15 student-athletes sign collegiate scholarships

Ashley Powers (left) and Molly Moroney high-five each other after they signed their contracts for Emory and Alabama.

Anthony Davis, Staff Writer

On three signing days over the course of four months, 12 senior student-athletes signed their national letters of intent to continue their athletic careers at colleges across the nation.

Molly Moroney signed to play soccer for the University of Alabama. Moroney, who plays outside back defender with the Concorde Fire as part of the Elite Clubs National League, played forward her freshman and sophomore years before switching to midfield. Last season, her teammates voted her as a team captain.

“She is extremely versatile and can fill many roles for us,” said John Bowen, girls varsity head coach. “In addition to being one of our fastest players, she sets the standard technically and tactically as well.”

Along with Moroney, Sarah Yoss signed with Presbyterian College in South Carolina. She plays outside and center midfielder for the Lady Panthers and her club team, AFC Lightning. Yoss has been a team captain for the last two seasons. Bowen said she “ is the glue that holds our team together. She leads by example and makes sure all other players are included and their voices are heard.”

Tylan Jones will play soccer for The College of Charleston. “Tylan plays many different positions and leads the team defensively along with contributing on attacks,” boys head soccer coach Mike Hanie said. “He has been selected as captain and does well at that responsibility. It is an honor to have him on our team.”

Two Panthers signed football scholarships. Mitchell Ray, who played outside linebacker this season, is headed to Point University.  “This was his first year at outside linebacker, and he excelled at the position,” head football coach Chad Phillips said. “He is a hard worker on and off the field.”

Ray plans to become a professional trainer if he doesn’t enter the NFL draft. “Football means everything to me,” Ray said.  “After starting off as third on the depth chart and then receiving a football scholarship is God’s work.”

Teammate Jason Akins signed to play for Florida A&M. Akins played all four years and started at offensive tackle. “Jason is a very physical player and hard worker,” Phillips said. “He was a critical role in the Panther offense and will be greatly missed next season.”

Wrestler Alex “Big Red” Ashley will attend the U.S. Naval Academy this fall. He has been wrestling since seventh grade, and according to his  coach Dennis Bogumill, Ashley has always shown promise. In his junior and senior seasons, Ashley won the heavyweight title in the 285 lbs. weight class. During his freshman and sophomore seasons, he was runner-up in the same weight class.

Ashley Powers, the only softball signee, is headed to Emory University in Atlanta. “She has been one of the best softball players to come through Starr’s Mill,” head softball coach Mark Williamson said. “She is a great all-around person and is a reliable hitter who can help her team in time of need.”

Point University chose Grace Beardsley as its first pick for its women’s lacrosse team. Beardsley, who has been team captain since her sophomore year, plays defense for the Lady Panthers. “Grace loves the game and her game sense has been crucial to her success,” girls’ lacrosse head coach Joseph Perrotta said. “She has a lot of heart and is a go-to player and key motivator for the team.”

Marco Amalfitano, a varsity lacrosse captain, recently committed to Mercer University. Amalfitano, who said he has played lacrosse since third grade,  has played varsity for the Panthers all four years. Mercer is a Division I  program that plays in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Amalfitano said he chose Mercer because “I love the team and the coaches, and the academics are highly regarded.” He said Mercer has been recruiting him since his freshman year.

Hailey Gollnick committed to Georgia Tech on a track and field scholarship. She runs the 3200- and 1600-meter races. She transferred here last year from Northgate High in Coweta County. She finished ninth in the state meet in the 3200 meters in 2013.

“Hailey has great endurance.  She is committed and sets high goals for herself,” head track and field coach Chad Walker said.

Tennis standout Erin Egoroff committed to Florida Tech, located in Melbourne. She has been a member of the Panther tennis team for three years.  “I wanted to go to Florida Tech because I like the coaches, the team, and the location,” she said. Egoroff has been playing singles and doubles positions for six years.  She said she looks to professional players Rafael Nadal and the Bryan brothers for inspiration.

Diane Enriquez, a starter at middle blocker for the Lady Panthers volleyball team, committed to University of North Carolina in Asheville. Enriquez, who describes herself as an energetic player, has been playing volleyball since she was 9 years old.

Enriquez, who said she enjoys the competitiveness of the sport, draws inspiration from Olympian and  U.S. gold medalist Kerri Walsh. Enriquez said she received offers from other schools, including the University of West Alabama, but chose UNC because  “it has a beautiful campus in the mountains and is a great school academically.”  She also said that “the coaches and the players are all she could have wanted.”

Andrew Bourg will attend the University of North Georgia in the fall on a golf scholarship. He said he received many offers from other schools including Emory, Mercer, LaGrange, and Georgia State. Bourg chose North Georgia because he liked the campus and the golf course. He has been playing golf since he was two years old and he says, “I started playing when I was two and my dad sort of got me into it,” Bourg said. “I enjoy the toughness of the game.”

The first among the signees to commit back in mid-November were two members of the baseball team. At 6-foot-8, lefty pitcher Ryan Avidano was almost unstoppable last spring courtesy of his 88-mile-per-hour fastball. He committed to the University of Georgia, a school he said he always wanted to attend.

In addition to his fastball, Avidano has a curve ball with a lot of movement, according to his head coach of more than four years, Brent Moseley, who helped him develop it. Avidano once racked up 13 strikeouts in one game during his junior year and hopes to beat his record this season.

Matthew Buckalew, a right-handed pitcher, committed to Georgia Regents University in Augusta. “I really liked this school because of its location and because they offered me a scholarship,” Buckalew said. He said he looks up to Avidano, a varsity teammate for the last two years.

One of Buckalew’s pitches is a 67-mile-per-hour splitter that he said he taught himself to throw.