Gracie Somers has signed an athletic-academic scholarship with West Virginia Wesleyan College. Others in the photo are, left to right: seated, Somers’ sister Ava Somers, mother Star Somers; standing, father Shelton Somers and East Carteret coach Antonio Diaz. (Contributed photo)

BEAUFORT — Gracie Somers said she always wanted to play Division II college soccer. The East Carteret senior will take her phenomenal scoring talents to one of the best programs at that level next fall when she joins West Virginia Wesleyan College.

“I’ve always wanted to play college soccer, as far back as I can remember,” she said. “And I’ve always wanted to play Division II.”

Playing Division I soccer, where it’s as much a job as a sport, didn’t appeal to Somers, which was fine seeing that her goal-scoring skills drew plenty of Division II attention.

At WVWC, she will play for a DII program that has been one of the best in the east region for nearly a decade.

The Lady Bobcats have gone 121-34-25 overall and 92-14-14 in the Mountain East Conference over the past nine years, winning both regular season and tournament titles in 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2018, and also winning the tournament in 2013. They went to the NCAA Tournament for six consecutive years (2013-2018), advancing to the Sweet Sixteen in 2014 and 2018, and finished ranked in the national Top 25 in three seasons (20th in 2014, 22nd in 2015, 15th in 2018).

“They’ve been good for a while,” Somers said. “I had never heard of them before they emailed me. I figured I would go somewhere in-state.”

She attended a college soccer camp at Wingate last summer and was soon contacted by West Virginia Wesleyan coaches. Concord University (W.Va.) and Guilford College coaches also reached out.

About a month later, she participated in a WVWC soccer camp and found she liked the campus, coach Richard Owens and the girls on the team.

“I knew pretty quickly that is where I wanted to go,” she said. “I was looking for a small school. And the distance didn’t bother me that much.”

The Buckhannon, W.Va. school features an enrollment of about 1,400 students and a teacher-to-student ratio of 13:1.

Somers wants to be a physical therapist and plans on majoring in exercise science.

“I just recently got interested in that,” she said. “A couple of girls on the team major in exercise science, so that will help.”

A week after participating in the WVWC soccer camp, the coach offered Somers a scholarship deal that was half athletic-half academic, and she accepted.

The Lady Bobcats will receive a player who has been an offensive machine for East over the past three years, totaling 75 goals and 23 assists.

“I’m happy for them because they are getting an outstanding player,” East coach Antonio Diaz said. “She makes it look so easy, so effortless, but it’s taken a lot of work and practices for her to be this good. She is one of the best players in our region.”

After scoring 18 goals in each of her first two seasons, Somers exploded for 39 goals last season. She pointed to overcoming an ankle injury and a position change as reasons for the huge increase in scoring.

“My freshman and sophomore years, my right ankle always hurt,” she said. “I had to wrap it every game. I kept spraining it, and it wouldn’t get better because I was always playing on it. I didn’t hurt it at all last year. And last year, I played forward more. I had played midfield some in previous years.”

Twenty-five goals in her upcoming senior season would give her an eye-popping 100 career goals.

“Her understanding of the game is big,” Diaz said. “She is very composed. She is ambidextrous. It’s amazing, she can shoot equally well with her left and right. She is great on free kicks, even from long range, and is great at penalty kicks. She is 100 percent in her career on those. Her reading of the game is extraordinary. She knows exactly how to position herself. She’s just a very smart player.”

Over the past three years, Somers has formed a dynamic duo with fellow senior Emy Cloutier who has signed with Catawba College. They are the third and fourth East girls soccer players, respectively, to ever sign scholarships.

“I’m happy for them,” Diaz said. “We’ve been lucky to have them for four years. Even as freshmen, they were putting up amazing numbers. They’ve stayed humble, kept working hard, never took it easy. As a coach, they are a dream come true. It’s special to send kids to the next level, and not just one, but two from the same class. It’s amazing.”

Somers and Cloutier are on pace to give East its best four-year run in school history. The Mariners are 37-27 over the past three years, visiting the fourth round of the 1A state playoffs in each of the past two seasons and the third round in 2017. They set a program record for wins in a season last year at 19-5. The previous record was 12 wins.

Last year’s team swept Onslow County 2A perennial powers Dixon, Southwest Onslow and Richlands in 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference play and defeated West Carteret for the first time in school history.

“I’m hoping to have another good season like we did last year, beating those teams we aren’t used to beating,” Somers said.

Somers and Cloutier have combined to produce 133 goals in three seasons, which accounts for 56 percent of the team’s total goals (238) during that time, and 43 percent (62) of the team’s total assists (146).

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