Transitioning from high school to college for most students is a learning process and leaves the door open for many uncertainties to come. For athletes specifically, it’s about where your skill level is and what type of opportunities stem from personal ability.
There are three divisions in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Maintaining a certain level of talent will help a student-athlete place further educational institutions within striking distance. In a simplified manner, in college, the choice is yours.
One key factor in the college decision process is indeed how far prospective campuses are from a student’s hometown. In proximity to each other, Keene High School and Keene State College are located minutes from one another by vehicle. This leaves a pending question for many residents on the college search: do I stay this close to home?
KSC sophomore Kaleb Lique-Naitove asked himself that common question. Lique-Naitove is a Keene High School graduate who has lived in or around Keene the majority of his life. He is currently one of two KHS graduates on the 2012 KSC men’s soccer team.
When he was younger, Lique-Naitove had mixed feelings about attending KSC for many reasons. One of those reasons being location. “I definitely considered it when I was really young,” Lique-Naitove said. He added, “But as I grew older I developed that Keene ideology of ‘I want to get out of here and move away.’”
It isn’t uncommon for Keene High School student-athletes to choose KSC as a place to continue education and sport, but it certainly isn’t the norm.
According to KSC Sports Information, only eight out of 146 rostered fall athletes at Keene State are graduates of Keene High School. Lique-Naitove said that one reason might be the high school students’ false perception of the college.
“Since going here I’ve talked to a couple kids at KHS,” Lique-Naitove said. “Keene offers a quality education at a cheaper rate than others, and athletically we are top of the line Division III.”
KHS Athletic Director Leslie Farmer said she agrees with the notion that Keene is a more affordable option and that the education is top notch.
Farmer, who has been connected with KHS since 1990, has coached athletes that have carried on their careers to KSC. According to Farmer, she coached Erin Dallas at KHS, a two-time All-American for KSC field hockey.
She also said that a lot of KHS athletes might not go to KSC because they aren’t heavily recruited despite being so close. “It’s almost as if it’s too close,” Farmer said about the lack of recruitment.
KSC Owls volleyball coach Bob Weiner said that he hasn’t recruited much out of KHS, but for valid reasons. Weiner, however, has had his hands tied when it comes to KHS volleyball.
He’s had to battle with the fact that the closest off-season club team for women’s high school volleyball is nearly an hour away. Weiner said that over nine years of coaching at KSC, there have been rare occurrences of Keene High School players trying to ‘walk-on’ the team.
“The girls aren’t getting the practice that they need for off-season development,” Weiner said. “This has left me with little to do in recruitment at Keene High.”
Even with the belief of minimal recruiting, Lique-Naitove isn’t the only soccer player who transitioned from Alumni Field to Owl Stadium.
His teammate, freshman Rushane Kelly, is a fellow product of KHS, along with women’s soccer players, sophomore Kristen Huckins and freshman Shannon Summers who also stayed local.
“It was always a possibility to attend Keene State because it was always right there,” Summers said. “I wasn’t looking to go far away at all with all my school choices being in New England.”
Summers, born and raised in Keene, said she wasn’t overly recruited by the Owls women’s soccer coaching staff but she was recruited nonetheless.
“She [Coach Denise Lyons] had seen me over the years at Keene High and the Keene State soccer camps that I did. With that, I was invited to preseason.”
Summers said she was not heavily influenced to attend KSC by her previous high school coaches.
Lique-Naitove said his high school coach simply laid options out on the table for him and reiterated what was mentioned by the Owls coaching staff during recruitment. Lique-Naitove stressed that the selling point was the competitiveness of the athletic programs at KSC in contrast to other schools he was looking at.
Lique-Naitove said, “It came down to St. Anselm and Keene State in the end.”
He added, “It was appealing knowing I could come to a competitive school, look forward to the NCAA tournament and possibly compete for a title.”
According to KSC Sports Information, since joining Division III in 1997, the men’s soccer program has made ten NCAA appearances. In addition, following the 2011-2012 school year, KSC as a whole had been awarded the Commissioners Cup by the Little East Conference for the twelfth consecutive time.
KSC is the only LEC team to ever win the cup since it was introduced. According to the Little East Conference, the award is given to the top athletic program.
For Shannon Summers and Kaleb Lique-Naitove, it’s all very similar; both find themselves playing college soccer almost in the neighborhood of where they grew up.
However, Summers said she didn’t have the chance to play her high school senior night game on KSC turf. It is a tradition that the high school seniors play their most recognizable games of their young careers on the big stage.
Now they’re on the big stage day-in and day-out. Lique-Naitove recalls his memorable senior night games regardless of it being sophomore or senior year.
“It’s being on that field and being on that stage and having everyone come to the game,” Lique-Naitove said. “It was always a night to remember.”
These athletes now get to experience playing on that stage multiple times per season.
Brian Schnee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org