Six Republic athletes have committed to to play sports in college. Members of five different teams announced their commitments at the school’s November signing day: baseball, basketball, golf, softball (2), and soccer.
Broc Smith has committed to play basketball at Drury University. New Republic coach Tim Brown says Smith has impressed him off the court as well as on, in the few months they’ve been working together.
“He’s had ultimate buy-in and whenever your senior leader is bought in, it’s easy for others to follow. So, you know, it’s one of those things that you’re surprised you have that relationship with a player this early on, having not played a real game,” Brown says. “That just is a credit to him and the buy-in that he’s had. We all have the same goal in making sure that we get the most people pulling in the same direction.”
Smith says among all the options, even including larger schools, Drury stood out to him. “Drury was just special to me. Something about staying home and playing for people that have watched you your whole high school career is special,” he says. “I love the players and the coaches, and it is an amazing campus and has one of the best basketball gyms in the country.”
Tyler Cavener will also attend Drury University, where he’ll be a member of the baseball team. Cavener hit .324 for the Tigers last year as a junior, with a .435 on-base percentage. Coach Curt Plotner expects him to be an anchor in the middle of the lineup next spring.
“Last year, he started to hit his stride. He’s going to hit in the middle of our order and be a big run producer for us,” Plotner says. “Not a lot of guys that you’ll find swing the bat as well as he does [and] run as well as he does, too.”
Cavener says he won’t let the fact that he’s committed to play college ball cause him to let down during his final high school season.
“It’s going to push me to work harder and you know, try to get better and get to where I want to be there at the next level,” he says.
Two Republic softball players will be attending school together in Springfield, at Evangel University. Catcher Julia Higgins and outfielder Megan Thorne both committed to play there.
Higgins re-wrote the Republic record books during her senior season, hitting 14 home runs and driving in 60 runs.
“Julia had a senior year that all seniors wish they could have,” says coach Lee Dishman. “She’s going down as one of the best players to play … for Republic softball, just out of hard work.”
Higgins says Evangel was a natural fit for her as she looked at college options.
“I love how focused they are on God, and I love all the programs they have,” she says. “They have the majors I want … and it’s close to home, so I’ll be able to stick around a little bit longer.”
Megan Thorne was a three-year starter for the Lady Tigers, and has been a part of the program far longer than that. She grew up around Republic softball when her father, Mike Thorne, was head coach.
“Her goal and her dream was to play for Republic, then go on and play college softball,” says Dishman. “She was a good leader for us, and in the classroom she’s a leader also. She’s a good example for all student-athletes.”
Thorne says she’s excited for the transition.
“I’m looking forward to starting something new and going into a different environment, getting new friends, new teammates,” she says. “I’m really excited to play with coach Jay [Holbrook]. I’ve known him since I was little. He’s been friends with my dad for a really long time, so I’m just really excited to go play for a positive environment and see what they can do for me.”
Three years ago, Ashley White had never played golf before. Now she’s planning to attend Evangel as a member of the golf team.
“[She has an] unbelievable work ethic and progressed year after year,” says Plotner, who coaches girls golf in addition to baseball. “She’s really determined and wants to be the best she can be.”
White says she was looking for something new after deciding she was done playing basketball, and that’s when golf entered the picture. But it was a rough start.
“I wasn’t very good. Like I really just wasn’t that good,” she says. “I had never touched a club in my life, so my dad just really pushed me to play. So I started playing and practicing, and I really loved it and I just worked hard. It’s weird to go from a team-oriented sport like basketball to an individual sport. You get all the credit and you work hard for what you get, so I liked that a lot.”
Drew Flippin has played a number of different roles for the Republic soccer team, and he’ll take that versatility with him to Evangel.
“He’s a player who’s willing to do whatever it takes for the team to win,” says coach Kevin Hauck. ” “Last year, we didn’t need him to score as much, and he came two assists away from setting the season record. This year we needed him to score a little bit more, and he led the team in goals.”
Flippin says he’s looking forward to the competitiveness of Evangel’s soccer schedule.
“I’m told that we play in one of the most competitive NAIA leagues, which is going to be extremely fun. I just love the fact that I can just keep pushing myself.”