When one leaves behind a legacy that indicates great pride in the work that he or she put in over a four-year high school career as a student-athlete, the result is one that usually leads to plenty of opportunities down the road.
As part of the very first four-year varsity class to come through the Wheelersburg girls soccer program in school history — and as a captain of a unit that ultimately made back-to-back OHSAA Division III Regional Tournament showings as an upperclassman — Lady Pirates’ defender Sydney White proved herself as a student-athlete that coaches should take a flyer on because of the work that White put into serving her role on a program that has grown rapidly over her four-year career at Wheelersburg.
And as a result, success met success.
Aubrey Sherman’s Shawnee State University women’s soccer program, which sits just 11 miles from Wheelersburg’s home base and has grown significantly since Sherman took over the program in 2016, saw the evident talents of the local product at an SSU tryout last fall and wasted no time offering the defensive standout a scholarship, which White eventually signed onto on Friday afternoon in a signing ceremony held at Wheelersburg High School in front of the very people that helped White get to this stage in her life — her family, friends, and coaches.
“I’m very proud of Sydney,” Wheelersburg head coach Todd Jarvis said. “She’s worked hard. She’s one of our first four-year players, and she had talked about trying to play soccer in college, but didn’t know for sure. We just continued to try and work to develop her, and I’m glad that she’s found a home and developed enough that Shawnee State was interested in her. I’m very proud to see her go and represent the Lady Pirates and herself at the next level.”
However, White believes that her success wouldn’t be possible without the formation of the Wheelersburg girls soccer program and the implementation of the standards and guidelines that Jarvis, Kevin Powell, and Mollie King have helped establish.
“It’s definitely been great being able to be at the start of the program for the first four years,” White said. “Being able to have a hand in building this program has meant more to me than I could ever imagine, and being able to leave the program in the hands of some great coaches and some great underclassmen that I helped definitely means a lot to me.”
During her four-year career with the Wheelersburg girls soccer program, White proved to be a vital cog to the Lady Pirates’ foundation from Day One.
In her freshman season, Wheelersburg ultimately scored victories over Northwest (2-0), Fairland (6-2), and Chesapeake (5-2) to score three wins in the first four games ever played in the history of the program. White ultimately accumulated four goals and two assists en route to placing fourth on the unit in total points (10) as the Lady Pirates ultimately finished 8-6-1 in its first season as a girls soccer program.
Since that time, Wheelersburg, with the help of White’s direction as a four-year starter — and a two-sport athlete at that, with the senior also participating in swimming — hasn’t looked back. Over the last three seasons, the Lady Pirates ultimately accumulated a 46-4-7 overall record, and, after being bounced in the sectional finals in each of White’s first two seasons as a varsity hand on the roster, advanced all the way to the Division III Regional Semifinals in each of the last pair of seasons of her varsity career.
“It’s a compliment to players like Sydney that believe in the Wheelersburg program and are willing to come out and support this program,” Jarvis said. “They don’t know what to expect. Attitudes like Sydney’s are ones that ultimately make us successful. We have an burgeoning class of eighth graders that are going to be freshman next year and are showing a lot of interest in the program because of the sacrifices that the girls made, which includes Sydney. It’s great to see the program develop. We’re still in that mode. It’s good to see the numbers, and it’s great to see the recognition that we get beyond four years.”
Much of that success has come, in large part, due to White’s unselfishness and ability to perform wherever asked.
After scoring 10 points in not only her freshman season, but her sophomore campaign — coming off of two goals and six assists in the latter effort — White took on a more extended role defensively and helped the Lady Pirates post goals against average (GAA) marks of 0.85 and 0.80 in her junior and senior seasons after Wheelersburg gave up a 1.29 goals against average mark during her sophomore campaign in 2015.
Those marks were certainly more than enough to allow White — who finished with 29 points (nine goals, 11 assists) over her career — to obtain All-SOC honors during each of her final three seasons as a girls soccer hand with the Lady Pirates, in addition to a 2017 Division III All-Southeast District nomination.
“She was a vocal leader,” Jarvis said. “She did a great job of getting the girls prepared and keeping their spirits high. She was the first one to go to work and the last one to leave. She worked as hard as anybody and led by example, so she was an absolutely great leader.”
“My personal goals are important to me, but the most important thing is those girls and how they carry the team,” White said. “Being their leader and their captain this past season was a huge deal to me.”
One of White’s best efforts, as a matter of fact, came in a Sept. 12 matchup against Waverly — a matchup that later proved to be critical in Wheelersburg’s efforts to run the table in conference play. With the Lady Pirates trailing by a 2-1 margin a little over 20 minutes into the initial conference affair between the two programs, White took on the primary duties of stopping the outstanding duo of Zoiee Smith and Loren Moran, and successfully did so as Wheelersburg ultimately outscored Waverly 6-1 over the game’s final 58 minutes of play.
“Sydney was determined,” Jarvis said. “She played a huge role for us, and was a big difference maker in several matches. I know specifically that we were at Waverly, and we struggled a little bit in the beginning. However, Sydney was resolute and she found the internal fortitude to make some changes. She was a huge part of that. The first half and the second half were two different teams, and a part of that was because of what she did, the mindset she took on, and the leadership that she showed as a captain.”
At Shawnee State, White will get to play for arguably the most improved program in the entire Mid-South Conference as the Bears improved from a 6-7-2 overall mark to a 10-6-2 record from the 2016 campaign to the 2017 season — its largest win jump from one year to the next over the current decade. Shawnee State does lose two critical scoring hands in Maddie Woodard and Jenny Campbell — who combined for 68 of the Bears’ 122 points in 2017 — but everyone else, including star goalkeeper Michaela Garner, returns to add to a deep roster that will still be chalk-full of talent.
“I follow Shawnee on a regular basis,” Jarvis said. “What a treat it was to see them have success. I know that they’re under some new leadership down there, and the coaches (Aubrey Sherman and Ashley Meier) have done an excellent job building the numbers up. Hopefully, that all translates to continued success for the Bears.”
White, meanwhile, will only add to that talented depth on the defensive side of the pitch — although the Wheelersburg standout says she is open to filling any need or playing any position necessary on the field.
“I believe that they will expect that out of me, but I’m willing to work hard and try to play anywhere that they need me,” White said. “Defense is definitely one of my strongest suits.”
With her athletic decision and her career path (physical therapy) set in stone, White is simply ready to focus on what is left of her final four months inside the Wheelersburg umbrella.
“It is definitely a blessing to have it all done and over with,” White said. “It’s nice to know that this coming fall, I’ll be playing for the Shawnee State women’s soccer program.”
However, Jarvis knows that White, as she has proceeded to prove throughout her life, won’t be a stranger to success when the senior steps on the Shawnee State campus this fall as a student-athlete under the Bears’ umbrella.
”Sydney’s a great kid, a fine young lady, and a good student,” Jarvis said. “We were merely the beneficiaries of that, and it’s that approach that will help her in life. It’s good to see her have success on the soccer field.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT