Kylee Nowling had a goal of wanting to play soccer after her career at Seymour High School was over.
Nowling will have that opportunity after signing a letter of intent Wednesday to play at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute.
“I like the small school aspect of it, and the coach is super nice and hopeful through the whole process,” she said. “All the teammates I talked to really love it. I figured I would fit in perfectly.”
Nowling said she has visited the campus and the soccer field and will be playing on a grass field.
Craig Hendry is the women’s soccer coach at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, and he is happy Nowling will be joining his squad.
“The first thing we look for in a player is character,” he said. “I spoke to (Owls coach Greg Musser) at length and he relayed some of the information via the text he sent me, and I was pretty much sold on her at that point.
“I saw some highlights, as well. Also, she has a tremendous GPA. She is an exceptional student. Those are the main things for me, No. 1 over and above ability. If I suspect any personality traits that may not bring good chemistry, I may look the other way, so character fitness is one of the big things as well as academics. She fairs in every single one of those.”
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods will become an NAIA member in the fall. The school, with an enrollment of 500 men and women, is joining the River States Conference with schools in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“I’ve got a big class coming in. Kylee is my 10th signing, and I’m signing two more,” Hendry said.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods will have close to 25 players on the team this fall.
“The prestige level of being in the NAIA raises the profile of the school,” Hendry said. “The students are more interested when they hear that it’s an NAIA school. This will definitely help us attract students like Kylee.”
Musser, Nowling’s high school coach at Seymour, believes this is a good fit for her, as well.
“I think she is going to excel at Saint Mary,” he said. “She is a very versatile player. She has played all three positions for me at some point in her career as far as forward, midfield and defense. I really like her in the role of midfielder and her vision, her patience, her ability to play some defense and throw some crosses in. She is going to be a very versatile player for the program.”
Nowling was named academic all-state and all-conference honorable mention and received the coaches award at the awards program after the season.
Nowling said she enjoyed playing different positions for the Owls, playing outside back her junior year and midfield her senior year. She was recruited as a midfielder.
“I really enjoyed midfield,” she said. “It gave me a lot of opportunities to score, and it gave me a lot of opportunities for assists. I enjoyed the family aspect of it. We won the (Hoosier Hills) conference my senior year. That was definitely one of my highlights here.”
She began her soccer career at a young age, playing for the Seymour Cyclones travel team, where Musser was her coach on numerous occasions.
Nowling also wrestled at Seymour, and she said she has gotten used to being physical in both sports.
“I feel like sports that aren’t physical are a little more boring to be playing, so when I was a kid, when I tried out softball or other sports, I just got bored, so I really stuck with the ones that had a lot of action and really were physical,” she said.
To describe Nowling’s game, Musser said, “She has got those long strides. As she gets into a full-fledged strength, I think that is just going to accelerate her speed. Her physicality is there. She doesn’t mind getting in there and mixing it up. I think she’ll be just fine as she battles with the college girls.”
Musser said he was proud of the seniors last fall, and Nowling was at the top of the list for her contributions.
“It was the first conference title in 23 years. We took care of Columbus East, which had won or had a share of the last 12 conference titles,” he said. “Doing that with the injuries we had and Kylee’s ability to play more of a defensive role in some different areas in games where we needed to close out a game, she was right up there as a key contributor to all the success we had, and through her four years, it was the winningest senior class in program history.”
Nowling said she will go to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in August to begin preseason practice.