By John Bombatch
JAMESTOWN — A chance meeting between a coach who had never seen a soccer player play, and a student-athlete who had never heard of a tiny NAIA college in Grand Rapids, Michigan culminated in the signing of a National Letter of Intent, Thursday, at Greeneview High School.
“This makes me so happy, I’m ready to go play for them,” Emily Rinehart said, moments after signing on a day which just happened to also be her 18th birthday.
Greeneview soccer coaches Dan Ludwig and Sean Brown, girls basketball coach Tim Hoelle and several of her soccer and basketball teammates were on hand to witness Rinehart’s college signing. And the whole thing came about because of a chance meeting at a youth soccer tournament.
The Rams senior midfielder was playing in the Warrior Classic soccer tournament last May, and Aquinas College women’s soccer coach Rodger Garner just happened to be in town visiting his parents in Beavercreek on that same Memorial Day weekend.
When Garner got wind of the tournament, he dropped over to Beavercreek’s Ankeney Park to catch some of the action. As Greeneview Athletic Director Mark Rinehart explains it, Garner noticed one player in particular at the tournament.
“It was an 8 o’clock in the morning game, and he watched the first half and came over to me and asked ‘Hey coach, who’s number four?’ And I said that’s actually my daughter. And he said ‘We need to talk,’ ” said Rinehart, who has coached his daughter on youth club teams since she was six years old.
That led to the Rineharts making the 5-hour drive to Grand Rapids for a visit, and that led to Emily Rinehart falling in love with the school.
“The soccer coach came to me. I had never heard of it before, but once I started researching the school, it just seemed like a great fit for me,” Emily Rinehart said. She plans on pursuing a degree in the Athletic Training profession.
“I knew about the tourney, but didn’t expect to find someone of Emily’s caliber. She will be a great fit at our school, both athletically and academically. And she comes from a great family,” Gardner said by phone.
Rinehart played both basketball and soccer at Greeneview. She lists the basketball team’s three Ohio Heritage Conference titles as one of her career highlights. “Every game and loss. It doesn’t matter to me. I just really enjoyed playing the games that I love,” she said.
Rinehart had to battle back from an ACL injury to her right knee during soccer season of her sophomore year in school, but in four months made a return to play basketball that same school year. This past season, Rinehart had dealt with a MCL sprain, but only missed a week and a half.
She said she doesn’t plan on running on the track & field team in the Spring, choosing to focus on soccer and conditioning instead.
Rinehart will report to the Aquinas campus on August 8.
“I want to be in top shape and ready to go,” she said. “I can’t wait.”
Mark Rinehart, who has officiated over hundreds of NLI signing ceremonies, said this one was “a little different.”
“It’s a little bittersweet, she’s put a lot of work into this and we’re all just really proud of her,” he said.