Sunday, 05 December 2021 15:32

COMMITTED: Huff overcomes injury, verbally commits to Gardner-Webb

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Senior Kaitlyn Huff has verbally committed to Gardner-Webb University. Senior Kaitlyn Huff has verbally committed to Gardner-Webb University. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — A significant knee injury in the spring didn’t stop Kaitlyn Huff from reaching her goal of playing Division I college soccer.


Huff, a senior at Richmond Senior High School, announced her verbal commitment to Gardner-Webb University earlier this week as a midfielder and forward.

“Blessed to say I have committed to play D1 soccer at Gardner-Webb,” Huff tweeted. “Excited to get back on the field after an injury and can’t wait for the next four (years).”

Following her junior season as a Lady Raider this past spring, Huff tore her ACL and meniscus in her right knee playing travel soccer. Now more than halfway through her recovery, she’s preparing for her career as a Bulldog.

“After committing to Gardner-Webb, it felt like I had a fresh start at soccer again,” Huff explained. “It was really hard to get coaches to want someone they haven’t seen play before. 

“It feels good to know my talent is wanted and needed at the college level,” she continued. “What led me to my decision was how (Gardner-Webb) felt like home. The coaches and players were super fun to be around and it was a very exciting and positive environment.”

A varsity starter for Richmond and head coach Chris Larsen since her freshman year, Huff said she’s endured a tough recruitment process because of the pandemic and her injury. 

When COVID-19 ended her sophomore season after just five games, that limited her exposure. And at the time when college coaches could see her play again in early 2021, she suffered her injury.

Explaining she had “many coaches” reach out to her showing interest, Huff said she was pleased  with the offers she received.

“One thing that drew me to Gardner-Webb was their conference,” Huff commented. “They also have a very tough and talented program that I wanted to be a part of. 

“I hope to accomplish many new titles to my soccer name and be able to meet new people. I also would like to gain more knowledge about the game.”

Floating between a midfielder and striker for the Lady Raiders, Huff has scored 27 career goals at Richmond and was named All-Conference as a junior.

She netted 12 goals in her freshman and junior seasons, has scored two goals in a game seven times and has been a leader on the field, according to Larsen.

Unfortunately, Huff will miss most of her senior season with the Lady Raiders. Her projected clearance date to return to play is April 15, which leaves just three regular-season games left on Richmond’s schedule.

“Kaitlyn missed out on a big summer of recruitment, but now she’ll be healthy when she gets to college,” Larsen said. “With soccer, you have to find other players who compliment you on the field, and I think she’s found that with Gardner-Webb.

“She has a lot of desire to play the game and has been the voice on the field for us,” he added. “Kaitlyn has played out of position to help us and she’s really shined with her speed, ability and knack for finding the goal.

Larsen noted he was happy that the work Huff has put in since middle school through high school has paid off, and said he hopes to get a chance to coach her a few more games this spring.

Of her recovery, Huff said “the process is going extremely well, and I have been running a lot to get my groove back.”

Huff has visited Gardner-Webb twice, the first time on Oct. 16 for the Bulldogs’ senior night against High Point University, a double-overtime thriller. She went back a month later on Nov. 17 for an official visit.

“It was a very special night and I got to experience everything before and after the game with the team,” she said of senior night. “Then I got to go back and see the academic side and even got to attend a teammate’s class.

“I enjoyed the beautiful campus, and enjoyed how student-athlete life was portrayed.”

Huff will join a Gardner-Webb program that went 8-12 overall in 2021, including a 5-5 mark in the Big South Conference. The Bulldogs finished tied for fifth in the conference standings and lost in the first round of the Big South tournament.

“I would like to thank my mom, Shannon, for being my best supporter and friend the whole way,” Huff said. “She drove me two hours to training in Raleigh three days a week and I was not the only dedicated one in the process. 

“She has always pushed me to be the best athlete, while also being happy in the process. My mom has always been by my side and never let me doubt myself.”

Huff also said her travel coach Dave Arensdorf and director Pete Sadin of North Carolina FC, her travel team, brought her a large amount of exposure. 

“My teammates have also been a special part of the process,” Huff said. “I loved being on my NCFC team the first day I went out. All of my teammates have been supportive, welcoming, competitive and fun, and they all love the game just as much as me. 

“I would also like to thank my physical therapist Luke Hudson for being an awesome teammate,” she closed. “He has a true passion for helping individuals like me and I have become incredibly strong thanks to his help. He has also helped me grow my confidence to a higher level after being injured and taken out of the thing I love most.”

Huff will hold an official signing day, along with other student-athletes from Richmond, in the spring to make her commitment to Gardner-Webb official.

Kyle Pillar

Nine-time N.C. Press Association award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

Twitter: ROSports_