DWS goalie Katie Williams, center, was joined Thursday by, from left, coach Aly Joslin (standing), mother Kimberly, father Ben and brother Bo as she signed a soccer scholarship with Birmingham Southern College. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Deerfield All-State goalkeeper Katie Williams kept her emotions in check during a heartfelt signing ceremony Thursday with Birmingham (Ala.) Southern College.
Then she looked over and saw her mother, Kimberly, whose eyes were slightly red and puffy — and filled with oh, so much pride.
That’s when it started to sink in, and the waterworks for the Williams family women soon followed.
“It’s such a special day,” Kimberly Williams said through tears and a line of congratulations from fellow parents and Williams’ teammates. “We’re going to miss her, but she’s worked hard, made a lot of sacrifices and she deserves it. We couldn’t be more excited — or proud.”
Katie Williams, who helped lead the Lady Knights soccer team to the GISA Class AAA Final Four in her first year manning the net as an eighth grader — and then again last season as a junior — takes quite the resumé to Alabama, where she said she felt “at home” from the very first moment.
“Academically, it’s very small, personal (like Deerfield), and I really like the program and the coaches, who really made me feel at home when I went there,” said Williams, who has been an All-Region selection the last three seasons and made the GISA AAA All-State First Team last year thanks to her 10 shutouts and goals-against average of less than two. “As soon as I stepped on campus, I just had this good feeling. I knew this is where I wanted to go.”
Williams had several other offers from more prominent programs, third-year DWS girls coach Aly Joslin said, but chose BSC after attending a workout.
“The very next day after she left the tryout, the coach called her and said, ‘We need a great goalie, and we want you,’ ” said Joslin, who was beaming almost as much as his star goalkeeper was Thursday because Williams’ signing marked the first player he’s sent off to college during his tenure. “She came to me as a sophomore (when I took over the program) and said she was very committed.
“I knew right away her mentality was at a different level. Mentally, she’s strong and she stays involved, even during games when she’s not seeing any action back in goal.”
Williams has posted 37 career shutouts — a stat Joslin believes is a school record — although she said some of her more memorable games came when she allowed a goal or two, only to watch her teammates pick her up on the offensive end.
“My eighth grade year, when we beat Stratford, which has won multiple state championships, was pretty special. We beat them the first time, 7-1, then two more times that year, including to make it to the Final Four,” recalled Williams, who has helped DWS win three Region 3-AAA titles in four years. “Then last year I’ll never forget the quarterfinals against Holy Spirit up in Atlanta. We won, 5-2, but it was close until the end, and it was more about how we played as a team. I was so proud of myself and everyone in that win.”
BSC coach Benji Walton said he can’t wait to get Williams in goal when he announced the signings of the Deerfield star and five others on the school’s website this week.
“We are thrilled to add a keeper like Katie to battle in the net for us in 2012,” Walton said. “She is a fearless player that likes to be active off her line and doesn’t mind playing a bit physical, which is extremely important. I think her work ethic is what sets her apart. It’s my hope that her energy and excitement becomes contagious throughout the entire team.”
BSC, a Division III program, is on its way up — and will only get better with the addition of Williams. The Lady Panthers cracked the NCAA regional rankings for the first time in school history last year and finished their season 10-5-2 — one win from reaching the conference championship game.
“We have no hesitation about her going there. I think they accepted her quicker than she accepted them,” Katie’s father, Ben, said. “We feel very comfortable with her going there, and we can’t wait to go up there and watch her play.”
Williams can’t wait either.
“This day, it means so much. It’s what I’ve been working for my entire career. And while I still have my senior year to play, it’s nice to get this out of the way so I can help us focus on getting even further than last year,” she said. “It would mean so much to leave my team — the girls I’ve been playing with for years — on a winning note and do what no other (Deerfield team) has in history. And that’s to win a state title.
“Going forward, after (Thursday), that’s now the new goal.”