January 11, 2017 10:37:34 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Science is Anna Kate O'Bryant's favorite subject.
History is a close second for the New Hope High School multi-sport standout. Whether it has been softball or soccer, O'Bryant has been a steady contributor and a solid leader for the Lady Trojans.
On Tuesday, O'Bryant's academic and athletic worlds came together to make history, as she announced she was going to play softball at Mississippi University for Women. O'Bryant made the announcement in a signing ceremony in the school's library.
O'Bryant is the first student-athlete to commit to The W since it announced intercollegiate sports are returning to the school.
"My mom thinks it is pretty cool (that she is the first student-athlete to commit to The W)," O'Bryant said. "It is really an honor."
Softball, baseball, volleyball, men's soccer, and men's and women's cross country will start in the 2017-18 school year. The W will compete at the NCAA Division III level once it goes through a multi-year process that includes a probationary period.
New Hope coach Bobby Taylor, who has coached O'Bryant in slow- and fast-pitch softball with Bill Ray Lee and Ginny Swedenburg, said O'Bryant has been a solid presence in the middle infield. He said she epitomizes everything a coach could want from a student-athlete.
"I am glad The W has brought their program back so people like Anna Kate can go play and get a good education," Taylor said. "She is never down about anything. She is always working hard and one of the first ones over there at practice. She helps me all of the time, and she is going to be missed."
O'Bryant's mother, Jill, works in the office of MUW President Jim Borsig. Anna Kate said her mother's ties to The W made it easier for her learn about the school and to feel comfortable on the campus in Columbus. She said she is excited about playing for coach Tatjana Matthews, working to build the program, and educating teammates and friends about the opportunities available at The W.
"When I went to meet with coach Matthews, she took me to the field and she was telling me how they were going to change this and change that," O'Bryant said. "I was like, 'I see it completely.' It is going to be awesome."
O'Bryant recalls hearing about The W's decision to bring back intercollegiate sports when she was a freshman. She remembers thinking The W could be a place she went to school to work toward become a counselor or a physical therapist and to continue her softball career.
"It just all clicked in this one moment. It was just like, 'This is where I am going to go. This is it,' " said O'Bryant said, who feels a sense of responsibility to help build the program considering she has grown up in the area and played sports for so long. She said her father, Tim, taught her how to play softball when she was 5 years old. She hoped to have an opportunity to play softball in college, but she wanted to make sure she had the right mix of academics and athletics. The W provided the ideal fit in both areas for O'Bryant and gave her a chance to make history and to open doors for teammates and friends.
"I have mentioned to all of my teammates that The W is where I wanted to go," O'Bryant said. "They have started talking about The W more. One of my teammates, Meredith Woolbright, has gone and met with the coach, too. I think that would be fun playing with some of my teammates and meeting new people, people from all over the country."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.