MELISSA — A bumper crop of Melissa athletes — Aubrey Grantham, Jace Ingram, Sarah Weideman, Emma Schaeffer and Gillian Stopinski — signed national letters of intent on Wednesday, at Melissa High School.
Grantham, an all-district outside hitter on the Lady Cards’ 2017 district-champion volleyball team that advanced to the Area round of the playoffs, signed with Arlington Baptist University. The Patriots were 2017 national champions of the Association of Christian College Athletics.
Lady Cards soccer players Weideman, Schaeffer and Stopinski were all-district standouts on last season’s district-champion, regional-semifinalist squad. Weideman signed with Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Schaeffer with Ouachita Baptist University and Stopinski with Central Baptist College.
Ingram, a kicking specialist for Melissa’s undefeated district-champion football team that made a run to the state quarterfinals, signed with Navarro College.
“It’s been super satisfying,” Schaeffer said of realizing this goal. “I’ve been striving to play at the collegiate level almost all my life. Ever since I was little I wanted to do this. All my hard work has paid off. It’s a great feeling.”
Schaeffer said she plans to study biology at OBU before attending Occupational Therapy school.
“It’s a beautiful campus, a beautiful student body. I met some of the professors and it was amazing. It blew me away.”
OBU, an NCAA Division II school, competes in the Great American Conference.
“What always impressed me is how Emma can take the ball and beat defenders time and time again,” Lady Cards head coach Manuel Avila said. He also noted that Schaeffer is one of the top goal-scorers in Class 4A Region 1. “More important to me than anything else are the assists and the creativity she brings to the rest of the team,” he said. “That’s what’s going to make her successful at the next level.”
Schaeffer, Weideman and Stopinski are all captains on Melissa’s current undefeated team. Avila noted that over their careers as four-year starters they helped the Lady Cards to a 77-12-5 record, 197 goals scored and a 172-goal differential.
“You leave a legacy that is pretty amazing,” he said of the trio. “I wouldn’t trade you for the world. Thanks for making all this possible, all the great memories you’ve given us.”
“I’m very excited, especially about the college I chose,” Weideman said. “I’m so happy with decision with the coaches and the staff at the college. I’ll be able to study nursing there and further my faith. … I’m pretty proud and happy about it.”
NAIA-affiliated OKWU is a member of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“She’s been playing club soccer for quite a while,” Weideman’s father Mark Weideman said, “and she has been looking forward to this. I’m really proud of her and the achievement she’s attained here.”
“I was previously committed to another school but decided it wasn’t for me,” Stopinski said. “I believe that God led me to this school for a reason.” Stopinski said she particularly loved the school’s scenic location in Arkansas and the fact that it’s a small institution with religious principles. Stopinski plans to study pre-med there.
CBC is an NAIA school that competes in the American Midwest Conference.
“Over the years, Coach Avila has given me lots of advice, whether personal or on the field,” Stopinski said. “I’m going to take all of that with me. He’s been a really big help these four years, especially getting me acquainted with the girls since I moved here freshman year.”
“They have a really good academic program and their football team is good too,” Ingram said of what drew him to southward to Navarro. The school competes in National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) as a member of the Southwest Junior College Conference.
“I’m just really excited to see what God has planned for me, “Grantham said. “I thank my mom for everything. She gave her life for me. She moves mountains for me. And my brother [Brantley], he’s my father figure. They’re always there for me.”
“I love the Christian aspect of it,” Grantham said of 250-student ABU. “It felt like home.”
Grantham aspires to be special education teacher and also plans to study kinesiology and art.
“She is one of my favorite athletes of all-time,” Melissa head coach Frank DePaolo said. “Aubrey brought so much to our team last year, and lot more than just her volleyball skills. Her caring for each teammate was evident in everything she did and everything she said. She was never interested in stats on the individual level.”