Three area softball players, a baseball player and a golfer are all expected to officially commit to colleges when the early signing period begins Wednesday in what has been a productive fall for the class of 2005 in Prince William.
Osbourn All-Met pitcher Cristi Ecks will accept a full scholarship from South Florida, and Gar-Field shortstop Sarah Malene and Osbourn infielder Alyssa Kemmerer will sign with North Carolina-Charlotte.
Osbourn Park golfer Daniel Kefale, who won the Virginia AAA championship last month, will head to the University of Virginia, and Hylton shortstop-pitcher Ryan Wood is bound for East Carolina.
Ecks considered Virginia, South Florida and Florida International. Although Virginia would keep her close to home, South Florida would put her closer to where her mother's six brothers and sisters, and a slew of cousins, live.
"We've gone there every year so many times and I always love the warm weather," said Ecks, who struck out 247 batters and walked 13 with a 0.88 ERA last spring. "I hate being stuck in the cold."
South Florida Coach Ken Eriksen was an assistant on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in Athens, another selling point.
"I didn't think that someone like that would want someone like me for his team, but I think he sees the potential that I have," Ecks said. "So that was really flattering to me to be able to work with someone like that and he can see that I can improve."
Osbourn graduate Jennifer Herzig is a first-year assistant at UNC-Charlotte. She had followed Malene ever since recruiting Julia McChain off the Gar-Field team a few years ago while coaching at East Tennessee State. Malene had a .500 on-base percentage last year and batted .350.
Kemmerer, a travel ball teammate of Malene's, is the latest of several Osbourn players to commit to a Division I school, joining Elizabeth Fuller (Drexel), Stephanie Gaynord (East Tennessee State), Katie Lee (Delaware) and Ecks.
"I think the program is on the way up," said Osbourn Coach Renee Leake, whose team has reached the state tournament the past three seasons. "You've got kids going to big schools, not just kids going to small schools."
Wood visited Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth, and planned to visit the University of Georgia, before deciding to attend East Carolina because of his affinity for the coaches and facilities there. He said he plans to concentrate on baseball this winter and not play basketball. Hylton baseball coach John Colantuoni said Wood has a "really good opportunity" of being drafted next June.
Despite interest from other schools, Virginia was Kefale's main choice all along because of its proximity to home, practice facility and academic reputation. He also likes the idea of playing for a new coach, first-year hire Bowen Sargent. Kefale said the Cavaliers will lose two players in 2005 and four the year after that.
"It kind of worked out for me that not only do they have a new coach, but he had to kind of look for new recruits to rebuild the team after those seniors leave," Kefale said.