EAST BEND - Forbush soccer standout Jennifer Baity became the second sibling in her family to reach the collegiate ranks.
After her older sister Jessica signed to play for North Carolina State two years ago, Jennifer joined her at the college level in February, inking her official letter of intent to suit up for Pfeiffer College next fall.
“Ever since I was little, I wanted to play for State. My sister achieved that dream for me,” she explained. “When I tore my ACL, I started looking around. Coach Elijah Denton, my coach from when I was little, is an awesome guy and I can’t wait to play for him at Pfeiffer. He told me to come tour Pfeiffer and that I would like it. I told him ‘I don’t even know how to spell that!’
“It’s crazy because I’ve been playing my whole life, and this moment is finally here. I’ve been thinking about it all week. Ever since I was little, I always wanted to play in college. And finally it’s happening,” Baity continued. “Now mom has two collegiate soccer players, so we joke on her being old.”
But Baity’s road to the collegiate level wasn’t easy. A preseason ACL injury forced her to miss her entire junior season - a void that was felt on the field.
“We really missed her last year and you could see what she adds to the team when she’s out - we’re glad to have her back,” Forbush head coach Kenan James said. “She has a great work ethic to be able to come back from an ACL injury. She is very technically and tactically sound; obviously you can’t get to this level if you’re not.
“She understands what it takes to prepare, and that will help her at Pfeiffer,” he added.
While sidelined last season, Baity began looking around at other college programs before narrowing her choice down to Pfeiffer. After looking at Elon and Catawba, the senior picked the private Division II school in nearby Misenheimer.
“When I went there, and as soon as I was on campus, everyone was so awesome there. I just felt like that is where God has me in my life,” she explained. “It’s just a place where I fit in. It’s a small community, kind of like Yadkin County. I feel comfortable there, and I love it.”
But before leaving Forbush, Baity is “chomping at the bit” to get back on the field for her senior season.
“After missing last season, I cannot wait to play this year - I’m like chomping at the bit, I’m so excited,” she said. “We have a bunch of good freshmen coming in and we’re pumped to get them on the field. We’re looking forward to winning a conference championship. We have high expectations.”
James will be looking towards Baity as a leader on and off the field for a young Falcon squad.
“I think captains and leadership in teams is under appreciated. So to have someone who understands what it takes to be successful, to put in the extra work, to have a positive attitude and to assume leadership roles is pretty vital to the team,” he explained. “She’ll set the example for the hard work that is needed. I’m sure she’ll step in and take the critical free kicks and penalty kicks for us. Those are very important things to your team and we missed that from her last year. It should be huge for us.
“She’s a verbal leader, but leading by example is a big thing,” James added.
Aside from playing for Forbush, Baity suited up for the Winston-Salem Twins, the 94 Soccer Fusion Elite and the Yadkin Fury, while also playing Olympic Development Program soccer.
The senior encouraged other high school soccer players with college dreams to pursue playing at the next level.
“For anybody else who is thinking about doing playing at the college level, I encourage them to do it. It’s definitely a moment every soccer player should experience because it’s so rewarding,” she said.
“I want to thank my family for always supporting me and my soccer coaches here. Thanks to Christ for always giving me the strength to do what I want to do,” Baity added.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or email@example.com.