By Meredith Perri | firstname.lastname@example.org
on May 11, 2016 5:16 PM, updated May 11, 2016 5:28 PM
Maddy Stahelski, a junior midfielder on the Palmer girls soccer team and a member of the FC Stars of Western Massachusetts, committed to play Division I soccer at Sacred Heart University earlier this month.
“I’m so excited,” Stahelski said. “We’ve been going through this process, trying to talk to schools and visiting schools and emailing schools, having them come see me, for about a year-and-a-half now, but more seriously for a year now. I’m beyond excited to have made my decision.
Stahelski, who first played varsity soccer for the Panthers as an eighth grader, has served as one of the top players in the region for the past few seasons. She is a two-time All-State selection and earned All-Western Mass. first team honors each of the past two seasons.
During the fall, Stahelski led Palmer to a postseason berth, recording 17 points on eight goals and a team-high nine assists.
While Stahelski considered several Division I programs in New England — including the University of Rhode Island and UMass — Sacred Heart made its way to the top of her list in part because of its strong health sciences program.
“That was the first really big thing,” Stahelski said. “And then I visited four times and every time I loved it even more.”
During those trips to Sacred Heart, Stahelski also began talking with coaches and some of the players, including East Longmeadow native Alyssa Hyland, a freshman midfielder for the Pioneers.
“I loved the girls on the team,” Stahelski said. “They were so welcoming and they really told me about their experiences. I talked with the freshmen a lot. The coaches, I loved both of them.
“Everything just worked out great soccer-wise and school-wise.”
Stahelski will return to Palmer for her final year on the pitch as a Panther this fall, and will look to help her team earn its third consecutive trip to the postseason. Last October, she scored the only goal for the Panthers’ in their tie with Holyoke that qualified Palmer for the Western Massachusetts Division III Tournament.
During that final high school season, Stahelski will also look to supplement her speed and soccer knowledge by becoming more aggressive and stronger physically on the field.
“I just want to focus on the team and succeeding as a team,” Stahelski said. “Now that I know what I’m doing in the future, I just need to focus on improving every game and working as hard as I can.”
Stahelski credited part of her success to her FC Stars coach Ryan Lavner, and long-time Palmer coach Nick Marciano. She also expressed her gratitude toward her family and her teammates.
“I couldn’t have done this without my family’s support and help, and without my teammates’ support and help,” Stahelski said.