Wednesday, 03 March 2021 16:24

SIGNED: Whitley celebrates letter of commitment to Methodist soccer

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Caroline Whitley is joined by her parents and coaches following her signing of her letter of commitment to Methodist. Caroline Whitley is joined by her parents and coaches following her signing of her letter of commitment to Methodist. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Smiling behind her mask, and surrounded by her parents, senior soccer player Caroline Whitley signed her letter of commitment in Richmond Senior High School’s media center on Wednesday.

Whitley became the seventh Richmond student-athlete to sign with a college program this school year, making her future at Methodist University official. 

She also became the first Lady Raider soccer player to join the college ranks since Tatum Hubbard (Methodist) and Jayana Nicholson (Shaw University) signed their commitment letters two years ago.

The ceremony had several of Whitley’s immediate and extended family members in attendance, as well as nearly a dozen of her Richmond teammates and classmates. 

Principal Jim Butler and athletic director Rob Ransom also celebrated the occasion alongside head soccer coach Chris Larsen and Bennie Howard, who was Whitley’s coach during her freshman year.

Her signing marked the beginning of a new era just as the Lady Raiders are gearing up for their spring season. Perhaps more momentous was the fact Whitley is continuing her soccer career after suffering a torn ACL at the start of her sophomore campaign.

Admitting that the last two years have been challenging because of the injury to her left knee, coupled with the loss of her junior year because of the pandemic, Whitley said Wednesday’s signing exceeded all of her expectations.

“It’s bittersweet,” Whitley said. “I’m glad I got to finally sign and get to go to Methodist, but I’m sad that my time at Richmond with the girls is coming to an end. 

“I want to thank my parents (Kevin and Kelly Whitley), they have supported me the whole way,” she added. “And thanks to all of my coaches and all the girls because they’ve been so helpful and encouraging throughout this whole process.”

Senior Caroline Whitley signs her letter of commitment to Methodist University with her parents Kevin and Kelly Whitley looking on.

A member of the Lady Raider varsity program since her freshman year, Whitley announced her verbal commitment to the Monarchs and head coach Bryan Madej in early December. 

Her decision to pursue a collegiate soccer career came after visiting the school’s campus and meeting with the soccer team and cementing her spot in the university’s nursing program.

In addition to playing soccer at Richmond, Whitley has played for several travel soccer programs to help get her to the college level. In middle school, she played for the Richmond Rampage coached by Ashleigh Buie, and later moved to Sandhills Area Soccer and played for Ted Hamilton.

During her freshman year, Whitley played up an age group for AC Sandhills and coaches Jason Montgomery and Julio Penalilo. On spring break that year, Whitley and former teammate Julia Bornhorst traveled to Italy with the team to play soccer and experience the country’s culture.

“I’m happy that Caroline was able to fight through injury and fight through losing her junior year and continue playing,” Larsen said at the signing. “She started playing at a young age, and I’m happy to see Caroline making it to the next level.

“I’m glad she has that passion (for soccer), and I hopefully she’ll keep it up and do big things next year,” he added.

Howard, who is an assistant coach at Richmond, recalled watching Whitley progress with the sport from her freshman year, in which she scored one goal and added one assist. 

“I hope in her senior year she’ll be able to blossom into what she did as a freshman and ball out for us,” Howard said. “I’m looking forward to watching her play (at Methodist) and wish her the best.”

The Lady Raiders will conclude tryouts on Wednesday and begin official practices later this week. Richmond’s first game will be on Monday, March 15, at Purnell Swett High School.

Before she suits up for the Monarchs next year, Whitley wants to make the most out of the 14-game regular season with the Lady Raiders.

“I hope to build off of what I know,” Whitley said of the upcoming season. “The girls and I already have really good chemistry, so that will help me with things like first touches and being more physical. I also want to fulfill a bigger leadership role.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 03 March 2021 16:29
Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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