Althoff senior Shannon Maitland’s speed, tenacity and success in the classroom made her an ideal fit for the University of Mississippi women’s soccer program.
Maitland on Wednesday signed with Ole Miss of the Southeastern Conference. The Rebels were 14-5-4 last season, losing in penalty kicks to Texas A&M in the NCAA Tournament.
“She’s a tenacious defender,” seventh-year Mississippi coach Matt Mott said. “She’s able to get up and down the flank and provide service and get herself into an attacking spot. So she was someone we felt could come in and really help us soccer-wise.
“And certainly, she’s a fantastic student, being valedictorian of her class. We have very high standards here academically, and she fits right in with what we want to do with our team. With her character, her family, she was just a perfect fit for us here at Ole Miss.”
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Maitland said signing with Mississippi, which finished 16th in the Division I poll, was a slam dunk. She made a verbal commitment to the Rebels two years ago.
“I went down there and their campus was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen,” Maitland said. “I’ve been to a lot of colleges ... but what stood out the most about (Mississippi) was the atmosphere. It really made me want to go there, and their soccer program is really on the rise. I’m super-excited and can’t wait.
“It’s been a long, long journey. It started in kindergarten. Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to (play in college). These are the people that made it happen right here, coaches and family.”
Althoff coach Juergen Huettner said Maitland’s talents are diverse.
“She’s a real dynamic player, very smart,” Huettner said. “She sees the field very well and is a good decision-maker. She’s more mature than her age; I saw that as a freshman and a sophomore. This translates into recruiting, too. That’s what sold (Mississippi) on her.”
Maitland is expected to compete for playing time as an outside defender.
“I think she’ll play outside somewhere, whether it’s in the back or at midfielder,” Mott said. “I don’t see her moving into the middle, but we’ll wait until she gets on campus to figure it out. Our two outside backs graduated, so she’s coming in with a couple of open spots to battle some of our other players for playing time right away. I do think she has the ability to come in and play right away. But that will be up to her and what she does the next six months.”
Maitland doesn’t care how she is used as a freshman.
“It would be awesome to play as a freshman,” Maitland said. “I don’t care where I’m at; I just want to be on the field. I need to work hard for everything, but I don’t think I’ll have any problems with that at all. It’s going to be a faster pace, a pace I’m not used to at all because it’s the college level. I’m going to be going up against kids that are four years older than me and have been in the game a lot longer.”
Maitland stands just 5-foot-5, but Mott said her size is secondary to her skill and heart.
“There’s some positions that you like to have size in, but outside back is one where it isn’t a necessity,” he said. “Her speed and athleticism, her control of her body, her ability on the ball, all those things are more important to me than her size. She’s not afraid to tackle the biggest of players, so we’re not going to worry about that.”
Besserman to Indiana State
Collinsville senior defender Kitty Besserman, a key player in the Kahoks’ drive to the Class 3A state tournament last year when they placed fourth, signed with Indiana State.
Besserman committed to the Sycamores last year and is expected to be ready to play this fall despite an ACL tear in her left knee, her second such injury, that will sideline her for her entire senior season at Collinsville.
“Now that she’s had the surgery and is on the road to recovery, she’s doing much better,” said Jeff Besserman, Kitty’s father. “Before you have the surgery, you think the world’s ending. But once you have the surgery, you start having goals to work toward and it makes a big difference. It’s an exciting day for her, knowing she’s going to play Division I soccer.”
Kitty Besserman said her recovery is moving along, but that she’s disappointed she won’t be able to enjoy her senior season.
“It’s tough,” she said. “It’s seeing all these people playing and you’re like, ‘I should be playing.’ But I know my girls are going to be able to pull off what we did last year. We lost some players last year, but we have the potential and talent to go back to state. I’m disappointed I can’t be a part of it.”
Besserman had three goals and 10 assists last season as the Kahoks finished 21-5-1.
Indiana State was 6-10-1 overall and 1-4-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference last season.
“I’m excited,” Besserman said of signing with the Sycamores. “I’m trying to come back before my freshman year so I won’t have to redshirt. Just coming back to play and not taking another year off is what my goal is. I might be playing center back, holding mid or like a wingback.”
Another Collinsville player, forward Eric Tejada, signed with Division I Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Tejada, the brother of former Triad and Illinois State star Rachel Tejada, had 16 goals and four assists for the Kahoks last season. Collinsville was 18-5-1 last fall.
“It’s a good school and I like the coach (Mario Sanchez),” Tejada said. “He’s a good coach. And when I visited, I liked all the players there. They made me feel welcome.”
Tejada’s brother, Jared, played at SIUE.
“He loved it,” said Eric Tejada, who also considered Missouri State.
Matt Benway, a defender at O’Fallon, signed with Division I Western Illinois. Benway had five goals and three assists last season as the Panthers finished 13-8-1.
Other boys signings were: Jared Hamann (Collinsville, McKendree); Jake Koenig (O’Fallon, Truman State); Zach Hall (O’Fallon, Duquesne); Adam Becker (Columbia, Southern Indiana); Kyle Tucker (Edwardsville, Illinois College); and Kane Osterhage (Waterloo, Southwestern Illinois College).
Koenig was one of the best players in the metro-east last season with 18 goals and 11 assists for the Panthers (13-8-1). Becker, meanwhile, was a solid performer for Columbia (22-2-1) as he registered eight goals and 16 assists.
Osterhage was the News-Democrat’s Player of the Year last fall when he led the Bulldogs (25-3-1) to the Class 2A state championship with 31 goals and 21 assists.
Other girls signings were: Anna Hanger (Althoff, McKendree); Kelsey Delisle (Collinsville, McKendree); Allie Ryan (Granite City, McKendree); Amelia “Mia” Coyne (Belleville West, Truman State); Chayse Richardson (Collinsville, Missouri S&T); Katherine “K.K.” Voelker (O’Fallon, Missouri S&T); Kate Sikora (Highland, Missouri S&T); Skye Clark (Triad, Missouri-St. Louis); Jane Ann Crabtree (Edwardsville, Illinois Wesleyan); Alyssa Bartle (Belleville East, Florida Tech); and McKenzie Dixon (Civic Memorial, Southwestern Illinois College.
Hanger plays center back for Althoff and Huettner believes she’s capable of filling the same position for McKendree.
“It’s an excellent fit,” Huettner said. “The way she plays for us, I think that’s what (McKendree coach Tim Strange) is looking for.”
Tess Huettner, Juergen Huettner’s daughter, Rachel Kaltwasser and Alexis Jones are three Althoff players in recent years to play for McKendree. And that’s not all.
“My cousin, Abby Hanger, went there,” Anna Hanger said. “They were interested in me and it’s close to home, so I thought it was a good choice.
“Since I was little, I’ve always played defense. I’ve always felt comfortable in the back, helping everybody out.”