Plano East

Plano East’s fall National Signing Day class consisted of (pictured left to right) seniors Tayah Little (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), London Cummings (North Texas), Sarah Holcomb (Wyoming), Ella Yarborough (John Brown), Brooke Steinman (Ouachita Baptist), Caleb Bergman (Baylor), Donavia Hall (SMU), Kayla Cooper (Oklahoma), Nora Ritchie (South Dakota School of Mines), Giovanni Linscheer (Florida) and Maguire Shepard (Miami-Ohio).

PLANO — Wednesday morning was an occasion many years in the making for 11 student-athletes at Plano East.

Each one put pen to paper to culminate the coveted pursuit of playing sports at the collegiate level, signing a National Letter of Intent during the school’s National Signing Day ceremony. Wednesday marked the first day of the early signing period, where student-athletes in all sports aside from football can sign with colleges.

With 11 tables organized across the Panthers’ gymnasium, plus one at the center with graphics specific to each signee, head football coach Joey McCullough ran down a score of accomplishments and accolades for the signees before the athletes took turns at the center table posing for pictures with family members in front of a packed crowd.

“It’s awesome. I wouldn’t be going to a college like this without all the support from my family and friends,” said Caleb Bergman, East senior. “It makes you feel that much better about your life and what you’re doing, having that kind of support. It’s awesome to have that kind of support and love.”

Bergman was one of numerous East signees who has been plying his craft at the varsity level since his freshman year. He earned an all-state nod from the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association as a freshman and hasn’t looked back, earning all-district first-team honors as a junior and later announcing a commitment to his dream school, Baylor, that became official on Wednesday.

“I’ve grown up with Baylor the whole life. Both my parents went there and my dad was a pitcher there,” Bergman said. “It was always something that was part of me growing up. When they called and offered me a spot, it wasn’t much of a decision. It’s my dream school and where I’ve always wanted to go.”

Much like Bergman, East seniors Donavia Hall and Kayla Cooper saw plenty of playing time during their respective freshman years. The two carved out significant minutes with the Lady Panthers’ basketball team and have been instrumental in the program’s recent resurgence.

Hall was named 6-6A MVP as a junior after averaging 10.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.1 steals — a versatile skill set that she’ll get to showcase nearby after finalizing a commitment to SMU.

“I have a lot of siblings and wanted to be someplace where I could see them grow up,” Hall said. “I also fell in love with the campus, the girls, the school and the team. Really, it was [SMU head coach Toyelle Wilson) who sold it. I knew she would be there for me no matter what. I committed on my official visit and that was the only one I took.”

Cooper, meanwhile, was named to the all-district first team after averaging 8.3 points per game and leading East in assists per game at 3.8. In addition, Cooper logged 3.0 rebounds and finished in second on the Lady Panthers in deflections (2.5), steals (3.0) and plus-minus (11.7).

Cooper solidified his pledge to Oklahoma on Wednesday, while senior Nora Ritchie parlayed a productive offseason on the hardwood into a commitment to South Dakota School of Mines. 

Those three look to help the Lady Panthers, ranked No. 2 in Class 6A by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, build off the team’s run to the regional finals last  season.

“We want to go further and finish all the way. We lost in the fifth round and we want to make it all seven this time,” Cooper said.

Joining those student-athletes during Wednesday’s signing ceremony were four standouts from the East volleyball program with seniors Tayah Little (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi), Sarah Holcomb (Wyoming), London Cummings (North Texas) and Ella Yarborough (John Brown) all finalizing commitments. 

Seniors Maguire Sheppard (Miami-Ohio) and Giovanni Linscheer (Florida), both multi-year state qualifiers, will continue their swimming careers into college, while senior Brooke Steinman will head east to Ouachita Baptist in Arkansas for the next chapter of her soccer career.

Plano, West produce double-digit signing classes

The Signing Day festivities were just as lively elsewhere in the city with student-athletes aplenty inking letters of intent at Plano and Plano West.

That included 11 Wildcats spread across six sports, including three standouts from Plano’s volleyball and girls soccer teams. 

The Lady Wildcats fell just short of a playoff berth on the volleyball court this season after finishing in a three-way tie for fourth place in 6-6A. Plano made a commendable push toward a playoff berth on the strength of a strong senior class that was recognized on Wednesday — senior Naylani Feliciano, who was recently named an American Volleyball Coaches Association High School All-American, made her commitment to Miami official, while seniors Katie Kemp and Cheynne Edwards will also head east for their next chapter after respectively signing with Francis Marion (S.C.) and Nyack College (N.Y.).

The Plano girls have their sights on a return to the postseason on the soccer pitch and will look to seniors like Mackenzie Miera (Angelo State), Taylor Richards (Auburn) and Elysse TenBrink (Rogers State) to bring that to fruition.

The Lady Wildcats’ softball team, meanwhile, was represented by seniors Bella Bishop (Eckerd) and Kailey Blackmon (Embry-Riddle) on Wednesday, while senior Josie Bruder signed to play basketball at Mary Hardin-Baylor), senior Torri Leung will golf for Colorado, and senior Troy Piesker will play baseball for Cisco College.

West’s 10-athlete signing class included three members of its golf program. Senior Matt Comegys, who led the Wolves to an eighth-place team finish at the state tournament last season, on top of a seventh-place individual finish, will continue his career at Texas Tech, while seniors Nitisha Manikandesh (Purdue) and Olivia Kochan (Marshall) will also golf in college.

The Lady Wolves’ volleyball team, fresh off a co-district title and run to the regional tournament, recognized two standout seniors after Kaila Garnett (Angelo State) and Camryn McGough (Arkansas-Monticello) finalized commitments, while seniors Regan Thompson (Harding) and Aisha Polk (Wake Forest) will continue their soccer careers at the next level.

West’s signing class also included seniors Kevin Rude (Ottawa baseball), Jamie Cendana (Washington-St. Louis softball) and Jayden Louis-Charles (Arizona track and field).

JPII’s championship core signs

After concluding their 2021 season with the program’s first-ever TAPPS state championship, the John Paul II softball team was front and center for the school’s Signing Day ceremony on Wednesday. The Lady Cardinals had three student-athletes sign, with seniors Aubrey Hutzler (Campbell), Emma Rodrigues (Grand Canyon) and Emily Jonte (Providence) all finalizing their respective commitments.

Senior Maggie SymSmith, a standout on the soccer pitch, will extend her career into college after signing with Tulsa, while senior Jackson Summers will swim at Holy Cross.

Senior Caden Kitler, the anchor of the John Paul football team’s offensive line, was also recognized during the ceremony for his commitment to Central Florida but can’t sign until Dec. 15, per NCAA rules.

Prestonwood Christian, meanwhile, plans to hold its signing ceremony on Nov. 17 to recognize a group of four student-athletes headed to the next level. Senior Trenton Shaw will continue his baseball career at Oklahoma State, while senior Lily Hartnell is signing to play hockey at Saint Anselm College. Two members of Prestonwood’s soccer program are headed to Power Five schools with senior Maia Brown inking with Arizona and senior Caroline Kniffen bound for Texas A&M.

McKinney ISD athletes sign

All three McKinney ISD high schools held signing ceremonies on Wednesday, including a lively turnout at McKinney Boyd.

The Broncos recognized 11 student-athletes who put pen to paper and signed letters of intent. That included four members of Boyd’s baseball team, which won a district championship last spring. Leading that effort was 6-6A MVP and senior Ben Abeldt, who finalized his commitment to TCU. Senior Nolan Foster, meanwhile, is also headed for the Big 12 after signing to play for Texas Tech, while seniors Titus Gilbert and Hunter Smith will continue their careers into college after pledging to the University of Texas-Dallas and Cameron, respectively.

Boyd, meanwhile, just finished its latest playoff run on the volleyball court and the team’s two senior anchors — Hannah Billeter and Avery Calame — both signed letters of intent on Wednesday. Billeter will head to BYU for the next stop in her volleyball career, while Calame will play for Arkansas.

Senior Clara Armstrong will swim for Stony Brook in college, senior Rosalene Reyes-Perez will run track and cross country for Midwestern State, senior Katelyn Walerczyk will suit up for Alabama State’s soccer team, and senior Faith Wooters will play lacrosse at Syracuse.

McKinney North, meanwhile, had four student-athletes sign on Wednesday. Senior Kody Blackwood, a state silver medalist in the 300-meter hurdles, will run track at Texas, while senior Hanna Castro will head to Kansas Wesleyan for the next chapter in her soccer career.

On the volleyball court, senior Sydney Huck — the Lady Bulldogs’ leading hitter — signed with Central Oklahoma, and senior Arrianna Fields — an all-district selection as a junior — will continue her career at Midwestern State.

Over at McKinney, seniors Alex Anamekwe and Santiago Chavez made their college commitments official. A two-time district defensive player of the year, Anamekwe is headed to SMU for the next stop in his basketball career, and Chavez will play soccer at MidAmerica Nazarene

Prosper ISD, Celina stars recognized

There were plenty of accolades to go around between Celina’s three-athlete signing class on Wednesday, from state championships to state records and MVP honors.

Senior Adele Clarke, fresh off leading the Lady Bobcats to a Class 4A state championship in cross country, will continuer her distance-running career at Texas Tech — the same school where senior Taylor Zdrojewski will play soccer.

Zdrojewski signed on Wednesday on the heels of a dominant junior campaign where she broke the state’s single-season goal-scoring record by finding the back of the net 114 times.

Senior Megan Hodges, meanwhile, was named district MVP as a junior and has helped the Lady Bobcats to an undefeated district championship and subsequent run to the regional tournament as a senior. She signed with Tarleton State on Wednesday.

Over at Prosper, the Eagles recognized 15 student-athletes bound for college athletics. That includes five from Prosper’s softball team, which has its sights set on building off a run to the regional finals last season. Signees on Wednesday included seniors Ayden Allen (Houston), Gabby Coffey (Mississippi State), Sydney Lewis (Maryland), Elizabeth Moffitt (Texas Tech) and Riley McDonald (Cal Baptist).

The stick-and-ball signings also included a trio of baseball standouts with Prosper seniors Easton Carmichael (Oklahoma), Lucas Davenport (Texas A&M), Jacob Devenny (Rice) and Austin Wallace (North Central Texas College) all finalizing their commitments on Wednesday.

On the soccer pitch, senior Molly McDougal was one of four Lady Eagles who signed. She’ll continue her soccer career at Mississippi State, while senior Ava Diverno will play for Dallas Baptist, senior Jordyn Herrera inked with Iowa State, and senior Kylie Rogers pledged to Hardin-Simmons.

Senior Aubrey O’Connell made her commitment to run track and cross country at Oklahoma State official, and senior Jazzlyn Ford will next play volleyball for Indiana State.

Over at Rock Hill, the Blue Hawks celebrated just their second-ever fall signing class. Seven student-athletes were recognized — seniors Grace Berlage (MidAmerica Nazarene softball), Kendall Bowlby (Indianapolis soccer), Brenner Cox (Texas baseball), Taylor Hagen (Salt Lake City Community College softball), Katerina Luna (Pace softball), Ella Simmons (Hardin-Simmons soccer) and Hailey Smith (NOVA Southeastern volleyball).

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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