Kaitlyn Seitter, Julia Fitzsimmons sign National Letters of Intent
While millions of high school seniors across the country eagerly await admission decisions from their chosen colleges, the athletic coaches at many of the same colleges are just as eagerly anticipating word from some of the nation’s top student-athletes - students who have been recruited to play sports at the college level.
Feb. 1 was 2017 Signing Day, the opening of the regular National Letter of Intent (NLI) signing period, when elite student-athletes, who compete in the sports football, field hockey, soccer, track & field, cross country and men’s water polo, take the final step in the college recruiting process – the signing of a National Letter of Intent. The signing period extends through the spring, and for certain sports, the summer, during which time approximately 36,000 student-athletes will commit to one of the more than 600 participating NCAA Division I & II colleges and universities.
Among this year’s group of students to sign National Letters of Intent are four members of Point Pleasant Borough High School’s Class of 2017!
On Signing Day, Julia Fitzsimmons and Kaitlyn Seitter became the third and fourth members of the Class of 2017 to ink deals to continue their athletic pursuits at the college level, joining classmates Katie Bragen and Ally Lassen, who, earlier this year, committed to Rutgers and St. Francis College respectively.
Wednesday, February 1 was a proud – though somewhat difficult – day for Point Pleasant Borough High School’s Lady Panthers Soccer Team, when Julia Fitzsimmons and Kaitlyn Seitter, two of the team’s top players, officially ended their tenure with the team they’ve helped propel to repeated victory over the last four years and signed the documents that would launch the next phase of their soccer careers as collegiate women’s soccer players.
Julia and Kaitlyn’s families and coaches and school and district administration convened in Point Pleasant Borough High School’s athletic office on Tuesday to bear witness as Julia and Kaitlyn took the ceremonial final step in the college recruitment process with Julia signing with Wagner College and Kaitlyn committing to Appalachian State – both Division I schools.
“It’s hard to imagine the Lady Panthers Soccer Team without Julia Fitzsimmons and Kaitlyn Seitter,” said Athletic Director Chris Ferrone. “Julia and Kait are outstanding athletes who have repeatedly distinguished themselves through their dedication to and passion for soccer.
“More than just incredible athletes, though, they’re also outstanding students and role models and they leave behind an incredible legacy of success,” he said.
For as long as she can remember, Julia Fitzsimmons’ dream has been to play college soccer. It’s a dream she’s been working to realize since she began playing at the age of six, and come Fall 2017, is set to become a reality when she begins her career as a Wagner College Seahawk.
“Wagner had everything I was looking for,” said Julia, 18. “It’s in a good [the Northeast] Conference, the campus is a good size, they have a great education program, which is what I’d like to study, and it’s close to home.”
A fact that thrills Julia’s parents – Joe and Gail Fitzsimmons.
“It’s comforting to know she’s going to be close to home,” Gail Fitzsimmons said. “We can easily make day trips to watch her play.”
Plus, Wagner competes at the Division I level, which is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the NCAA; however, the Division did not factor as heavily in Julia’s decision.
“Honestly, the Division didn’t matter, I just wanted to play competitive soccer at the next level,” she said.
Julia said she was considering Division II and III schools, including Pennsylvania’s West Chester University, until a visit to Wagner where she had the opportunity to meet her future coach and teammates. An offer from the school soon followed and by summer, she had verbally committed to the school. Julia was one of 10 prospects to commit to Wagner on Signing Day and though there are no guarantees she’ll compete as a freshman, Lady Panthers Soccer Coach Mike Edolo is confident she will.
“Julia is such a versatile player,” he said. “She can easily play four to five different positions, seamlessly. If they’re smart, they’ll will put her in.”
After beginning her soccer career on rec teams at age 6, Julia soon graduated to travel leagues by age 8, later transitioning to club soccer. Julia began her high school soccer career competing at the varsity level starting freshman year and serving as the team’s captain during her senior year. She helped lead the team to victory in three consecutive B-South Championships and 2015’s NJSIAA South Jersey Group II Sectional Championship win. And she has twice been voted All B-South and is this year’s team MVP.
“When I first saw Julia play during freshman year, I knew she was something special,” said Coach Edolo. “She’s worked hard and she deserves this. I’m as proud as I can be.”
In addition to playing on the high school team, Julia also played for the New Jersey Wildcats, one of the state’s top women’s soccer teams. And she’s balanced her busy soccer regimen of practice, playing and training as well as daily hour-long workouts with a grade point average well into the 90’s in an academic schedule filled with Honors classes and participation in the National Honor Society.
“It all comes down to time management,” she said, modestly.
According to Coach Edolo though, it’s Julia’s mental commitment that makes her a success, he said, “She’s one of the most mentally tough people I’ve ever met. She is focused and she has this incredible drive to succeed, which enables her to succeed.”
Dad Joe credited his daughter’s willingness to work hard, saying, “She’s worked very hard and has put in a lot of effort. She deserves it.”
Julia will head to Wagner in August, where she plans to major in education with the goal of becoming either a Physical Education or English teacher. She’ll also begin an intensive training regimen to prepare her for life as a collegiate athlete.
“I really hope she has a similar experience to what she had here in Point Pleasant,” Gail Fitzsimmons said. “The team was such a great group of girls and they were really like a family. I hope she has that same experience.”
As Julia closes one chapter of her soccer career and begins another, she was asked what advice she had for her younger teammates who will remain with the Lady Panthers next year, she said, “Keep working hard. Push through the difficult workouts and it will pay off.”
As Julia Fitzsimmons is acclimating to city life at Staten Island’s Wagner College, her Lady Panthers teammate Kaitlyn Seitter will be settling into the country at Appalachian State University located in the mountains of North Carolina. Hours after Julia’s signing, Kaitlyn Seitter became the Class of 2017’s fourth member to sign not just a National Letter of Intent but to sign with a Division I school, when she officially committed to continue her soccer career at Appalachian State.
Parents Kim and Joel Seitter, younger sister Meghan, Coach Mike Edolo, Athletic Director Chris Ferrone, Principal Kurt Karcich, Superintendent of Schools Vincent S. Smith and Players Development Academy Coach Lee Pollard were in attendance as Kaitlyn took the symbolic final step in the college recruiting process and signed the documents that would transform her from a Point Pleasant Borough Panther into an Appalachian Mountaineer.
“I was considering Elon, High Point, and UNCW but after visiting Appalachian State, I knew it was where I wanted to go,” Kaitlyn said of her college search. “I could see myself going there.”
Though the distance from the ocean might take some getting used to for the self-professed beach lover, Kait’s had a lot of time to get used to the idea, having been verbally committed to the school since the end of February 2016!
“My dad and I went for the initial visit in January of last year,” she said. “And I fell in love with it.”
The visit coincided with the team’s first winter practice, which Kaitlyn and her dad Joel had the opportunity to watch.
“We ended up staying to watch the practice until about 11pm,” Joel Seitter said. “We weren’t even back to the car when Kaitlyn said she wanted to go there [to Appalachian State].”
One month later, in February 2016, Kaitlyn attended a camp at the university, and almost immediately after, received an offer from the coach.
“It was a big weight off my shoulders,” Kait said about beginning her senior year with the commitment in place.
So while many of her classmates have been spending the past few months agonizing over college application essays and deadlines, Kaitlyn has had the opportunity to relax in the knowledge that for her, the college admission process was complete. But just because she had the opportunity to relax, it’s doesn’t mean she has.
Like Julia Fitzsimmons, Kaitlyn has played soccer at the varsity level throughout her high school career, earning accolades like All B-South and Second Team, All Group II and spots on elite teams like the Shore Sports Network’s 2015 All Shore Girls Soccer Team. She was also instrumental in the Lady Panthers three consecutive B-South Championships and their NJSIAA South Jersey Group II Sectional Championship title in 2015.
Also like Julia, Kaitlyn competes with an academy team - the Players Development Academy, or PDA, a year-round soccer training program. In addition, she has served in the Key Club, the Future Business Leaders of America, the Spanish Club and the Student Council, on which she currently serves as the treasurer. Kaitlyn is also an exceptional student, currently ranked 10th in Point Pleasant Borough High School’s Class of 2017, maintaining a near-perfect grade point average in an academic schedule packed with Honors and Advanced Placement courses.
The ability to juggle her multitudinous activities with her intense academic schedule comes down to time management and balance, according to Kait. According to her coaches, teammates and teachers, however, it’s her drive that makes her successful in just about every endeavor.
“Kait has this incredible drive and determination that you see both on and off the field,” said Coach Mike Edolo. “She’s always ready and always prepared and she wants to succeed.
“When she started with the team in 2013 it took me about one minute to recognize that we had something unique,” he said. “She’s been part of this core group of players that I consider irreplaceable. They have talent, drive and determination and they’ve pushed hard with relentless effort every step of the way.
“But more than just their playing ability, Kait and her teammates are good people,” he continued. “They have demonstrated excellent character, which has earned them the respect of their younger teammates.”
Kait’s PDA Coach Lee Pollard also commended his player’s character, saying, “Kait’s a leader and an inspiration. Technically, she’s a great player, who has consistently grown and done whatever’s necessary to improve her game. I have every faith that she will take her commitment, dedication and winning attitude with her to Appalachian State.”
Kaitlyn will head to Appalachian State in August, where she plans to pursue a degree in Exercise Science.
“There is no greater testament to our district’s academic and co-curricular programs than the achievement of our students,” said Superintendent of Schools Vincent S. Smith. "And there is no greater achievement for our student-athletes than the signing of a National Letter of Intent – especially with a Division I school.”
Though it depends on the sport, according to recent NCAA statistics an average of only one- or two percent of all high school student-athletes are offered Letters of Intent with Division I schools. In women’s soccer, that number is about 2.4 percent.
“Julia Fitzsimmons and Kaitlyn Seitter’s signings demonstrate the integral role sports can play in a student’s life as well as the level of achievement that’s possible when you combine passion, dedication and hard work,” he said. “I look forward to following their continued successes throughout their college careers.”