COOS BAY — A couple of successful programs at Southwestern Oregon Community College have given more athletes a chance to move on to four-year schools.
Basketball star Quynne Eharis and a quartet of softball players signed letters of intent Wednesday to various four-year colleges.
Eharis will take her post skills to Metro State in Denver.
“I think it’s a good choice for me,” she said.
Metro State is coached by Tanya Haave, a former player of legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. The school’s men’s team won the NCAA Division II national title this winter.
“Their gym gets pretty packed,” Eharis said.
During her visit, she fell in love with Denver. The school also fits her educational goals. She will major in biology, with a minor in chemistry and the goal of being a zookeeper.
“They took me to the Denver Zoo during my visit,” she said.
At SWOCC, Eharis helped the Lakers reach the NWAACC tournament the past two seasons.
“All of her hard work the last two years came down to the opportunity of her getting to play two more years and continue a quality education,” said Mike Herbert, SWOCC’s women’s head coach.
Eharis said playing for the Lakers has helped her develop to be successful at the next level — both academically and athletically.
“This school has been great for me,” she said. “I’m very happy.
“I can’t thank everybody enough, especially my two great coaches.”
Herbert and his top assistant, Kristin Jones, flanked Eharis while she signed her letter of intent. Several players sat behind her in support.
The same was the case for the four softball players — Natalie Morrow, Brianne Bowling, Jayme Simones and Mary Menicucci.
Morrow and Bowling will attend Union College, an NAIA school in Kentucky. Simones will head to Hawaii Pacific University, and Menicucci will play for Cal State San Bernardino.
Laker softball coach Megan Corriea said she doesn’t keep track of how many of her former players have moved on to four-year schools, but it’s an impressive number — several most seasons.
“That’s what their goal is,” she said. “We come in and talk about what school is the right fit for them and go from there.”
Menicucci described Corriea as the driving force for the players to get an opportunity at the next level — talking with coaches and scouting out possible schools.
“She works for it,” Menicucci said. “She basically plays the mom role.”
Morrow and Bowling both have extended family in the Kentucky area, and said Union College is a lot like SWOCC.
“They’re a very small school,” Bowling said. “They’re athletically oriented. They even have a lake on campus.”
“It fit perfectly,” said Morrow. “They were looking for a pitcher (Morrow) and an outfielder (Bowling).”
Simonis, meanwhile, is headed toward Hawaii, a big change for the outfielder from the Portland area.
“I had an opportunity to live out all my dreams,” she said. “Their program is a lot like the way I play. They work really hard.”
Hawaii Pacific is a Division II school, just like Cal State San Bernardino, where Menicucci will play.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Menicucci, an infielder, said. “Not many people get that opportunity. I’m grateful for it.”
Like Eharis, the softball players have specific educational plans. Simonis wants to be a college math instructor and coach, while Menicucci wants to be a primary school teacher. Bowling plans to get a degree in psychology, and Morrow will study biology.
Unlike Eharis, the softball players still have more season. They are in third place in the tough NWAACC South Region.
“It’s nice to get them signed before the season’s over,” Corriea said. “It takes the pressure off.”