Valley soccer players ink college letters
In its second year, the Colorado West Select regional youth soccer club has helped area high school players gain exposure to college scouts and competition.
On Wednesday, 11 players from the club that pulls elite players within a 100-mile radius of Grand Junction signed national letters of intent. Eight came from the Grand Valley.
Although many of the club players continued to play for their local club teams, they say the club has allowed players from the Western Slope to gain notoriety and, eventually, more college scholarships.
Local players to sign were: Ryan Gibb of Grand Junction (Dixie State College of Utah), Nick Hansen of Montrose (Adams State University), Spencer Jackson of Palisade (Colorado Mesa University), Rebecca Arotin of Fruita Monument (Edinboro University in Pennsylvania), Natalie Combs of Palisade (Sonoma State University in California), Becca Hansen of Grand Junction (Colorado Christian University), Sarah Mercer of Fruita Monument (Western State Colorado University) and Dana Shellhorn of Montrose (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs).
Sonoma State, where Combs is headed, finished in the top four of Division II last season. During Wednesday’s signing event, Combs was on a mission trip in Uganda.
It is the second year the club’s team has included 11 players who moved on to college.
The boys team is coached and directed by Colorado Mesa University’s men’s soccer coach Josh Pittman. The girls are coached and directed by CMU women’s coach Erin Sharpe.
Gibb said that before the club was in existence, it was harder for Western Slope soccer players to get noticed.
“But now the Western Slope is getting more known for soccer in places like Denver and Las Vegas,” Gibb said. “The superstars, the captains of the high school teams have come together and make a team. It’s great here because you have college coaches, and (Pittman) has some connections, a great way to get to know other coaches.”
Nick Hansen said the club team, which has played numerous college teams, even defeating Fort Lewis College 4-3 last season in an exhibition‚ has helped many members simply adjust to the speed of play at the next level. Hansen said he chose Adams State for more than just the soccer.
“The ski resorts are close to campus,” Hansen said.
Becca Hansen, a center-defender, said the values associated with Colorado Christian will help her transition.
“It will help my faith stay strong,” Hansen said.
Arotin, meanwhile, has family ties to Edinboro University.
“I’m originally from the East Coast,” Arotin said. “My mom went there, and my grandparents taught there.”
Mercer said she chose Western State Colorado because she can help a program in its second year.
“Just to be a part of making history,” Mercer said. “Just that my teammates and I helped start this program from the beginning.”
Jackson said he grew up with Pittman, which made his choice simple.
“When it was Mesa State, I’d go to campus,” Jackson said, “and (Pittman) would always tell me I was a great player. He’s not only a great coach, but he’s a great friend.”
“I have been very fortunate to have worked with Spencer for the last few years,” Pittman said. “He is one of the hardest working players on any team I have coached and has the versatility to play a number of attacking positions within our system.”
Colorado Mesa also added center midfielder Jordan Stiner (Colleyville, Texas), who played youth soccer with Andromeda Soccer Club in the U.S. Soccer Federation’s developmental academy. He already is in classes at CMU.
“Jordan has been playing at the highest level of youth soccer for the last few years, and we are very fortunate to have him,” Pittman said in a news release.
Fruita Monument softball player Morgan Young will play next season at Lamar Community College.