Signings: Late Signing Day makes more dreams come true in Aurora

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Smoky Hill senior Rachel Whipple smiles as she looks out into the crowd before a National Athletic Letter of Intent Signing Day ceremony on April 13, 2016, at Smoky Hill High School. Whipple, a two-time All-Centennial League first team libero, signed an NLI to play Division I volleyball at the University of Colorado and was joined by a double-digit number of fellow Smoky Hill athletes to extend their playing careers. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Rachel Whipple’s long-held dreams of playing college volleyball in Boulder nearly took a detour out East.

The talented Smoky Hill senior libero longed to play at the University of Colorado growing up, but that wasn’t a possibility as recently as last summer and she found a comfortable spot for her future at Virginia Commonwealth.

Whipple verbally committed to VCU last August, but just a few months later Colorado made a coaching change to Jesse Mahoney, who had recruited her while he was head coach at the University of Denver.

With different circumstances, Whipple — a two-time first team all-league performer in the loaded Centennial League — decommitted from VCU and took Mahoney and the Buffaloes up on an offer.

“It was amazing, I walked in and saw all the new facilities and they are insane,” Whipple said April 13 as she signed her scholarship offer and posed for pictures at a signing ceremony at Smoky Hill.

“Watching the team practice, meeting the coaching staff and seeing the type of environment I’m going to be a part of was amazing…It’s been my dream to play at CU since I was a little girl going to that campus, so it’s surreal that this is happening. Every day that goes by is another day I’m closer to getting up there.”

Whipple was one of a large number of Aurora prep athletes who took advantage of the late National Athletic Letter of Intent Signing Day, including double digits at Smoky Hill’s ceremony.

Athletes from baseball (Parker Friedentag and Matt McDermott, UC-Colorado Springs; Evan Richards, West Hill College and Will Martin, Midland Lutheran), soccer (Andrew Burton and Bryan Gonzales Hernandez, Otero J.C.; Jhaeyden Clemons, Trinidad State and Jorge Rosales, Laramie County C.C.), swimming (Aidan Mercer, Colorado Mesa University), volleyball (Whipple and Vanessa Loznik, Dalton State) and softball (Becca Wood, Adams State) all took part in Smoky Hill’s ceremony.

Grandview continued to add to its recent massive ranks of signees with athletes moving on in track and field (Brian Burris, Northern Colorado), lacrosse (Quinn Stokes, Elmhurst College and Ryland Clay, Whittier College), basketball (Spencer Ederhoff, Black Hills State) and baseball (Ethan League, Otero J.C.).

At the Regis Jesuit Girls Division, soccer player Rory Brown inked her NLI with the University of San Diego, while Paige Bolton signed with Creighton for rowing.

Testing pushed back the ceremony at Eaglecrest until April 20, which had a significant number of signees in three different sports.

Four baseball players — Spencer Hammond, Brandon Hernandez, Brian Perales and Cody Lorenzini — are all continuing along the program’s longstanding pipeline to West Hill Junior College in California, where Raptors coach Tory Humphrey has connections. At least two former Raptors are currently on the roster in Lorenzini’s older brother Jake as well as Clayton Johnson.

Five players from Eaglecrest’s outstanding softball team also firmed up their chances to play at the next level in Tayler Mashburn (Doane College), Sarah Bushman (Lesley University), Chelsea Gorman (Western Nebraska CC), Destynee Morgan (Mid Plains CC) and Kailyn Sullivan (Northeastern JC), plus two soccer players in Southern Illinois-Edwardsville-bound Colin Miller and Daniel Pineda (Buena Vista).

Cherokee Trail will honor its late signees on May 4 with a list that is expected to grow quite a bit, but so far includes Alyssa Berteaux Solorzano (softball, Adams State), Bri Martinez (lacrosse, UC-Colorado Springs), Anastacia Johnson (basketball, Western Nebraska) and Mehana Fonseca (volleyball, University of Central Oklahoma).

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel