Seven Seniors to Play Division I Athletics Next Year
Congratulations to Sophia Ambrose '23, Laiya Ebo '23, Madeline Feldner '23, Amy Lu '23, Sam Tate '23, Courtney Watts '23, and Joyce Wu '23 for their commitment to compete in Division I athletics next year. These student-athletes were celebrated by their friends, family, and the Holton community in a ceremony on National Letter of Intent Signing Day.
The National Letter of Intent is a binding agreement between the student-athlete and their future school. This letter is typically signed by student-athletes who receive an athletic scholarship. For students not signing an NLI, this day is largely ceremonial as their schools either do not follow the National Letter of Intent protocol or they have a non-scholarship based commitment.
Read more about each student and their journey to competing on the collegiate level below.
Sophia Ambrose - Columbia University, Women's Soccer
Sophia learned how to play soccer when she was about 3 years old, and started playing competitive around 8., Now, she is beyond excited to pursue her athletic and academic career at Columbia. She said she loves the coaches, team, and school environment, and can't wait to spend the next four years in such an amazing city.
"My recruiting process looked a little different because we were on the tail end of COVID, and I suffered an ACL tear halfway through my process, but I am appreciative that it all worked out in the end," she says.
She wants to thank Mr. Westerberg, Mr. Ferry, Wesley Wang, and all the other people at Holton who have helped her tremendously throughout this process. She would also like to thank her parents for supporting her the whole way.
"My coaches and mentors at Holton have taught me the importance of hard work, dedication, and never forgetting to have fun when playing, which I greatly value today," she said. "It has been a dream of mine to play soccer at the Division I level, and I am so grateful for this opportunity."
Laiya Ebo - Butler University, Women's Volleyball
Laiya is excited to sign with Butler, which checked off everything on her ideal school list. She'll be playing volleyball in a conference where she'll compete against nationally ranked teams, be in a supportive family-like environment with her teammates, coaches, and support staff, and the superb academics and small class size will allow for a great transition from Holton.
The grueling recruitment process meant spending the summer traveling across the country looking for the right choice; campus and facility tours, dinners with potential teammates, and open gym practiced helped give her a feel for what it would be like playing with the girls.
Many people helped her on the journey, including Lexi Patton and the rest of the Virginia elite coaches, her trainer Wes Doles, and of course her family. Her parents sacrificed so much to help her, and her siblings Lauren and Mark, both Division I collegiate athletes, provided advice – solicited and sometimes unsolicited – that helped her become the athlete and person she is today.
"My time at Holton helped me prepare greatly for what is upcoming," she says. "Learning how to balance schoolwork and traveling every weekend for tournaments are skills I will take to Butler with me. I have learned how to engage in class discussions, and write well-analyzed essays, and problem-solving. Not only have I learned academic skills, but I am also grateful for the social skills I have learned. I have learned how to make connections with teachers and my community through various formats of engagement. After ten years at Holton, I have not only become a better student but a better person. Thanks to Holton, I feel fully prepared for what's to come."
Madeline Feldner - Columbia University, Women's Lacrosse
Madeline plays midfield/defense for the Capital Blue 2023 lacrosse team, and is excited to join the Columbia lacrosse team after a stressful recruiting process.
"I chose Columbia University because I wanted to go somewhere where I can find rigorous academics alongside competitive lacrosse team with a great team culture in New York! The positivity and excitement current players and new coaching staff really drew me in," she says.
She has many people to think: her mom, dad, little sister, teachers, and Coach McCormick for their continuous support. She also specifically thanks her advisor, Mrs. Hummel, for emotionally supporting her through this process in weekly advisory check-ins, as well as Mrs. King, Ms. Salata, Dr. Krug, and Mrs. Reddinger for their support and guidance over the years.
She's excited to join Sophia and fellow lacrosse teammate Serena Hong'22 at Columbia.
"I would love to thank Holton for unconditional support and for teaching me how to work hard, manage my time, and understand the feeling of true dedication," she says.
Amy Lu - Northwestern University, Women's Fencing
Amy has been fencing saber at Capital Fencing Academy since sixth grade. While Holton doesn't offer fencing as a sport, she says her time as a Panther taught her about time management which has helped her throughout her athletic career.
"Whether it was finishing my English essay at the airport or studying bio on the plane, I’ve had many chances to practice balancing school and fencing," she says. "Holton has also taught me to be proactive, which was especially helpful when I was reaching out to schools."
Northwestern presents an exciting balance of rigosous academics and high-caliber athletics. She says it's easy to explore her academic interests, something she was able to do while in high school too.
"I'd like to thank all my teachers as well as my advisors for being understanding and flexible when I had to miss days of class for tournaments," she says. "I’d also like to thank my coach, Dariusz Gilman, who pushed me every day in practice and made sure his students developed skills necessary beyond the fencing strip and walked out as a better person.
"Finally, I’d like to say a huge thank you to my dad, who was there for me every step of the way. I wouldn’t be here without him."
Sam Tate - Johns Hopkins University, Women's Lacrosse
Sam has played lacrosse since sixth grade, and plays midfield and defense. The recruitment process was hectic at times, but she says she landed in the right place.
"I chose Hopkins because it is the perfect mix of academics and competitive sports," she says.
She said the competitive environment at Holton helped her, especially with her work ethic, and thanked her coaches, too.
"I was so lucky to have coaches along the way to help," she says. "Thank you especially to Coach Janet McCormick for her support in my process."
Courtney Watts - Boston College, Women's Swimming
Courtney first joined a club swim team when she was 6, and has been swimming competitively ever since. she swins for her club team, Machine Aquatics' national team, as well as for Holton.
She chose Boston College becasuse it will be the perfect place to continue her academic and athletic careers, both at a high level, and she's especially excited to compete in the ACC against other great schools.
"The team’s family-like nature made an immediate impression on me, and I could really envision myself becoming a part of it," she says. "From conversations with the swimmers and coaches, the team’s commitment to excellence was evident. The entire coaching staff truly wants the best for their athletes. I know that they will support me with all of my swimming and academic endeavors."
She would like to thank all of the coaches who have supported her throughout her swimming career for helping her get to this point, especially her club coach, Dan Jacobs.
"At Holton, I have learned many important lessons on time management and self advocacy that will allow me to thrive in a college setting," she says.
Joyce Wu - Northeastern University, Women's Swimming
Joyce's mom put her in swimming lessons when she was 4, mostly because she was tired of watching her older sister have fun at her swim practices while she sat on the bleachers. Initially afraid of putting her face underwater, now she's joining Northeastern's Swim & Dive team.
Several things stood out to her about Northeastern, especially the teammates and coaches with whom she will spend the next four years. The top-notch academics also appealed to her
"I think Holton instills a sense of academic excellence in all its students, so naturally, I was drawn to a school with a high academic caliber," she says. "I wanted to be challenged in my classes, yet still successful, as I plan on applying to medical school after college. Thus, I wanted to be in an environment where I can simultaneously have both, and I felt that Northeastern offered that really good balance."
She is grateful for all of her teachers at Holton, who have been instrumental in her success. In particular, she would like to thank Mr. Westerberg for his unconditional support. He checked in on her as she switched club teams during her first year at Holton, making sure she was doing alright.
"He was also so supportive when I decided to move back to my current club team, and he continued to check in long after I rejoined," she says. "I know that his door is always open, and I’m so thankful for his guidance."
Congratulations, Panthers! More photos of the celebration can be viewed in Vidigami.