After playing on a field hockey team that went undefeated in league play, won the District 3-AA championship, then made it all the way to the state semifinals, Oley Valley High School senior Erin Gillingham is ready for her next challenge. She signed her letter of intent to play field hockey at Syracuse University.
She enrolled into the school of sports and human dynamics. (Physical Therapy).
Erin will admit that the process was tough. It wasn't easy trying to find the school that fit her. She narrowed it down to two, then picked the one she felt the most at home.
"I liked the atmosphere,' said Gillingham. "I liked the team. I met all the coaching staff and I met the advisors, I really liked them. I really felt at home when I stepped on campus.'
Gillingham had a chance to meet her future coach, Ange Bradley, and the assistant coaches. They all made her feel welcome.
During her visit, Erin met her future teammates. That's where she was really impressed. She noticed how well they all got along. It was like one big family.
"Both the coaches and team made me feel like I was at home,' said Gillingham. "If I ever needed something, or I needed to talk to someone about something that happened, I know that I can go to them. They'll come at me with open arms. Everything about Syracuse just makes me happy whenever I'm on the campus. I love Syracuse.'
To be able to juggle academics and playing sports won't be easy. Especially when the team is travelling to their games and student-athletes will miss potentially several days of class. Syracuse has mandatory study halls that student-athletes have to attend to help them with their class work. The university also has tutors to help the student-athletes if they need help with any classes.
"Once I get an assignment, I'm not going to wait, I'm going to get it done and get it out of the way,' said Gillingham.
Being able to compete for a spot to play as a freshman won't be easy. There is little chance for her to get a chance to start as a freshman, but she will be able to get some playing time in her first year.
The jump from a small high school to a D-1 college is a big one. Erin admits at being a little nervous. She's going to a place that she really doesn't know yet. Still, she's looking forward to getting to know the school, her classmates and teammates.
After all the years of going to field hockey camps, all of the extra practice and games growing up, Erin is seeing her hard work pay off.
"It's not all coming to an end. We all work our hardest to get to where we want to be,' said Gillingham. "We've all had this dream of going to a Division 1. Now that's what's happening for me. The fact that we're going to college in a couple of months is like shocking and scary, but fun.'
Phil Haddad is a free lance writer for the Times. You can also follow him on Twitter @writersprtsBT