By: Kevin L. Smith | Sayre Morning Times | January 30, 2018 | Photo courtesy Kevin L. Smith
ATHENS — Rachel Hutchison has her future plans all figured out.
She has chosen a college to attend, which will be St. Bonaventure University; a sport to play, which will be women's soccer.
All of this was decided while Hutchison is still a junior in high school. Needless to say, she is ahead of the game.
"To be able to say that I'm a junior and I'm committed to going to Bonaventure is a big weight off my shoulders," Hutchison said.
Other than playing for the Athens Lady Wildcats in past seasons, Hutchison dedicates time with Athens and travel soccer to achieving her goal of playing at the Division I level.
"It's actually a relief because I've spent so many years with time and money traveling for soccer," Hutchison said. "The end goal is obviously to get into the school you want to be at or love.
"I remember when I was freshman, I knew I wanted to play Division I soccer. That was my goal."
Travel soccer gave Hutchison a large support system, which helps soccer players mold into an elite athlete they hope to reach. The Division I level brings out the elite group of players.
"The support I've gotten from coaches and teammates over the years has been great as well," Hutchison said. "Travel soccer gives you the experience of what it's like to play the game at a high level.
"I couldn't of gotten exposure from Division I if it wasn't for travel soccer. It's a lot of dedication."
The trek to be on a team of your choice, well, had a longevity of tedious proportions for the Athens junior.
"This was a long process," Hutchison said. "I started travel soccer in sixth grade so getting the decision out of the way is incredible."
Usually when an athlete picks their college, the possibility pops the year they're in the process of making their decision. For Hutchison, she was keeping in contact with Steve Brdarski, the Lady Bonnies soccer coach, since her freshman year.
"(Coach Brdarski) and I have had some great conversations," she said. "He and I have been talking since my freshman year about committing. He actually made his offer when I was a sophomore, but I was holding out. I wanted to get the full experience and see what other schools would be available to me."
A camp Bonaventure was holding also caught Hutchison's eye. From there, she knew Bonas was the right choice.
"I knew I wanted to stay close to home. I was looking into camps and I saw that Bonaventure was having a camp," Hutchison said. "When I went to their camp I immediately fell in love with the school.
"The girls were awesome and the coach is great. The (Atlantic-10) conference up there is just amazing too. They play some really good teams, teams I've been in contact with as well."
Hutchison knew the magnitude of competing in travel soccer. The skills and lessons she has learned from playing on travel teams is what will help her to take on Division I soccer. It'll be a completely different ballgame, but it's a challenge she's is up to taking.
"It is Division I so it's big-time teams and girls, who work just as hard to get where they are now," Hutchison said. "It's going to be a little bit of a challenge because of how young I'll be, but I'll just continue to work hard and hope to have good seasons."
When Hutchison gets into A-10 conference play with Bonaventure, she'll see some familiar faces on the opposite teams.
"A bunch of my former teammates from the travel teams I've played on play on some of the conference teams, so I'd be playing against them," Hutchison said. "It's going to be a really good experience."
As for her position, Hutchison is naturally a forward, but is open to play elsewhere on the field. She played midfield for the Lady Wildcats this past season.
"Coach (Brdarski) said to me that in college, they'll move me around from position-to-position on the field, but does see me playing forward," she said.
In fact, Coach Richard Pitts put Hutchison at midfield because of how well she'd fit there. Hutchison gives him praise for the move. Switching positions turned her into a jack-of-all-trades.
"I'd like to thank Coach Pitts because he knew I was a forward on my travel team, and that's what I wanted to be going into high school," she said.
"Coach (Pitts) put me at midfield, but honestly playing multiple positions made me a versatile player. If my college coach needs me to play another position, I'll be able to."
Soccer is Hutchison's top sport, but she has also excelled in track and field. Is being a multiple-sport athlete an option for her? Not quite.
"I wasn't ever looking to go to college for track," Hutchison said. "I do track because I enjoy competing with my teammates. We are just a close group of friends."
Hutchison received Division I athletic scholarship offers from the University at Albany, New Jersey Institute of Technology, University of North Carolina-Greensboro and Old Dominion, before committing to Bonas. She also received a slew of offers from Division II and III schools.
The Athens junior plans to study Allied Health at Bonaventure, with the intention of becoming a Physician's Assistant in the future.