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Emily Chiao, Midfielder, Scottsdale Blackhawks
Playing in big games is nothing new for Emily Chiao as she helped lead her Scottsdale Blackhawks 00 Girls team to the US Youth Soccer National Championships this past summer where she was named to the U-17 Girls Best XI Team.
Now, she’ll look to replicate the same success at Stanford as the women’s team has earned an NCAA Tournament Appearance in 16 consecutive years.
“I am looking forward to playing alongside some of the top players in the county,” Chiao told AYSA. “The quality of soccer is outstanding, as many of the Stanford Women's soccer team players have National Team experience. I enjoy the challenge of competing at the highest level because I know I will improve as a player.”
Soccer isn’t the only reason Chiao committed to Stanford. Academics and the campus left a positive impression on her.
“I chose to commit to Stanford University because academics are my top priority. Stanford is well known for its prestigious education, and it is considered to be one of the top colleges in the United States. After visiting the school, I knew Stanford was the perfect fit for me because I aspire to expand my knowledge at this great university.”
Chiao, who has played for Blackhawks for 10 years, credits her coaching for the success she has already achieved.
“My coaches Andy Chapman and Paul Taylor have both laid the foundation of my skills and developed my understanding of the game. They have pushed me to become a better player each time I step on the field. I am grateful to be a part of this club, and I appreciate everyone who has helped me get to this point.”
Lauren Ballinger, Defender, Tucson Soccer Academy
Commitment: Idaho State University
Finding the right balance between athletics and academics at the collegiate level can always be a tricky find. However, Lauren Ballinger was able to find a program that offered everything she was looking for.
“I love the coaching staff, they are amazing and so supportive. They love the game and they bring the love for the game out of you. The coaches are so passionate about making their team great while still having fun and I wanted to be a part of that,” Ballinger told AYSA. “Second, the team is so welcoming. They are a big family and that's what I wanted out of my college playing experience. Third, they have exactly what I want to study, which is physical therapy, and the coaches put such an emphasis on how important school is, so it was a perfect fit.”
Ballinger, who led her Salpoint Catholic High School squad to a 4A Arizona State Championship last year, will also be looking to replicate that success at Idaho State University.
“I'm looking forward to bringing a Big Sky Championship back to ISU, as well as a trip to the NCAA tournament.”
For now, Ballinger will be spend her 10th year at TSA and will look to defend her school’s state championship.
Annika Sandstedt, Defender, Legacy
Commitment: Texas Women’s University
With the intent to pursue a health sciences major, Legacy’s Annika Sandstedt used that as a baseline while searching for the right program.
“I picked Texas Women's because it has great academics, especially in its health sciences, which is the field I'm hoping to enter,” Sandstedt told AYSA.
Sandstedt has played 10 years for Legacy and she credits what she has learned at the Chandler club with helping her prepare for the college level.
“Legacy taught me a lot over the years. Like how to be a teammate and friend. How to be responsible and trustworthy. Legacy has taught me how to set goals while learning the determination and commitment it takes to reach them. I want to thank each and every one of my coaches for the impact they have had on me.”
While Dallas may be a bit of a drive, the two-hour plane trip didn’t deter her as she added, “it’s not too far from family and friends.”