Skip To Main Content

St. Mary's Ryken student-athletes sign early to play college sports

Published by The Enterprise on January 25, 2019


Eight St. Mary's Ryken High School students signed their national letter of intent recently to play NCAA Division I and II sports.

The signers were Kaela Dothard (University of Hartford, basketball), Louis Tang (Virginia Military Institute, basketball), Abby Burke (Wingate University, N.C., lacrosse), Kyleigh Cox (Longwood University, Va., soccer), Gabbi Leach (Coastal Carolina University, S.C., soccer), Jessica Limerick (Indiana University of Pennsylvania, field hockey), Brandon Pierpont (High Point University, N.C., lacrosse) and Ryan Summy (High Point, lacrosse).

Dothard, a guard on the Knights' girls basketball team, will play Division I basketball for the Hawks in the America East Conference later this year. Hartford is currently 12-7 this winter.

"It's a huge weight lifted off my shoulders," said Dothard, the daughter of assistant coaches BeeJay and Sarah Dothard. "These coaches have been working so hard to get us a full ride to go to school, and having that lifted at the beginning of my senior year was a relief."

She added: "For me, when (Hartford head coach) Kim McNeill first called, and I talked to a few other coaches, I just got this feeling. I really liked her, she reminded me of (St. Mary's Ryken head) coach (Toyja) Somerville and that made me confident with her and then when I went on a visit to check out the campus, I fell in love with it immediately. That day I committed."

Finding the right school to play college sports is a dream come true for all of the students who signed early.

"I've been dreaming of playing Division I basketball forever," Dothard said. "That's always been my goal. I want to thank coach Somerville, my mom and dad, Wayne and Jay Somerville, John Somervile and coach Tony Miles. They all played a major role in my growth. They've always been there for me as people and coaches and lead me in the right direction and played a huge role in who I am today."

For international student Louis Tang, playing Division I basketball is something that he may not otherwise get the opportunity to do, being from Taiwan. Tang will play for a VMI team which plays in the Southern Conference. The Keydets are currently 7-12 this winter.

"I came here three years ago, and my first year, I went to the Virginia International Academy for Chinese students," Tang said. "Last year I came to Ryken and worked hard, and so I will be the sixth person from Taiwan to play Division I."

He added: "I can play in college and also get a good education. It's different for me because I'm from Taiwan, so not a lot of people can do what I did."

Pierpont is confident that he made the right choice to attend High Point to play Division I lacrosse.

The team, which plays in the Big South Conference, was 6-8 overall a season ago.

"Basically, it felt like a security," he said. "Everyone is worried about what college they are going to and the NLI was very easy. I know I'm going to go to a good school to do what I love. It's a safe choice. At the end of freshman year I thought I had a really good connection with the coach Jon Tortey."

Pierpont added: "Tortey is a hard working guy who pushes everyone in the program to do their best and he knows what to do to win. He wants to get the best out of every player there. When the coach relates something and he tells you it's a good thing to connect with him and have the same mindset if we share that we can both work toward the same objective."

Pierpont could not be more excited to pursue his dream of playing college athletics.

"The program is extraordinary and I want to be successful in lacrosse and the classroom, working towards a successful job to provide a safe home for my family and kids," he said.

Some students might be hesitant to make the jump from high school to college athletics, but Pierpont, who is used to playing lacrosse with the best players from the east coast leagues, is ready for the challenge.

"This is the first college that reached out, Dartmouth and Providence were also looking at me," Pierpont said. "I transferred from Gonzaga after my sophomore year, and that team had a lot of Division I prospectives and they send kids all over the country. The WCAC is a competitive league and we played a strong out of conference schedule, so they are Division I players. I'm not nervous and have a lot of experience."

Other students who signed will find the challenge of transitioning to college athletics a more grueling process, but regardless are excited for the new challenge.

"I'm just hoping to get some playing time and pass all the fitness tests the first go around," said Leach, who joins a Coastal Carolina team that was 8-8-1 overall last year. "I'm nervous, but I like the people in my class so I'm glad to go there, and it will be a big adjustment to play with other college players."

She added: "I'm most excited to graduate, to finish my last soccer season and having my coaches come out to the games. I will start my workout packet so I'm ready when I get there. It's a lot of running and lifting, trying to get us to prepare to play against 22-year-olds compared to 15- or 16-year-olds. It's a lot different than the workouts I'm used to."

Many of the athletes who signed early are eager to thank the coaches that assisted them on their path to success.

"Pete Staufenberger I only had this year helped me a lot," said Leach, referring to the St. Mary's Ryken head girls soccer coach. "But the main person who told me I should look at Coastal Carolina is David Mongey. And coach Tim Major (previous St. Mary's Ryken head coach) helped me grow a lot, but coach Pete got us there this year."

  • Boys Basketball
  • Boys Lacrosse
  • Field Hockey
  • Girls Basketball
  • Girls Lacrosse
  • Girls Soccer
  • NLI