Painter chooses Berry College as her next step up the ladder for soccer, education - News-Times: Sports

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Painter chooses Berry College as her next step up the ladder for soccer, education

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Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2016 11:45 pm

MOREHEAD CITY — With an undergraduate animal science degree locked squarely in her sights, West Carteret’s Blair Painter has decided to attend and play soccer at Berry College. 

The NCAA Division III program in Rome, Ga., is known for its 90-percent acceptance rate for students seeking to pursue a veterinary graduate degree, a key reason in Painter’s decision to attend.

The soccer part of the equation came later after the Patriot senior had already decided this was going to be her new home.

“I actually wasn’t planning on playing soccer up there,” Painter said, “but I spoke to the soccer coach, and he asked me to come to an ID camp and convinced me to keep playing.”

“Throughout this whole thing – school soccer, club soccer, showcases – Blair has had her eye on the ball when it comes to academics,” Painter’s father, John, said. “She loved soccer and she wanted to play, but it was way over here, and I commend her for that.”

Painter didn’t even know about Berry until a few months ago. She only just visited the campus in April. 

“She had pretty much decided N.C. State was the place she was going,” Painter’s mother Debbie said. “We told her she needed to look for at least one other option, so we Googled it and stumbled across Berry. We were looking for something small, something different.”

Add to that, Berry was one of the few places close to home that offered such a competitive pre-veterinary program. 

“Because she wanted to be a vet, it became very streamlined where she could go to school,” Painter’s father said. 

“Veterinary school is the most competitive graduate school, more competitive than medical school or law school,” Painter’s mother, Debbie, said. “Where you get your undergraduate degree, how you get it and how well you did with it all comes into play. That kind of narrowed down where she could go to school. She wanted animal science to be her specific undergraduate field, so the options were limited.”

Hooked by the incredibly scenic photos of campus and the allure of attending a small but top-tier college, Painter applied without blinking. She was accepted into the honors program and visited just a month ago, falling deeper in love with the atmosphere of the college nestled in the northwest Atlanta suburb at the foot of Johns Mountain. 

“I’m incredibly excited,” Painter said. “I didn’t think I would be this excited about going to college until I got accepted to Berry and took the tour.”

The top-tier student with a 4.3 grade point average will fit right in at a school where the different sports brag about which has the highest collective GPA. It’s that seamless blend between academics and sports that really sold Painter on becoming a Viking. After touring the campus and sitting in on a few different classes, her parents put the question to her.

“Before she met with the soccer coach, we asked her, ‘What’s you gut feeling?’” Painter’s father said. “‘Before talking to him, what do you think of this place?’ She said, ‘This is where I want to go to school.’”

Soccer may have been the backseat reason for attending Berry, but make no mistake, the Vikings are getting a quality player, a fact that didn’t escape  head coach Lorenzo Canalis.

“Their coach said, ‘You’re the student-athlete Berry College wants. You’re exactly what we want,’” Painter’s father said.

Painter has excelled with two different regional club programs – the Onslow Classic Soccer Association in Jacksonville and Coastal United in New Bern – as well as being a lynchpin for the Patriots’ program. In the last two years at West, she has combined for 10 goals and two assists as a midfielder. Her overall contributions, however, go far beyond the stat sheet.

“She’s just a fantastic player,” Coastal United Director of Coaching Dan Mowry said. “She’s one of those players that has those additional traits that you look for as a coach. You could ask something of her, and without a blink, she would go out and do it and do it well. She’s always been a rapidly evolving player. She doesn’t like to be stagnant. I think that’s going to serve her well as a college player and a college student-athlete.”

Painter played for Coastal United as a 14-year-old and continued through playing for the U-17 team. 

“It was a little bit younger in her career, but even at that age, she had already set her sights on becoming a better player and continuing to play soccer at a higher level,” Mowry said.

After that experience, she played for OCSA, getting direction from coaches Kirk Peterson and Neva Turner. Peterson was Painter’s head coach two years ago, replaced by his assistant Turner last season. 

“She is tenacious and after the ball,” Turner said. “She’s also worked on her touch the last couple of years and really improved on that. She sees the field much better now than she did when she first came to us.”

“Definitely her athletic ability,” Peterson said. “She’s got the speed, the talent, and she battles. All she does is get after it. She doesn’t stop. She’s a machine out there.”

Painter’s athleticism will be a major factor in where Canalis chooses to utilize her. She already has an idea on where she might play.

“I feel comfortable anywhere on the outside, and that’s where he said he’s going to utilize me,” Painter said. “I’m happy to go anywhere I’m needed.”

Painter’s time as a Patriot came to an end on Thursday when West, seeded No. 19 in the 3A state playoffs, lost a tight 2-1 battle with No. 3 Corinth Holders in the second round after surprising No. 14 Cleveland 7-1 in the first. 

“I’m super bummed (to have the season end),” Painter said. I have really enjoyed playing as a Patriot. I have loved being around the soccer community, the coaches and all of my friends. It’s been a great experience.”

West reached the N.C. High School Athletic Association tournament after finishing the regular season 10-8-2 overall and 6-5-1 in the Coastal Conference. 

Last season, the Vikings finished 10-6-1 overall and 4-3 in the Southern Athletic Association with 19-year coach Canalis at the helm. Berry has gone 292-107-29 (.716) in 19 years with Canalis as the winningest coach in school history. In that span, the Vikings have won one Georgia Athletic Conference title, six TranSouth Conference titles and five NAIA regional crowns. Berry has also appeared in seven NAIA national tournaments with a program-high third place in 1997. 

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1 comment:

  • HRP posted at 5:43 am on Mon, May 16, 2016.

    HRP Posts: 3

    Congratulations, Blair! We are so very proud of you. Good luck in college and may the Lord bless your academics and your athletics. We love you! [smile]


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