Soccer players travel south
In 2009, the soccer coaching staff sifted through letters and emails from prospective high school players looking to play for Georgia College in the coming years.
One email in particular caught the eye of Coach Hope Clark. It was an email from a student in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., looking to play for GC and asking Clark for a chance to see her shine at an exhibition in Las Vegas. Clark accepted, and she and the coaching staff flew to Las Vegas to see the young girl perform.
“We are willing to go anywhere we need to go to look at players,” Clark said.
At the showcase, the coaching staff watched the prospective player with great interest, but to no avail.
“When I went out there to go view this girl, I wasn’t overly impressed with her,” Clark said. “Who I was impressed with, however, was Ally Barys. As soon as I left the tournament, I contacted her and convinced her to come down here.”
Barys, now a freshman exercise science major from Ladera Ranch, Calif., was somewhat of a rarity on the recruiting circuit.
“We spend most of our time going to see students that contact us, because it is difficult to walk into a showcase or an exhibition and look at three to 400 teams and take a shot in the dark. That is really inefficient,” Clark said.
Barys says after the conversation with Clark and a visit she knew she what she wanted to do.
“Coach (Clark) and I struck up a conversation about the school, and then I did some research on my own to make sure the school fit me right academically,” Barys said. “I came to visit the school and just fell in love with it after I saw it.”
While Barys was recruited over several years, senior mass communication major Olivia Holden, from Fishers, Ind., made a last-minute decision to play at GC.
“My high school coach was friends with the old soccer coach (at GC) and I was originally going to go somewhere else, but I decommitted from there,” Holden said. “After that I was frantically looking around for schools when my parents said they were moving back to Georgia, and I decided to check out the school. I visited and fell in love with the school.”
Being from a military family, Holden had experience in living all over the country.
“We lived everywhere, even in Georgia for a year before moving to Indiana,” Holden said.
This experience still did not help with suffering from homesickness.
“During my freshman year I got so homesick that it would affect my performance on the field, but as time went on, I got more comfortable at the school and made more friends, so all that is behind me,” Holden said.
In her previous three seasons on the team, Holden was named to the Peach Belt Conference Gold Scholar list and the PBC Presidential Scholar list.
While out-of-state students are not rarities for GC, most recruits and prospective players come from the Southeast.
“Georgia produces great soccer players, but some of the players we need to make an impact may not be available in this state,” Clark said. “We check out states that have a lack of Division I opportunities, so they can play for a top Division II school in one of the most competitive divisions in the country.”
Both players have proved to be valuable assets for the team, with Holden being a regular team starter through her past three seasons, while Barys got herself onto the scoresheet in her first season, netting a hat-trick in a season game against the University of North Alabama on Oct. 8.
Both Holden and Barys cite living in the South as their favorite part about playing for GC.
“Everybody is so nice here,” Barys said. “If you pass people they’ll say hi to you even if you don’t know them. In California people just look down when they see you. It’s totally different.”