Sean Gouveia expects to be part of something special at Memphis.
Gouveia, a senior forward who had 27 goals and 11 assists for the Belleville West soccer team, will take his game to the Division I level and hopes to take the Tigers to the top.
“It’s a pretty good soccer school; they’re up and coming,” Gouveia said Wednesday, the first day athletes can sign letters of intent. “The coach (Richard Mulrooney) is a great coach. He’s got a lot of experience, and the (school’s) location is pretty nice because it’s far from home but it’s not like a really long drive.”
Gouveia said Memphis became interested in him as a sophomore when he was playing academy soccer. Gouveia starred at West as a freshman, scoring 13 goals and collecting 11 assists. He played academy for two years before returning to the Maroons as a senior.
“It was actually a really tough choice,” Gouveia said. “I had a lot of other schools that were interested, but at the end, it came down to Memphis telling me that if I came there, I would get a lot of playing time my freshman year and that I would grow into one of their star players and then hopefully get a tryout for an MLS team or a professional team in Europe.
“That was a pretty big factor. There were bigger teams that I could have went to, but I feel like I wouldn’t have received as much playing time as I would at Memphis. ... I’m excited to take (my game) to the next level and see what I can do.”
Memphis, a member of the American Athletic Conference, was just 3-10-4 overall and 1-4-3 in the league this season. But the Tigers had just four seniors on their team.
“They had a couple of bad injuries,” Gouveia said. “We have a couple of really good players coming in alongside me and I think we’re going to be really good next year. I hope to score goals and create chances for my team.”
Other soccer commitments
A handful of other metro-east soccer players have committed to colleges, a list that includes Collinsville forward Eric Tejada heading to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Tejada had 16 goals and four assists for the Kahoks, who were 18-5-1 overall and won the Southwestern Conference championship with a 6-0 record.
The Cougars are playing this week in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament after winning the regular-season league title.
O’Fallon midfielder Jake Koenig opted to attend Division II Truman State in Kirksville, Mo. Koenig had 18 goals and 11 assists for the Panthers.
The Bulldogs, who play in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, finished 8-10 overall and 7-8 in the league.
Others commitments came from: Collinsville’s Kitty Besserman (Indiana State) and Chayse Richardson (Missouri S&T); Belleville West’s Amelia Coyne (Truman State); and Gibault’s Abby Hasenstab (Colorado School of Mines) and Carley Olson (Wingate University).
Collinsville finished 21-5-3 last spring, placing fourth in the Class 3A state tournament. Besserman, a midfielder who had three goals and 10 assists, and Richardson, a defender, will return to lead what is sure to be another strong team. Richardson’s flip throw is one of her trademarks.
Coyne had seven goals and three assists last season for West, which was 15-4-3. She will join a Truman State team that is participating in the Division II NCAA Tournament.
Hasenstab (13 goals, eight assists) and Olson (14 goals, six assists) were Gibault’s leading scorers last season when the Hawks finished 8-10.
Volleyball and softball recruits
Alabama recruit Hayley McSparin, a 6-foot-2 middle hitter from Highland, headed another strong volleyball recruiting class for the metro-east.
McSparin, who committed to Alabama nearly two years ago, finished her senior season with 329 kills and 79 blocks as one of the area’s most dominant forces at the net.
Althoff’s Alanna Bramwell (Central Arkansas) and Mascoutah senior Megan Lindsay (Murray State) were the area’s other Division I volleyball recruits.
Bramwell, who helped Althoff reach the Class 2A Fairfield Super-sectional, had 172 kills and 38 blocks a senior. Lindsay helped Mascoutah to its first state tournament appearance and the Indians will play in the semifinala Friday in Normal.
Lindsay is also the Indians’ all-time kills leader.
Others from Dupo have played Division I softball previously, most notably Dawn Dugan Heimburger at Missouri and Mitzi Miller at St. Louis University. But Dupo senior catcher Rachael Donald is among the first to earn a scholarship offer and later this week will sign with Southeast Missouri State.
The hard-hitting catcher is a four-year starter who has helped the Tigers to sectional and super-sectional appearances the past two seasons. She hit .464 as a junior last spring with 12 doubles, one home run and 28 RBIs.
“It’s really exciting because I’ve worked really hard all these years e-mailing coaches, going to camps, practices, lessons, going to tournaments,” Donald said. “It’s just relieving to finally know it all paid off in the end.”
She also had offers from Missouri and St. Louis University.
Donald won’t be the only Dupo Division I softball player out there for long with junior star and reigning News-Democrat Small-School Softball Player of the Year Megan Brown already committed to Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Donald and Brown are also teammates on the St. Louis Diamond Cats travel softball team in the summer.
Freeburg’s Jenny Homann signed with Murray State and Collinsville’s Kassidy Smith signed wtih Coastal Carolina.
Homann hit .500 with two homers and 30 RBIs last spring while Smith posted a .475 average for Collinsville with a team-leading six homers and 34 RBIs.
Smith is a three-time All-Area and three-time all-Southwestern Conference selection who also ranks in the top 5 percent of her class.
(Norm Sanders also supplied information for this story).