4 Chartiers Valley athletes headed to Division I programs
The success of the Chartiers Valley athletic programs was on display last week.
Four Colts athletes signed their letters of intent to Division I schools: Matty McConnell to Robert Morris for basketball, Alexa Golden to Kent State for basketball, Maria Lohman to North Carolina for diving and Drew Damich to West Virginia for swimming.
McConnell cited the coaching staff for being a major factor in his commitment to the Colonials.
“The coaches made me want to play for them,” McConnell said. “I like the program and what they have done the last couple of years. The school is only 15 minutes from home, but I feel like I am hours away when I am on campus.”
Robert Morris, a member of the Northeast Conference, has become one of the top mid-major programs in recent seasons, reaching the CIT postseason tournament in 2012 and the NIT in 2013 and 2014. The Colonials have captured 11 regular-season conference titles and won seven conference tournaments to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
McConnell averaged 21.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, 5.1 steals and 4.5 assists as a junior. He hit the 1,000-point mark midway through the 2013-14 season. The guard looked to his older brother T.J. — who committed to Duquesne out of high school before transferring to Arizona — for advice during the recruiting process
“The main thing he said was to wait, and the right school will come to you,” McConnell said. “He said be patient, and you will make the right decision.”
With Chartiers Valley making the jump to Class AAAA from AAA this season, McConnell said the Colts will be ready for some stronger competition. Even playing some of the biggest schools in the WPIAL, McConnell said competing for the WPIAL title is a top priority.
For Golden, nothing could compare to Kent State. While she visited other schools and was in contact with other programs, the 5-foot-10 guard knew she wanted to be a Golden Flash.
“It was my first visit, and every other visit didn’t compare,” Golden said. “I fell in love with the coaches and the school. It felt like a good fit.”
Golden said she will major in criminal justice and pursue a minor in psychology.
Kent State is a member of the Mid-American Conference. The program has won six regular-season conference titles, four MAC tournament titles and has reached the NCAA Tournament five times.
Golden will return to action with the Colts this week after she missed her junior season due to a lower-body injury.
“I have played basketball for such a long time, so it hurt,” Golden said. “It was the longest break I have had since I started playing. I just had to sit there and watch the team knowing I couldn’t help them out.”
Now back to 100 percent, Golden has high hopes for her senior season.
“We first want to win the section,” Golden said. “After that, we want to win WPIALs and states.”
Loman heads to Chapel Hill and the Tar Heels as one of the most decorated divers in the WPIAL. She won gold at the PIAA Class AAA championships as a junior and sophomore and finished second in the Class AA meet as a freshman.
Lohman chose North Carolina over Arizona, Pitt and Iowa.
“Before I made my visit (to UNC), I really liked coach Abel (Sanchez),” Lohman said. “As soon as I walked on campus, I loved it. The campus is beautiful. The school has a good balance of strong academics and athletics.
“They have a really good business school, and that is what I want to major in.”
Lohman set a Pennsylvania state record for 1-meter diving at the 2014 state championship with a score of 529.80, breaking a record set in 1999.
“I don’t usually set my goals based on scores,” Lohman said. “Judges will judge how they want, so I try to go on my opinion. But I remember I looked at the old score, and I thought I could do it if I did well. I am really happy I was able to do it.”
Damich committed to the Mountaineers after feeling comfortable in his surroundings in Morgantown. He said he also was considering Georgia Tech.
“Out of all my official visits, it is where I could see myself most,” Damich said. “I felt like I fit in well with the team, and I loved the coaches there.”
Damich said he plans on majoring in mechanical engineering.
A member of the Big 12 Conference, West Virginia has finished third in the conference the last two seasons. Last season, the men’s team finished 23rd at the NCAA championships
Damich has reached the PIAA championships the last three seasons. As a sophomore, he was the first Charters Valley swimmer to win gold at the state meet since 1981. He won the 200- and 500-meter freestyle races. He placed second in the 200 and 500 free as a junior.
“Each season has been a learning experience at states,” said Damich, who also competes with Mt. Lebanon Aqua Club. “It is a hard meet to get adjusted to because everyone goes in really serious.”
The Colts will make the leap from Class AA to AAA this season, and Damich said he is looking forward to the challenge.