By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Held in the Oxford High School Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, November 11, seven Wildcat student-athletes signed to continue their careers at the collegiate level.
The realization of years of hard work and commitment to their craft, these young women were joined by their parents, who have been with them every step of the way.
Brian Kim’s volleyball and Jackie Rank’s girls’ swimming and diving programs led the way with two signees each.
Kenny Allen’s softball program featured a signee, and two more student-athletes who compete in their sports outside of the high school, Kylie Rancilio and Jordan Spencer, also joined the festivities.
Beginning with the volleyball program, middle blocker Emma LaBarge will be traveling more extensively than any other signee, taking her talents to Angelo State University, a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II institution in San Angelo, Texas.
The Rambelles (Belles for short), compete in the Lone Star Conference, which is made up of 18 members from Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
“Emma is a really explosive blocker that gets off the floor very quickly,” Angelo State head coach Chuck Waddington said in a release. “She is extremely quick laterally and works hard to be a big blocking presence on the net. Her positive energy is infectious and will have a big impact on our program.”
The other young woman from Kim’s program to sign was outside hitter Molly Miller, who will be staying closer to home with the Madonna Crusaders. Located in Livonia, Madonna belongs to the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC), featuring 12 member schools from Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.
Transitioning to Rank’s program, Jenna Fistler signed with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A Division I school, the Panthers compete in the Horizon League, which also houses the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, and is made up of a total of 12 members from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
Amelia Knotts was the other member of the girls’ swim and dive program to sign, ready to attend Grand Valley State University in Allendale in fall 2021. The Lakers are a Division II institution, competing in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC).
The lone softball signee, Alexis Cardona, a second baseman, shortstop, and leftfielder, will be headed to Davenport University in Caledonia Township. Like Grand Valley State University, Davenport, whose athletic teams are known as the Panthers, resides in the GLIAC.
Kylie Rancilio became the first member of the Aquinas Saints’ 2021 women’s hockey class, coached by Lisa Brown-Miller. In addition to her exploits on the ice, Rancilio is a standout for Trevor Marshall’s lacrosse program at Oxford High School. During her hockey career, she has played for the USA Eagles and the Troy Lady Sting, where she served as a team captain.
“I chose Aquinas because of the atmosphere and the values it holds,” Rancilio said in a release on the Saints’ website. “Also, I am excited to play under Coach Brown-Miller, as she is a role model on and off the ice. I look forward to competing alongside the skilled group of players on this team.”
Located in Grand Rapids, Aquinas is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) school, who, like Madonna, is a member of the WHAC. With the WHAC not sponsoring women’s hockey, Brown-Miller’s young women compete in the Central Collegiate Women’s Hockey Association (CCWHA).
Jordan Spencer will contine her career in Buffalo, New York with the Canisius College Lady Griffins, a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). A goalkeeper, Spencer has played for the Michigan Hawks since 2014, and has played on the organization’s Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) team since 2017.
“Thank you for your hard work, dedication and setting an example of what an Oxford student-athlete represents,” Wildcat Athletic Event Coordinator Bryan Brandeberry said. “It’s been a pleasure for our Oxford Athletic Administration to watch you compete, and please remember, once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat!”
According to data from the NCAA’s official website, NCAA.org, nearly eight million students participate in high school athletics across the United States. Only about 7.3 percent (roughly one in 13) of these athletes go on to play at the collegiate level.
By Teddy Rydquist