The spring signing period opened on Wednesday as more than a dozen student-athletes from the area inked National Letters of Intent to mark their desire to continue athletics next year in college.
“Teachers and coaches, this long list of student-athletes is a reflection of the great work you all have done with these kids,” said Hoggard Athletic Director Scott Braswell. “Many of these young people are getting more academic scholarship money than they are athletic money. Thank you for all of your great work with all of our students.”
At New Hanover High School, Meredith Criner is headed to the Ivy League as the senior committed to Cornell University to continue her soccer career and education.
“Our soccer family is extremely excited and proud of Meredith for her commitment to Cornell,” said New Hanover Soccer Coach T.J. Rennie. “She has earned a great opportunity to attend a very high-level university, as well as compete as a Division I soccer player in the Ivy League.
“Meredith has been a valued member of our program for the past four years. She is one of the most competitive people I’ve had the pleasure to coach and we wish her nothing but the best at the next level.”
A trio of ballplayers from New Hanover also signed letters of intent to various universities, including Ward Coleman (Davidson), Trey Croom (N.C. Wesleyan) and Cory Everett (Mount Olive College).
Coleman is a fourth-generation Wildcat and followed in his grandfather’s footsteps as a two-sport standout at New Hanover. He is the all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes on the football team.
Hoggard had eight seniors sign for six different sport,s including the Mideastern Conference Basketball Player of the Year, Trae Bryant (UNC-Asheville).
“It feels great to have all this stuff off my shoulders,” said Bryant. “I’m looking forward to getting out to Asheville and just relieved this process is over. I have to thank my Coach [Brett] Queen for helping during this whole thing and my family for sacrificing all their time to making sure I’m best the best I can be.
“Asheville was a good fit. I like the system. I think I’ll fit in nicely and it’s not too far away from home.”
Bryant averaged 17.4 points and 5.9 assists per game as head of the Vikings’ back court and led his team to the third round of the 4A state playoffs. The senior standout also set a school record with a career-high, 46-point performance against Cary in a 92-83 double-overtime win in the second round of the state tournament on March 2.
Alyssa Zupan is headed to Western Carolina after a successful high school volleyball career, while a pair of football players from the Vikings team that made it to the 4A East Regional this past season will compete in college.
Zupan was a heavy hitter on the varsity squad for Hoggard since her sophomore year and the senior closed out a dominating season with 343 kills in 89 sets played, averaging a .487 hitting percentage.
Keevin Thompson (North Carolina A&T) was the go-to guy in Coach Braswell’s backfield over the past few seasons and put in a year to remember in 2014–rushing for more than 2,500 yards, with 35 touchdowns, and averaging 7.7 yards per carry.
Harrison Smith is headed to Randolph Macon College after a senior campaign that saw the wide out grab eight touchdowns, while racking up 628 receiving yards.
“Two great young guys with a great work ethic,” said Braswell. “Great personalities and truly love the game of football. The whole senior group has been such a blessing to coach. I loved being around them and can’t say enough about how much I care for them, how I much I think of them and just look forward to following their careers in college.”
Michael Fasano and Jake Trafton will graduate from Hoggard and play lacrosse at the next level, while Graham Parker will run track at the University of South Carolina. Chase Horton is also excited about his decision to play tennis at Methodist College.
In Leland, Kasey Klutz made her commitment to Lees-McRae College as a senior softball standout at North Brunswick High School.
Baseball-Ward Coleman, Davidson
Baseball-Trey Croom, N.C. Wesleyan
Baseball-Cory Everett, Mount Olive College
Coach Richard Foy on Ward, Trey and Cory: “It’s been a pleasure to coach these guys. All three are great kids from great families. They’ve worked extremely hard in the classroom, in the weight room and on the baseball field. An opportunity to play past high school is about several things. They have to have some talent. They have to be gifted. [The] second piece is they have to have a ton of support. They have to have teammates and family members in their corner. The third piece is the part that is most overlooked I think and that is you have to work. One thing I can say about these guys signing today is that they have worked.
“I’m just so pleased to see them get a chance to play past high school. I know how badly they want to play in college and I’m confident they will be successful.”
Soccer- Meredith Criner, Cornell
Tennis-Chase Horton, Methodist College
“His success on the court includes earning four varsity letters, Mideastern Conference MVP in 2014, went undefeated 15-0 in 2014, won MEC doubles title and East Regional Doubles title (with Noah Milliken) in 2014. He took over as captain of the team this year,” Coach Michael Bowen said.
“Chase is an all-around good athlete. Whether it’s basketball or tennis, he is a student of the game, constantly looking to improve at his craft. He is a leader on and off the court, who wins while showing humility, and loses with dignity. He is a spiritual young man active in his church and community. All of these attributes are a reflection of his parent’s impact on his life.”
Basketball-Trae Bryant, UNC Asheville
Track-Graham Parker, University of South Carolina
Football- Harrison Smith, Randolph Macon College
Football- Keevin Thompson, North Carolina A & T
Lacrosse-Jake Trafton, Mars Hill College
Lacrosse-Michael Fasano, Guilford College
Volleyball-Alyssa Zupan, Western Carolina University