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Hanes Gets Her Head In The Game And Becomes A Wildcat

It’s the most wonderful time of the year if you’re a high school senior. The final semester is underway and prom and graduation are both around the corner. But February 1st also has its special day on the high school calendar. Across the country, various student-athletes announced where they were taking their talents for the next four years. For NT Soccer’s Samantha Hanes, it was the end of one journey and the start of another.

The five-year letterman announced that she is exchanging the red-and-blue colors of the Lady Jacks for the blue-and-white colors of the Daemen Wildcats, the top Division II athletic program in Western New York. “It all started when I was younger, when my best friend and I used to play soccer in my backyard. Then, I wanted to play and go to college for it,” Hanes explained when asked on when her dream of being a collegiate athlete began.

The announcement was held at the North Tonawanda High School Library on Wednesday night. Joining Hanes for the big announcement were her parents, Mike and Kelly, her younger sister, Jessica, Lady Jacks head coach Hannah Crouch and her off-season coach Matt Waddington. North Tonawanda Athletic Director Jeff Alger was also on hand for the ceremony.

It’s been a highlight-reel type of career for Hanes since she first stepped out onto the pitch for the Lady Jacks in 2012 as an eighth grader. But as she sat at the table covered in a giant tablecloth with the Lumberjack logo to emphasize the importance of the day, Hanes smiled and remembered her first day of practice under then head coach Steve Sabo.

“I remember being the youngest and feeling kind of out of place at first,” she admitted. “But once the team embraced us (the younger players), it really became a lot of fun.”

And it truly was a lot of fun to watch her evolve and become one of the top playmakers in the Niagara Frontier League. In 77 career games, Hanes, a three-time All-NFL selectee, recorded 33 goals and 31 assists for a staggering 97 points and led her team to victory 55 times. It was a full circle as well for Hanes as her coach this past season, Hannah Crouch, was her JV coach in 7th grade. Crouch was all smiles as well at the ceremony and was glad that her veteran forward is now taking the next step.

“I’m excited for her,” said Crouch, who led the Lady Jacks to an 11-6 record this past fall after working her way through the ranks of the program alongside Hanes. “For the six years I’ve known her, she’s worked her tail off and she’s never quit. Even being that senior and being one of the top players on the team, she still came out and worked hard every day. It’s great to see a player like her achieve their goals.”

Pursuing a major in physical therapy, Hanes and her family made their decision on which school would ultimately help her have a successful future. “(Daemen) has a good school for that and that was my final decision.” “It was an all-around fit,” added her mother, Kelly.

North Tonawanda has had success at the collegiate soccer level in the past, most notably Meghan Lipinoga and Lauren Testa, who both spent time during their careers as a Wildcat. Alger said after the ceremony that Hanes will be hard to replace in the athletic department next season and beyond.

“She brought a lot of success to the program the last five years, but more importantly, she was a great role model for the North Tonawanda community,” Alger said, who nominated her for the Hewitt Scholarship award, given to one female and one male athlete in Western New York in June. “I wish her the best of luck moving forward.”

Now with her big decision out of the way, Hanes said that she is looking forward to completing her final semester in high school but realized that she’ll have to keep an eye on her sister, Jessica, next season, who will now be moving into the prime of her career.

She smiled and simply said, “I hope she steps up and continues on our family name.”

For more reaction from those who were a part of Hanes’ Lady Jack career click here

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