Local Sports, Morgantown, Sports, University

Local signees are traveling near and far to continue their athletic careers in college

MORGANTOWN — From the Rocky Mountains to right here in the Mountain State, local student-athletes signed with colleges far and wide on National Signing Day Wednesday.

A total of 15 student-athletes signed to continue their athletic careers at the college level between Morgantown and University High Schools Wednesday morning.

Half of them will be staying in-state while the others scatter to universities near and far.

Those staying in West Virginia are University’s Olivia Stewart (Charleston/lacrosse) and Morgantown’s Maddox Bowers (Glenville State/football), Braylon Brown (Shepherd/football), Nick DeProspero (Glenville State/football), Belle DeVall (Fairmont State/volleyball), Andrew Phares (WVU/football), Tristan Milik (Salem/baseball) and Dylan Travinski (Fairmont State/baseball).

Traveling the farthest away is Morgantown’s Grace DeVall. While her twin sister, Belle, signed to play volleyball at Fairmont State, Grace is heading to play volleyball at Western Colorado University.

“One of the key factors for me was location,” Grace DeVall said. “Western Colorado is in the heart of the Rockies and it’s so beautiful around the area. I plan to major in recreation and outdoor education, so it’s ideal.”

Grace DeVall noted that Western Colorado has the highest-elevation college gymnasium in the world, putting her quite a distance away both horizontally and vertically.

It was the team at Fairmont State that kept Belle DeVall in W.Va.

“I got to meet the team and coaches and connected with them right away,” she said. “It’s a great chance to play the sport that I love while also getting a good education.” 

Also going to Fairmont State will be University’s Stewart, for lacrosse.

“It just felt like home immediately when I went there,” Stewart said. “I fell in love with the coaches and the girls there and I just knew that was where I was meant to be.”

Stewart was hesitant to try lacrosse at first, but quickly fell in love with it.

“My mom actually introduced me to it and had me and my sister try it,” she explained. “I thought I was going to hate it and I ended up loving the sport and I just stuck with it. I think it was just the culture, where I am I always feel like you’re around good people. I think that’s really why I fell in love with it.”

The DeVall twins helped MHS win its first-ever volleyball state championship in the fall.

“Getting to play volleyball here at MHS with my sister was great and prepared me to work hard going forward,” Belle DeVall said.

Also on that championship MHS team was Kaitlyn Anderson, who signed to play at St. Leo University in Virginia. In addition to indoor volleyball, Anderson will also play beach volleyball.

“I went to St. Leo for a camp this summer and fell in love with the campus and coaches; they have a great environment there,” Anderson said. “I made a great connection with the indoor coach, who happens to also coach the beach team, and she offered for me to play both, and I couldn’t pass that up.”

After Grace DeVall, the next-farthest traveler is Morgantown’s Maddie Gump, who will run track and cross-county at LSU. She said she’s heading south to escape the cold.

“The cold weather isn’t for me whatsoever, always having the heat is something I’m looking forward to,” Gump said. “When I went on my visit it was amazing and I connected right away with the coaches and other girls. To be able to enter such a prestigious university like LSU means a lot to me.”

Other student-athletes heading out of state are University’s Maddie McCoy (Goucher/swimming and track) and Morgantown’s Lily Jordan (IUP/women’s basketball), Hunter Dakan (Garrett College/baseball) and Bobby Powell (VMI/football), although many will be right over the W.Va. border.

“IUP is such a great opportunity for me to play right away, the campus is beautiful and I’m excited to stay close to home,” Jordan said, who will be right over the border in Pennsylvania. “The coaching staff is what sold me, Coach Craig (Carey, son of former WVU women’s coach Mike Carey) and the staff are great people and have a great system they go by. I know they’ll push me to get better as well, which is something I want.”

Likewise, Dakan will be at Garrett College, just over the border in Maryland.

“I knew Garrett would feel like a second home when I was introduced to it last year,” Dakan said. “Our team came together last year and I think that camaraderie is something we can carry over into this season as a strength.”

Like the MHS volleyball team, the MHS baseball team had three signees Wednesday, all going to different schools.

“Salem was local and was a great fit after talking with their coaches and staff,” Milik said. “It’s awesome to have some other players from around the area (Cody Thomas, Aaron Forbes) on the team already, I’ve worked out with some of them before, and they are awesome guys. We have a great culture here at MHS and Salem reflects that.”

Travinski will try to play both ways at Fairmont State. 

“The coaching staff told me I will always have the opportunity to be a two-way player, said Travinski, who both pitches and bats for MHS. “They also said if I need to choose one or the other they’ll let me know and if I want to choose one to let them know. I’m very glad to have that type of open communication with the coaches.”

While Travinski will try to play both ways, McCoy will try to play two different sports, competing in the 500 and 100 freestyle swimming and shot put, discus, hammer throw and javelin in track.

“I knew that I would hopefully do both track and swim in college because they’re both really important to me,” McCoy said. “I think it provides a challenge to me both mentally and physically. I really enjoy throwing because it’s kind of different in the way that it’s not quite as challenging physically. It’s more strength-based than endurance-based.”

McCoy will compete in next week’s state swim meet at the Mylan Aquatic Center before facing a quick turnaround into the start of track season.

“It’s definitely a lot, it’s one thing after another,” McCoy said. “But I’m really excited about states because it’s my last one in high school.”

Many of Wednesday’s signees have their seasons ahead of them this spring, but finalizing their college plans undoubtedly takes a load off.

“There’s a lot of stress off now that I know I don’t have to pick (a college) and I don’t have to apply and I’m not waiting to hear,” McCoy said. “Having a solidified plan of what I’m going to do next year feels much better.”

TWEET @DomPostSports