For many Sudbury high-school graduates to be with sights set on post-secondary varsity careers, exactly if/when their freshman fall or winter season will commence remains a source of great uncertainty.
With that in mind, one can understand why the need to tie down the details of exactly where their athletic talents will take them can provide at least some source of comfort and peace of mind.
Another trio of locals recently confirmed their commitments, ironically covering off three completely different sports, in the process.
When offensive lineman Austin Hill left St Benedict Catholic Secondary School to attend Saint Francis High School in Hamburg (N.Y.), some three years ago, the idea was to hopefully attract the attention of football recruiters in the United States.
With the decision ultimately to join the Queen's Gaels football program this fall, in Kingston, the 19 year old gentle giant recognized that academics played a key role in his eventual destination of choice.
"I had a couple of offers south of the border, but my ultimate goal is to get into Law School - I want to be a lawyer," said Hill. "When I went on the visit to Queen's, the coaches there talked a lot about how many players that they had who did exactly what I wanted to do. That was a big draw."
Not that he regrets the time spent with the St Francis Red Raiders in the least. For starters, it provided a physical realization of life at the next level. "I was a big dude when I got down there, I was at about 330 pounds," said Hill. "I could get away, up here, with playing at 60% or 70%, just because of my size."
"Then you get there and you're playing in a no huddle game, or a game in 110 degree weather, and it's just way more fast-paced. I realized that I had to get in better shape. It's really not just how big and strong that you are. For interior lineman, size does matter, but there's a certain sweet spot where you can have some size, but also have that cardio."
"That's something that I really had to learn, and I don't think I would have learned it if I had stayed here."
Next came the awareness of the positional fit, for Hill, along the offensive line. "In the back of my mind, I kind of recognized that I would probably play center at the next level," he said. "Just with my size and everything, I am not the tallest guy, so I'm built like a center."
"I can snap the ball really well, and I have learned to read defences pretty well. I have a good football IQ."
Part of his prowess, in this regard, would come thanks to twice a week meetings, for the St Francis offensive lineman, with Jim McNally, a western New York native who enjoyed a coaching career in the NFL that lasted 28 years.
"I can really study film now, whereas when I was still in Sudbury, I didn't really know how to study film," said Hill. "I didn't know what to look for, or how to apply it on the field."
Academics were also front and center, as Abby Frick became the fourth member of the graduating class of the Lo-Ellen Park Prep Knights to commit to an OUA institution, joining the University of Toronto Blues (and older brother Forbes).
"I really like U of T, because they take academics very seriously, which I appreciate, and my parents do as well," said Frick, who will study initially in Social Sciences, with an eye on moving over to either Law or Business in the long run. "In my first year, I want to see what I like more, and based off of that, see which direction I want to go."
Just six years ago or so, there was no guarantee that her direction would even include basketball, as Frick morphed her way from a multi-sport athlete to one with a focus on the hard court. "I was always pretty tall, usually the tallest of my friends," said the 5'9" graduate of MacLeod Public School. "I think kids often pick a favourite sport based on how well they are doing, and that’s kind of what I did."
"I was a bit behind, skill-wise, when I started to play competitively, but I tried using my athleticism to make up for it." Surrounded by the likes of Dylann Mazzuchin (Laurier), Delaney Bourget (McMaster) and Emile Lafond (Laurentian), among others, Frick grasped quickly that her drive to compete with teammates could clearly pay dividends down the road.
"I knew that I still had to improve, for sure, but I felt that I could practice with them, compete with them, that they could make me better, and I could help make them better," she said. Above all else, Frick felt very much on a level playing field when her came to her defensive skills, partly borne of a soccer background, partly of a mental approach to defensive tenacity.
"That's the one thing where I always had confidence, playing defence," she said. "I think it's just a mindset, that you just don't want someone scoring on you. I think even more with girls, they take it personally when you score on them. I don't know why, but we do."
Rounding out this latest list of commits is Northern Chill Volleyball Club veteran Symantha Welsh, who heads to Barrie in the fall to study at Lakehead Georgian (Life Sciences and Bio-Technology), and will suit up with the Georgian Grizzlies of the OCAA.
Much like the club basketball scene in Sudbury, the Chill (Volleyball Club) is featuring an annual production of post-secondary talent these days, with Welsh joining teammate Lauren Jeanneault (Cambrian Golden Shield) among the decided, and a handful of others expected to clarify their intentions in the weeks ahead.
Standing 5'6", the 18 year old graduate to be of Lasalle Secondary School took it upon herself to help open some doors. "I'm a little undersized, and because I am not 5'7" or 5'8", I don't get looked at as much," suggested Welsh. "I have to go out and be pro-active."
"In grade ten, I wanted to be pro-active and explore, so that's where recruitment camps come in handy. That was the first time that coaches showed interest with me." With plenty of experience as a setter with the Chill, Welsh is keeping her options open, positionally, as she readies for her first season of college volleyball.
"I would like to play as setter, I've worked so hard on my vertical to be able to compete against those 5'10" girls," said Welsh. "But my consistency is not there yet - my sets can be all over the place. In practice, I want to focus on defence and setting, and then I will definitely try and play libero, and setter, eventually."