Hays High School senior Lieacha Cook found the right fit athletically and academically at Bethel College and finalized a decision to join the Thresher soccer program Friday morning when she signed a letter of intent at the school.
“I think she’s a great fit for our college,” Bethel coach Tony Turini said.
“That’s one of the things I look for is character in a kid when I’m recruiting them. Everybody I’ve met at this school tells me what a great kid she is.”
Cook said she started playing soccer in fifth grade and started dreaming of earning a college scholarship in the following years. That dream became a reality Friday, and the Hays High senior was glad to put ink to paper.
“It feels really good just to know that my decision is already out of the way so I can just focus on my school and athletics for now,” Cook said.
She also considered Central Christian College in McPherson. She really liked the soccer program, but the academic offerings left something to be desired for Cook, who plans to major in physical education with thoughts of one day becoming a coach. While it can’t be said of all college athletes, the future Thresher takes her academics seriously.
“She’s probably one of the highest GPA and ACT scores we’ve had since I’ve been recruiting,” Turini said.
On the field, Cook has spent most her high school playing days in the back four. Turini is excited to see what she can become once she gets on campus.
“I think she’s going to be one of the most athletic kids we having coming in, in this class,” the Bethel coach said. “She’s very aggressive, and I think that’s the two main tools you need to start.”
Cook and Turini both said a change of positions is possible but staying in the back sounds most likely, and that’s what Cook prefers.
In addition to her assertiveness and athletic ability, Cook feels one of her strengths is her ability to remain calm under fire, an important trait for a defender.
“I think that I try to keep my cool with the team, especially when we’re down,” she said.
She added that her touch and foot skills need the most work before she takes on a faster and more physically demanding college game, but her future coach said that’s the case for most players making the leap from high school.
“I think the biggest thing she’s going to have to adjust to is the speed of play and the physicalness of play,” Turini said.
Cook will be reunited with one of her best friends and former teammate in Lacey Pfannenstiel when she gets to Newton. Pfannensiel helped make the first connection between Turini and Cook when Hays High played in McPherson a year ago.
“It was great because my best friend goes there, but in the end it was just kinda what I wanted,” Cook said. “I’m glad she’s there. It was a little factor (in my decision).”
In her final season with the Indians, Cook hopes to make a trip to state and win the Western Athletic Conference.