Shannon Rhodes has never been picky when it comes to the soccer position she plays, and that flexibility has paid off in a big way now that the that she has committed to attending Villanova University.
At a clinic at the Pennsylvania school in April, the Packer Collegiate senior noticed a lot more players trying out at the center midfield spot, her natural position. So she decided to defense, giving he coaches a better opportunity to watch her play.
And they took notice, asking her if she was interested in playing women’s soccer at the Big East school shortly thereafter. Rhodes and her family met with head coach John Byford in June and attended other camps over summer before sure she committing in August.
“Division I soccer is really competitive and that’s something I really wanted in a school,” Rhodes said. “The soccer is really important to me because I want to be a college coach.”
Her journey to this point certainly wasn’t typical. Rhodes started playing travel soccer at age 10 and, after two seasons, gave it up to devote her time to play other sports. At Packer, she letters in soccer, basketball, softball and track and field. After her freshman year, she returned to play for the Manhattan Kickers and saw her game improve exponentially last season. Rhodes now plays for Match Fit Chelsea to get ready for Big East competition.
“I just saw a big jump from freshman and sophomore year to junior year,” longtime Packer coach Rich Domanico said.
Rhodes had 16 goals and 19 assists and made it look easy, taking all of Packers penalty kicks last season. She helped lead her team to the Athletic Association of Independent Schools final, where it lost to Brearley.
Of course, Rhodes was played multiple positions, staring as a sweeper, moving to center midfield and even took some turns in front of the net.
“I feel like if you play soccer you are a soccer player, you are not a position player,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said it will be weird focusing on just one sport now that she’s committed to playing soccer at Villanova, but she hasn’t ruled out joining club teams.
“She has put in countless hours,” Domanico said.
“You don’t often see a [multi] sport athlete make it to be a Division-I athlete in one particular sport.”
Byford’s inviting personality, the team’s camaraderie and school’s intense athletic environment all made Villanova feel like the right fit. Rhodes also wants to study computer engineering, and the school’s computer program is highly regarded. The Wildcats went 7-12 overall and 2-9 in conference last year, but is undefeated so far this season, going are 4-0-3.
Villanova is getting exactly the player it saw back in April, one willing to sacrifice for what’s best for herself and the team. It’s left Rhodes unsure what position she will be asked to play in college, but that doesn’t matter to her.
“It’s the same attitude I am going to have going to Villanova,” Rhodes said. “If Coach Byford wants me to play defense, I’ll play defense. It’s more important to me that I’m playing in the game than what position I’m playing.”