College soccer scholarship caps Bobcat’s rapid rise
Shae Sawalich hadn't spent much time thinking about future plans when her club soccer team participated in an October tournament at Heritage Park in Olathe.
The senior defender was unaware that this tournament would change everything.
That evening she was unexpectedly offered a scholarship.
Wendy Louque, an assistant coach from Johnson County Community College, was at the tournament scouting a girl from a rival team Sawalich was competing against.
The coach saw something in the tenacious defender from Basehor-Linwood. Not much time was wasted. Coach and college hopeful began talking soon after the game. Interest was expressed.
That evening a scholarship offer was made over the telephone.
Sawalich took a campus tour in November and made her decision in December. She was the newest BLHS athlete headed to JCCC.
What did Louque see that caused the swift offer?
"Just being able to shut down some forwards on the other team, that's what she said," Sawalich said. "She said she liked how aggressive I was."
Sawalich's club team offered her good opportunity to shop her services. Trips to Texas and Florida brought a bevy of college scouts. Sawalich received strong interest from Lyon College in Arkansas, a four-year NAIA school.
"Lyon was very persistent in mailing," Sawalich said, adding that she had interest from other schools as well.
Sawalich made her decision early, choosing not to prolong the recruitment process.
"It was pretty much decided before soccer season that I was going (to JCCC)," Sawalich said. "(Coach Kevin) Vincent had talked to some other college teams, but I had already decided to go to JCCC by that time."
Sawalich was eventually swayed by the confidence the JCCC coaching staff showed by quickly offering a scholarship.
"It was a little overwhelming," Sawalich said. "I was excited but at the same time I had a lot laying on me because other colleges were calling me. For them to come right out and offer it, that was a deciding factor."
Sawalich's transformation from soccer novice to scholarship-receiving athlete was swift. She only began playing the sport during her junior year. She made second-team KVL in her first season and improved to first-team this season.
Sawalich will receive full tuition for two years as well as $500 for books. She will live at home, making her first two years of higher education gratis.
"I think that was one major consideration, saving money," Sawalich said. "But my parents left it completely up to me. It was my decision."
Sawalich hasn't spoken yet with JCCC coach Jim Schwab about her specific role on next year's Lady Cavalier squad. She was told that the team lost several sophomore defenders.
"We haven't talked about that yet," Sawalich said. "Wendy talked a little about it. She sees me making an impact on the team and she is happy to have me as a defender. She obliviously had a lot of confidence in me. Probably more than I had at the time. I haven't been playing for very long."