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Area senior athletes announce college selections
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org, Staff Writer
Ephrata senior Mary Witmer already has her first big goal of the year accomplished, having made her commitment to run track at Liberty University official Feb. 6 on National Letter of Intent Signing Day.
Now it’s time for the defending State silver medalist in the 300 hurdles to work on her next one.
"I definitely want to get that gold," Witmer said on signing day. "That’s been my goal since (taking silver) that day."
Witmer was one of eight Ephrata High School athletes to reveal their college destinations on signing day before a small crowd of media, parents and well wishers. Other EHS athletes who made their commitments included: Rachel Anderson, cross country & lacrosse, Lebanon Valley College; Megan Esterbrook, golf, Lebanon Valley College; Samuel Wolde, cross country and track, Lock Haven University; Sarah Haddon, basketball, Franklin & Marshall College; Mackenzie Ruth, field hockey, St. Francis University; Moriah Pfautz, field hockey, Messiah College; and Madison Walmer, soccer, Lycoming College.
There were six Cocalico senior athletes who did the same in a similar ceremony held in the CHS library on Feb. 6. Division One field hockey players Janelle High (Lehigh University), Allie Stauffer (Towson University) and Carissa Witmer (Hofstra University) were joined by swimmer Olivia Evans (Towson University) and soccer players Kat Lauver (Canisius College) and Wyatt Dungan (West Chester University).
Witmer, who considered offers from Lehigh and Lebanon Valley College, said it was always her goal to perform at the Division One level, and Liberty appealed to her for a number of reasons.
"I think the student body is great, just the way they interact with each other," she said. "It’s more of a smaller group inside the dorms…They are really close to each other and there is a lot of interaction with people. And also just because it’s D-One and it’s a Christian college. I really like that because their values are very similar to what I believe too. That’s what was really important to me."
Anderson said the opportunity to be a two-sport athlete is what drew her to LVC.
"I loved it there and the coaches had no problems with me doing both sports," she said. "And I really loved the lacrosse team. They were really nice to me there. They made me feel at home."
Esterbrook, who plans to study chemistry and go pre-med at LVC, is coming off an outstanding senior golf season that was capped with her winning the L-L League Individual title. She said she considered schools at each division before selecting LVC where she’ll be able to devote more time to her studies.
"I wanted to play golf but I didn’t want it to have an affect on my academics," she said. "After hearing you practice like six hours a day in Division One, I ruled that out and decided the Division Three level was a better fit. Lebanon Valley will allow me to still play (competitively) but focus more on my academics."
Haddon, one of the top scorers in the L-L League, averaging 15.7 points a game during her senior season, considered fellow D-Three programs such as Stevenson and Moravian before deciding on F&M.
She said a big part of her decision came down to being able to play close to home.
"I really liked the coach and it is close to home," she said. "That means family can come to games and I can still come back and support the program (at Ephrata). That’s what was really nice about it."
Pfautz, the career-leading scorer at Ephrata with 66 goals and 21 assists, was a first team All-State selection this past season under head coach Rhoda Mountz. She said she considered Division One schools such as the University of Richmond and Liberty before deciding Division Three Messiah was the best fit for her.
"It just felt right to me," Pfautz said. "It’s a Christian college so that was important to me. I made my choice to be a (Division Three) athlete and I’m going into a program that’s really developed and hoping to go far which is real exciting."
Incidentally, Pfautz, who will major in special education and elementary education, will be coached by former Ephrata great Brooke Good, who is in her second season as head coach at Messiah.
"I am looking forward to playing for her," Pfautz added.
Mountz added that Pfautz should be a real asset to the Messiah program.
"I believe Moriah’s play will just continue to grow as she moves on to the next level," Mountz said. "She has so much determination, such a desire to finish with the ball at the offensive end of the field…. I am sure as Moriah adjusts to new coaching styles and new teammates, she will find her spot, her place within the team, and will fill the role coach asks her to."
Walmer, a standout in the pool as well as the soccer pitch, chose to play soccer at Lycoming over other notable Division Three programs such as Muhlenberg, F&M and Messiah.
"I just got that feeling when I walked on the campus," she said. "I just knew it was the right place for me. I loved the coach and loved the girls…I just loved everything about it and I’m really excited."
Wolde, Ephrata’s top male distance runner a year ago for the track and cross country teams, finishing 21st at the L-L Cross Country Championships and 58th at Districts, made his decision to choose Lock Haven University over Kutztown and East Stroudsburg based on academics.
"They just have a really good computer science program at Lock Haven," he said. "That’s what really interested me, plus they do have a good track and cross country team."
Lauver is off to D-One Canisius after setting all of the big scoring marks at Cocalico. A three-time First Team All-Star and four-year starter at Cocalico and an All-State player during her senior year, Lauver leaves as the leading scorer in CHS history with 50 goals, 35 assists and 135 points.
She said she considered other Division One programs such as Towson, St. Joseph’s and Lehigh before choosing Canisius.
"I kind of had a feeling the second I stepped on (Canisius’) campus that this was the place for me," she said. "It’s a small school with about 5,000 students and I really wanted something close to what Cocalico is. I really like that. I like the class sizes, they are really small, and love the coaching staff and the players. They were really nice and friendly. I got along with them. I kind of just knew right away, everything added up and I just thought this has to be the school."
According to Cocalico Coach Dan Hogan, Lauver was the driving force behind the most successful four-year run in Cocalico girls soccer history.
"Her ability to win the ball in the middle of the field and take defenders on made her dangerous every time she touched the ball. Every game she consistently played with intensity, composure and skill. One of the most impressive things about Kat is she is completely focused on doing what is best for the team. She is a tremendous captain and leader."
In high school, Lauver saw a lot of time at forward out of necessity, although her best position may be in the midfield.
"I’m not really sure where I’ll play (in college) because I played forward so much for Cocalico and scored a lot of goals," she said. "Obviously I can do that, but I’ll probably end up in the midfield. I mean the coach really liked the idea of playing me at center-back, just because I’m big. I don’t really care as long as I’m playing. I’ll enjoy playing anywhere."
Dungan, a four-year starter at Cocalico who earned All-State and All-American accolades, also played all over the field for the Eagle soccer team. He said he chose West Chester for many reasons.
"Some of the main reasons were that they offered me a scholarship and none of the other programs I was interested in did," he said. "Another reason was I fell in love with the coaching staff. They were really hands on with me. They called me every other week, just to see how I was doing. I really liked talking to them, and I fell in love with the campus before I even started talking to the coach. When I went in the summer it was absolutely gorgeous."
Dungan, who will be an education major, said he expects to play a defensive position in college.
"They have a really good soccer program," he said. "The coach told me they lost a couple key players this year. He was trying to recruit some defenders since they lost their whole back line and I was one of the key players he was trying to recruit."
Olivia Evans, who will wrap up her senior season this weekend in making her fourth trip to the State Swim Meet, said she always wanted to perform at the Division One level and she’ll get that chance at Towson where she will entered undeclared.
"It feels great because (playing at the Division One level) has always been my goal," she said. "I chose Towson because the minute I got there I loved the campus and the coaches and especially the team. They all get along great, and they are all really serious about swimming. They had a really good team atmosphere."
As for the four remaining Division One field hockey players who signed Feb. 6– Ruth from Ephrata along with Stauffer, High and Witmer of Cocalico– those four were chronicled in articles in The Review when they gave their verbal commitments earlier this year. More ATHLETES, page B-4