings to nine the total from the school in the sport. And as he points out, that doesn't include the ones who end up in Division II or elsewhere.
The veteran coach attributes the continued success to the kind of people he has playing for him.
"All the kids are good students, good kids - and I think that's one reason why they're good hockey players also. I think the classroom does carry over to the field," he said. "It's nice to see that somebody saw more than one player they liked at our school. People are coming back looking for more."
Tompkins became the focal point of the team in 2012, her fourth year as a regular on the field. Of her 22 career goals, 15 were scored as a senior. Along with 20 assists - seven, her season high, in 2010 - she's picked up 64 points in a blue and gold uniform.
"Taylor's as skilled a player as we've ever had," Houser said. "She's been a major contributor since the ninth grade. It's nice to see her get the reward for it."
She joins former teammate Salene Shaffer, who chose the Rhode Island school a year ago - although Tompkins said that was more a bonus than a major influence.
"It was just kind of a plus that we know each other. We worked pretty well together," she said.
She'll trade her role as reigning Tri-Valley League MVP for one as the newbie.
"It's kind of intimidating, scary," she said. "But I guess that's how I felt coming in as a freshman in high school."
Wirth also has a familiar face to look forward to - Greenwood graduate Autumn Pellman has become perhaps the most prolific player in the young history of Red Flash hockey.
"I'm excited to play with her again. Autumn and I have always been friends," Wirth said.
Wirth had several reasons to choose the Cambria County school, but the biggest was her professional aspiration.
"I really want to go into nursing, and they're one of the few schools that will allow you to do nursing and play field hockey, in four years," she said.
Houser said St. Francis will get its money's worth.
"She probably improved more in the last year than any kid I've seen going from junior year to senior year. (She) came in this year determined to do a great job and did that," he said. "She's earned what she got."
Wirth was among the TVL's top scorers as a senior, mostly with assists. She delivered 11 helpers this year - 15 across three seasons - to go with seven career goals and 29 total points.
To say that Katie Osborne won games in goal isn't just a statistical fact - it was rare that anyone from the other team got to retrieve a ball from her cage. Her save percentage as a senior was 89.5 percent; she allowed only two goals in TVL play, which put her at No. 1 in the league. In two years, she allowed just 25 total goals while stopping 190 for an 88.3 average.
"I think she's really a person who's made herself a great goalie," Houser said. "The work hasn't come from us it's come from her and her determination."
With the Demon Deacons losing a veteran stopper and only a sophomore keeper left on the roster, Osborne said there's good reason to believe she'll compete for a job quickly.
"I'm excited about that. And another thing at Wake is we're getting a new goalie coach too," she said. "She doesn't know about either of us so we're kind of starting off at the same time."
Osborne, who had to divide her time between an athletic field and a pasture, said she thinks Wake Forest chose her.
"Recruiting, I wasn't the best at it because I do so many other things," she said. "I went to a clinic last spring at Wake and ever since then I fell in love. I was just happy that they wanted me."