Lauren Mayros has said that she hopes the attention she received from playing defense on a soccer field might make playing defense cool for those who follow her at River Ridge.
After all, it was cool enough to earn her two All-North Suncoast player-of-the-year designations, a spot on the all-state teams, and a position with the Tampa Bay Heather club team, one of the nation's best.
Coaches noticed. Coaches begged. Coaches made offers.
Mayros has finally accepted one, orally committing to play next season for Emory University in Atlanta, proving that it's also cool to get good grades.
"We're definitely excited about her joining the program," said Emory coach Michael Sabatelle. "We have a very deep team and we have incredible diversity in the recruiting class."
After months of hand-wringing over what school she would attend, Mayros will wear blue and gold and be an Eagle. She picked Division III Emory over schools like American and Virginia Commonwealth, turning away at least five solid scholarship offers and a dozen other inquiries.
"It's Division III and I turned down about three Division I schools, but once I got past that I saw that I'd be really happy there," Mayros said. "I get the best of both worlds, academically and athletically, and I'm really excited."
Mayros has selected one of the top 10 academic schools in the country according to U.S. News and World Report. In last year's Sears Athletic Director's Cup, given to the schools with the best overall sports programs and the best academic programs, Emory was one of only two schools picked in the top 10 of both. The other? Stanford.
"She has the full package of academics and athletics," Sabatelle said. "We present an opportunity for students to experience a well-rounded four years, and that may have been one of the contributing factors (in Mayros' choosing Emory)."
So was the soccer. The Eagles return all but two players from a 10-7-1 team that advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament for the third straight year and fourth out of five.
They compete in the University Athletic Association with nine "private, research-oriented institutions," Sabatelle said, a list that includes the University of Chicago, New York University, Johns Hopkins, Washington University in St. Louis, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Rochester, Brandeis University and Case Western Reserve University.
And the Eagles get better with Mayros, a sweeper who led River Ridge to a 15-5-2 record this season with 13 shutouts. She is currently playing for the Heather, which is readying for the summer run of state, regional and national tournaments.
"She definitely has the potential," said Sabatelle, who also coaches the Atlanta Classics in the W-League. "She's playing on an amazing team with great players."