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Brendan Nance needed an outlet for continuing to play the sport of soccer.
Makala Brown wasn’t convinced she was talented enough to play soccer at the next level.
The academic structure appealed to right-handed pitcher Tyler Wells in his quest to continue his baseball career.
The trio of Hunt High senior athletes will be provided the opportunity to compete collegiately with Barton College of the NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas.
Nance and Brown earlier signed letters of intent, while Wells affixed his signature later Wednesday afternoon following a ceremony in the school theater — when seven athletes announced their collegiate athletic decisions.
Nance is age 18, while Brown and Wells are each age 17.
Wells is the son of Keith and Tina Wells; Brown is the daughter of Ricky and Tina Brown; and Nance is the son of Jamie and Angie Nance.
STAYING AT HOME
The 6-foot, 165-pound Nance, a midfielder-forward, selected Barton over Chowan, University of Mount Olive, Elon, University of North Carolina at Greensboro and University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
“It’s my hometown school,” Nance declared. “It feels good to be able to play for my hometown team. My friends go there. I will be playing with guys (Cooper Dean, Eric O’Brien and Mark Santes) that I have played soccer with since I was 4-years-old.
The four-year varsity performer at Hunt declares he’s joining a program that is “moving the right way.”
“They have got a new coach (Ian McMichael). He has won championships at Pfeiffer and has proven he does what to do and how to do it,” Nance explained.
The possessor of a 3.89 grade-point average, Nance plays to seek a degree in mass communications.
He cracked the Warriors’ starting lineup late in his freshman season and never departed. Along the way, he amassed career totals of 48 goals and 51 assists. Despite being besieged by injuries, Nance, an all-conference performer on a couple of occasions, managed a productive senior season. He played on conference championship teams as a freshman, sophomore and junior and, in his freshman season, Hunt advanced into the fourth round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs.
Nance place-kicked for the varsity football team his senior year and played golf as a sophomore.
“It’s something to be proud of,” Nance reflected on his Hunt career. “It’s sad we couldn’t have finished as strong as we would have liked. But at the end of the day, you have to be thankful for what you have.”
Hunt is currently searching for a new head coach and, with departed head coach Eric Nguyen not present, athletic director Jon Smith commented on Nance.
“He was the anchor of the soccer team, a coach on the field,” Smith commended. “He battled some injuries and still did a good job.”
Nance has begun preparation for his Barton career.
“I have to get bigger and stronger,” he assured, “and keep the speed of play as high as it can be.
“I hope to come in and make an impact on the team — whether it’s starting, playing or giving guys hard work at practice.”
The Bulldogs are scheduled to field their first football team in 2020. Would Nance consider attempting to place-kick?
“It will always be in the back of my mind,” he responded with a grin.”
He cherishes the hometown opportunity.
“To play in college has always been a desire for me,” Nance admitted. “But the big thing for me is that, wherever I went, I wanted to be financially supported well enough that it would not be a burden on my parents.
After after all these years of travel soccer, to just give it up seemed foreign. There has to be the next stop and Barton is where.”
APPROACHED BY COACH
Brown, a 5-foot-10 midfielder, was leaning toward attending Nash Community College. But following a youth soccer match, she was approached by Barton head coach Thomas Goines. In their conversation, Goines informed her that he wanted her on his Lady Bulldogs team. Brown visited him the next day and finalized plans to attempt to play collegiately.
“It feels really good,” she remarked. “I was excited. I always wanted to play college in soccer but I didn’t know if I was good enough..”
Brown then toured Barton, saying: “I loved everything about it, especially the small classes.”
The possessor of a 3.7 GPA, she plans to become a physical therapist.
Her four-year career at Hunt concluded with the Lady Warriors sharing the 3-A Big East Conference regular-season title with archrival Fike. A midfield stalwart, Brown contributed four goals and 10 assists, and was named all-conference.
“I’m guessing I will play defense at Barton,” she said. “That’s where I played when I started out. This year, I moved up to midfield.”
She summarized her Hunt career by commenting: “I loved it. I’m going to miss it, especially all the seniors I played with.”
Brown was hailed by a pair of her travel coaches in the absence of first-year head coach Richard Frazier.
“She is not only a good player but a good person,” Phil Long described.
Added Trent Dorough, a former Hunt coach: “She’s a wonderful player and has a wonderful personality. She’s always encouraging teammates and always there ready to play. I wish her the best of luck and know she will go on and do great things.”
Brown plans to ready for college soccer by “doing all the summer workouts they have planned” and, of first-year goals, responds: “Try to play a lot.”
The possessor of a 4.22 grade-point average, the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Wells will pursue a business degree in Barton’s honors program. Thus, Barton was his choice over Wake Tech.
Wells played two varsity seasons for Hunt, pitching in 11 games as a senior as compared to six as a junior. Primarily a starter who experienced a sensational outset to the season, Wells posted a 7-2 record and 2.64 earned run average. Mixing a fastball, curve ball and change-up, he threw approximately 800 pitches. Wells helped Hunt to a second-place finish in the regular-season and to the Big East Conference tournament championship.
“My batting wasn’t the best, but I helped my team out a lot when I was on the mound,” he contended.”
Noted Smith: “Tyler was one of the go-to guys on the mound. If he keeps improving like he has the last three years, the sky is the limit. I can’t say enough about his character. He is a good leader and a good teammate.”
Wednesday proved understandably exciting to the aspiring pitcher.
“I get to make my family and friends proud,” he said. “I want to thank my parents, friends and teammates.”
Whether starting or pitching in relief for the Bulldogs is of little concern to Wells.
“I need to just get stronger and develop at first,” he said. “Maybe by my sophomore year, I can possibly start. Just get better and, if I ever get a chance, make it count.”
His situation is proudly endorsed by his parents.
“We’re ecstatic,” his father, Keith Wells, exclaimed. “We are tickled to death he has a chance to go and play beyond high school.”