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Spotlight Beyond the Rapids

BHR Alumni Spotlight #1 - Taylor McCormick

1. Talk about your experience playing at USI.

Playing at a collegiate level has had a significant impact on my life. It has taught me never to give up and always work hard. Playing at USI, I gained 35 new friends and a lifetime of memories. From winning a GLVC Championship to bus trips, every experience has been unique. Throughout this experience, I have grown off the field in my work ethic, time management, and mental toughness. 

2. How do you think the Black Hills Rapids helped you to get where you are now?

The Black Hills Rapids helped me get to where I am today but preparing me for the college level. The coaches emphasized that the game would be a whole different level, and they were not lying along with helping me throughout the recruitment process. 

3. What is your favorite soccer memory?

My favorite soccer memory was winning the GLVC Championship in 2019. Each year our team continued to break records and grow as a team, so it was amazing to see all our hard work pay off. 

4. What advice would you give to youth players aspiring to play in college?

The advice I would give to youth players is to play whenever you can go somewhere or even just go outside. My other suggestion would be to go outside your comfort zone, college is competitive, and if you can play multiple positions, it will significantly benefit you. This also means going to those camps, emailing coaches, and putting yourself out there. 

BHR Alumni Spotlight #2 - Lexie Wood

1. Talk about your experience playing at USD.

I have absolutely loved playing soccer at the University of South Dakota. Playing here I had success right away. However, coming in freshman year I was told that since I’m from South Dakota, I play slower than girls that come from larger cities who face stronger competition on a regular basis. The summer before my freshman year, I focused on what I could control, and I worked extremely hard. That season I was one of the few freshmen that got to play and even started a few games.  My hard work payed off because the Summit League selected me to be on the all-freshman team.  Overall, playing at USD has pushed me to be a better person and has helped me grow up. Not only does playing a college sport drive you to be a better athlete, but also it drives you to meet the expectations of your coaches and teammates.  

2. How do you think the Black Hills Rapids helped you to get where you are now?

 Black Hills Rapids provided me coaching staff that were willing to go out of their way to help me succeed. The coaches I had as a little girl and high school player helped prepare me to play at the Division One level.  The club also helped me play with bigger teams then just the BHR so I could get more exposure to college coaches.  I can’t thank my coaches enough for the time and effort they put into me over so many years. 

3. What is your favorite soccer memory?

My favorite soccer memory was when I was a senior in high school, and I went to Colorado to train with the girls ECNL team. The girls that were going to be there were all committed to big division 1 schools, and I was not committed to play college soccer at the time. Coming into the training, I was told that the girls were going to be better than me, which excited me because that is an amazing opportunity to get better. I left training with the biggest smile on my face because I fit right in with everyone there. That was the moment I gained confidence in my play.

4. What advice would you give to youth players aspiring to play in college?

My advice to younger girls that want to play college soccer is to simply work hard. Stay after practice or come before. Always look for more training opportunities, the more practices the better, and who cares if you are older or younger then the group. Simply work hard and if you want it bad enough you WILL play college soccer. 

BHR Alumni Spotlight #3 - Savannah Ellender

1. Talk about your experience playing at Augustana. 
Playing soccer at Augustana University for the past 4 years has been a very positive experience for me and has had an impact on my life.  When I arrived at Augustana I began the process of learning what it was like to be a collegiate student-athlete and the hard work that is needed to do so.  My team and I spend hours each week in film, lifting, conditioning, traveling, and competing.  I have learned so much from my training and coaching staff and gained a family in my teammates.  I have become more confident in my abilities, leadership skills and am now a stronger person in many ways.  Overall, Augie soccer has taught me that it takes a lot of hard work to be successful, but it is definitely worth it.  

2. How do you think the Black Hills Rapids helped you to get where you are now?
The Black Hills Rapids organization has done so much for me over the years.  I have had so many amazing coaches who helped me develop my skills and become the player I needed to be to move on to the collegiate level.  Most of all, Black Hills Rapids gave me the opportunity to play at high level events across the country where I had exposure to college coaches.  This opportunity led me to my soccer career at Augustana University.  My BHR coaches were always happy to speak to college coaches on my behalf or send an email to help me out.  I would like to thank Dave Sharp, Doug Noyes Sr., Josh Valder, Andrew Conniff, Mark Morgan and all of the other Black Hills Rapids coaching staff who helped me along my journey.  

3. What is your favorite soccer memory?
I have so many amazing memories of my 14 years playing youth soccer.  Winning the Las Vegas Premier Invitationaland Real Soccer Showcase, traveling to St. Louis and Kansas for Regionals, and just spending time with my teammates are some of my favorites.  My favorite soccer memory is playing in the Snickers Cup in Sheridan, WY each year.  My family would take our camper and we would stay right at the soccer fields.  We would have cookouts after the games with the whole team and their families.  

4. What advice would you give to youth players aspiring to play in college?
I would advise players who want to play college soccer to keep working hard at every single practice and give 100% in every game…you never know who is watching you.  Reach out to college coaches as much as you can.  They love to hear from you, and this shows them that you care!  Get to know the coaches so that they know your face, not just your name.  Make personal connections with them.  I would also say to go visit the schools you are interested in and make sure that the team is one you could see yourself fitting in with.  I cannot stress enough that you have to start the recruitment process early.  I verbally committed to play soccer at Augustana University in January of my Junior year at Stevens High School.  This step takes so much pressure off because your decision is made, but it is really where your hard work begins.  Being recruited to play college soccer requires a lot of work and you need to be willing to put the time and effort in yourself.  Do not rely on your parents or your coaches to get the job done.  It is up to you!  Your hard work will pay off in the end and it will be worth it when you are playing soccer at the college of your choice.

BHR Alumni Spotlight #4 - Garrett Cole

1. Talk about your experience playing at Sheridan CC and SD Mines. 
 My experience playing at Sheridan CC and SD MInes has been great. From a young age I have always looked up to the SD Mines players and aspired to be a part of their program. I was fortunate enough to be recruited to play at Mines, as well as Sheridan CC. SD Mines was my first choice but when the ACT test posed to be troublesome for me and knowing I would redshirt as a freshman, Sheridan CC proved to be the best option for me at the time. Sheridan CC was a great experience for me as I got to start and play in every game in my freshman year, and still play against very tough teams. Sheridan acclimated me to the workload a college student sees and it elevated my play to a higher level, thus preparing me for SD Mines. I transferred to Mines in the fall of 2020 and have absolutely loved it, the players on the team have been awesome making it feel like a family. The competitive nature at practice amongst each other is one of my favorite things about Mines. Saying I am a part of the SD Mines soccer program gives me a great sense of pride and accomplishment, and I am excited to see what our spring season has in store for us. 

2. How do you think the Black Hills Rapids helped you to get where you are now?
 Black hills rapids have given me many opportunities I otherwise wouldn't have had. The 2000 age group boys was the team I played for and we got to experience new things and grow together, I am a firm believer that the harder competition you play the better you will become, being part of the Black Hills Rapids gave us the opportunity to do so. We traveled all over the U.S from Wisconsin playing in the MRL (Midwest regional league) to Las Vegas playing a team from bolivia. The Black Hills Rapids program really helped me become a more technical player as well as gave me a better sense for the game and created a competitive environment at practice which made us all want to get better. I was lucky enough to be coached by Dave Sharp and Mike Fairchild who kept our team together up until we all left for college which was awesome to be able to play competitively all the way up to when we all left. 

3. What is your favorite soccer memory?
 My favorite soccer memory would be playing in the MRL(Midwest Regional League), getting to travel across the midwest with my teammates most of the time driving 10+ hours to our destination. We got to play top ranked teams in the nation and gained a lot of experience from it.  

4. What advice would you give to youth players aspiring to play in college?
My advice would be to always work hard, a practice lost is one you will never get back, the more time and effort you put in the better results you will see. Keep your grades up, Reach out to coaches, and don't be afraid of failure.