Three of Upper Perk's finest student-athletes officially committed to colleges last week during the opening of the NCAA's National Letter of Intent signing period.
Soccer player Kayla Smith will be enrolling at Indiana University, field hockey player Casey Umstead at the University of Connecticut and field hockey player Morgan Aldinger at Kutztown University. All three were awarded scholarship money.
Smith, an offensive dynamo in her years at Upper Perk, will be one of nine recruits coming to a Hoosiers soccer squad that set a school record for wins in a season (15) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. Indiana is losing six players from this year's team.
Smith, who will be a biology major, has been told that she will fill the role of an attacking player at Indiana but is not sure if she will be a forward or a midfielder.
"I like to play as a main attacking player and to help the attack. I'm hoping I can make some impact, but we'll have to see," she said.
Upper Perk girls soccer coach Mike Freed, who describes Smith as "hands down, the best player I've ever coached," is confident that his star player will be a contributor.
"She'll be able to adapt to anything that a coach wants to do with her," Freed said. "With her competitive drive, no doubt in my mind, she'll be successful."
During her high school career, Smith, who also plays for FC Delco, scored 60 goals and added 33 assists. This past season, playing center midfield, Kayla tallied 28 goals and 11 assists, meaning she was involved in 70 percent of the team's goals – a statistic Freed, who has coached high school soccer for 23 years, called "unbelievable."
Freed's peers thought so, too. Smith was named MVP of the PAC-10 and named to the All-State team, among other awards.
Casey Umstead will be joining a UConn team that is the defending NCAA Field Hockey National Champions title. The Huskies were 21-4 with a relatively young team; only five will graduate.
Umstead, who will also major in biology with the eventual goal of being a physician's assistant, is confident she can be an "impact player" right away. UConn has been closely following her career, even when she was not a superstar.
"They looked at me in 10th grade, which is part of the reason why I chose there, because they saw me when I was so young. It influenced my decision, because they had faith in me when I wasn't really the best back then."
She is now. And her accolades confirm that: Mercury All-Area Player of the Year, Pa. All-Region First Team, All-State four years in a row, PAC-10 All-Conference three times, Future Elites player, USA U-17 member, USA U-19 member and 128 career goals – including 51 this year.
"Casey put a lot of time outside of high school hockey into her game, and that's what has developed her," noted Upper Perk coach Jamie Warren. "She's determined. She doesn't want to lose. I knew that when she came in as a freshman. It's awesome to see her progress."
The person least impressed with her resume is the unassuming Umstead herself.
What was most rewarding about her career?
"I'm going to remember winning PAC-10s and Districts," she said.
Morgan Aldinger (three goals, three assists this season) did not put up gaudy statistics, but quietly developed behind the scenes as a role player and team leader.
"She did a lot for our team this year," coach Warren said. "We chose her as captain because of her game sense, and we knew that she would compete, and we knew that she would do a good job leading the team on the field."
Aldinger related that her leadership skills really developed over the past two years. "I felt confident enough to talk to my teammates, and to kind of lead them in the right direction," she said.
Aldinger, who intends to major in early childhood education at Kutztown, has spent much time developing her basketball talent as the Tribe's point guard, and Warren was surprised that Aldinger chose hockey in college.
"I think it's a very good fit. Morgan's an athlete. She'll stick it out."
The Golden Bears were 7-10 last season with a young team and a first year head coach who had only three seniors.
"I really liked everything about [Kutztown]," Aldinger said, "the atmosphere, they have a really good education program, I like the coach and the team."