AURORA | Two key cogs of the Grandview girls soccer team’s back-to-back Class 5A state championship run finalized long-standing commitments Wednesday on National Signing Day.
Defenders Taylor Parker and Jessica Hixson signed their National Letters of Intent with the University of Utah and the University of Denver, respectively, getting that out of the way with just a few weeks left before the start of their senior seasons.
The duo was part of a morning ceremony at Grandview that included football players signing as well, in addition to others who had previously signed in other sports. Nearly 90 student-athletes from Aurora schools were honored on national Signing Day. (Full list of Aurora signees/honorees, here).
Parker gave her verbal commitment to the Pioneers during her sophomore season, then earned first team All-Centennial League and All-Aurora honors in both seasons as she helped coach Tari Wood’s Wolves win consecutive 5A titles. Parker also is a standout with the Colorado Storm club program.
Denver lost in the Summit League semifinals in 2016 and finished 8-9-2 overall.
Hixson — also a Colorado Storm player — transferred to Grandview before her sophomore season and has been outstanding on the back line, as she’s also garnered first team All-Centennial League and All-Aurora accolades in each of the past two seasons.
Her ability to serve and finish on set pieces has given Hixson totals of 17 goals and five assists with the Wolves and 34 goals and 13 assists including her freshman season at Rangeview, where she played primarily in the midfield.
“Jessica is a big, strong player,” Utah head coach Rich Manning said in a statement on the school’s website.
“We noticed her long passes, shots, tough tackles and aerial presence right away,” he added. “As we watched more and asked more about her, we also saw and heard about her good touch and soccer mind. She can play multiple positions and will bring a physical presence.”
Utah finished 13-4-5 in the 2016 season and the 23rd-ranked Utes made it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before a 1-0 loss to No. 7 USC.
Not included in the ceremony was Grandview’s leading scorer from 2016 in Nicole Lyubenko, a midfielder who graduated a semester early and is already getting acclimated to life at the University of Alabama.
Parker and Hixson are part of a huge number of Division I girls soccer signees from Aurora that also includes Smoky Hill’s Emily Goodson (Creighton), Brittney Lewis (University of Denver) and Brooke Sosa (University of Idaho); Regis Jesuit’s Karli Eheart (Colorado State), Gabby McWilliams (Santa Clara) and Sydney Pulver (Washington State); Cherokee Trail’s Rebekah Burton (University of Montana) and Hannah Edwards (Grand Canyon University), Eaglecrest’s Rylee Atteberry (Coastal Carolina University) and Hinkley’s Teaggan Ilela (Alabama State, story here).
Another soccer player from Grandview — who didn’t play for the Wolves — also signed in goalkeeper Jennica Johnson, a Colorado Storm club player who is headed to Nebraska Wesleyan.
Johnson joins a Division III program that finished 7-11-1 in the 2016 season.
Grandview volleyball players Raychel Reed and Marina Schlaepfer were also honored for their signings with Hutchinson Community College (Hutchinson, Kansas) and Caldwell University (Caldwell, New Jersey), respectively.
Reed is a two-time All-Centennial League selection as a libero, while Schlaepfer earned All-Centennial League second team honors as an outside hitter in 2016.
Also included in Grandview’s ceremony among female athletes was UCLA-bound basketball star Michaela Onyenwere and cross country/track runner Brie Oakley — a University of California, Berkeley recruit — who was named Gatorade’s National Cross County Runner of the Year the previous day.
Onyenwere (a recently selected McDonald’s All-American) and Oakley both signed their NLIs in November.
Grandview softball standout Terran Caldwell had also previously signed with Fort Hays State.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel