HERMISTON — Hermiston senior Clarissa Nitz celebrated her birthday on Thursday, and she earned herself perhaps one of her best gifts ever.
A college scholarship.
Nitz along with fellow Hermiston seniors John-Henry Line and Alysia Garcia signed their letters of intent to play college athletics at a signing party at the Hermiston High School commons. Nitz signed to play volleyball at Warner Pacific University, while Line signed with Eastern Oregon football and Garcia with Southwest Oregon Community College women’s soccer.
“This is really exciting,” Nitz said while grinning ear-to-ear on Thursday. “I’ve wanted to play in college since the sixth grade ... I’ve just always loved the sport.”
Warner Pacific was Nitz’s first choice and the only school she really considered because of the school’s Christian affiliation.
“It was really important to me because I’ve gone to church all my life,” Nitz said, “and it just had everything I needed in a school.”
Garcia really focused on one school as well, as Southwest Oregon’s location in Coos Bay and its coach head coach Allan Ledesma presented the perfect opportunity for her.
“It’s a small community and I’m from a small community and everything seemed perfect for me,” she said.
She did consider Columbia Basin College as another possible landing spot, as one of CBC’s coaches doubled as Garcia’s club soccer coach, however she said she preferred SWOCC because she felt she wanted to get away from home for college.
Garcia said she plans on studying something in the business field to help her reach a goal of owning and operating her own business someday. And while she’s happy to know her next step following high school, she is sad to leave behind friends and teammates that have been dear to her for many years.
“I’ve played soccer with everyone on my high school team since I was really little,” she said. “I’ll be missing them for sure and everyone else here because we’re all like family.”
For Line, an incredible senior season turned in on the football field opened up the opportunity for him to play college football. Line previously played linebacker before moving to defensive line after one game and he took off, earning Columbia River Conference Player of the Year and Class 5A First Team All-State honors.
“I’m pretty sure they (EOU coaches) didn’t really know who I was before the season,” Line said. “But late December, early January they came to school and then the coaches started calling me ... and then I visited and met everyone and it just felt really right at Eastern.”
Line, who intends to study marketing, also entertained an offer from Southern Oregon University, but said that EOU’s mix of coaches, the proximity to home, and its 2016 postseason run made it too good to pass up. Having played both linebacker and defensive line in high school, Line said that EOU’s coaches plan to use him as a hybrid defensive end and linebacker to squeeze as much potential out of him as they can.
When all three athletes were asked if there were one moment or game that sticks out from their careers, all three responded with an identical answer — the Pendleton games.
“Pendleton my senior year for sure,” Line said with a smile. “It was a big game, it was close with a lot of pressure and I had a good game.”
“Destroying Pendleton because they’re our rivals,” Garcia added, referencing Hermiston’s 6-1 win over the Bucks on Oct. 24, 2016. “It was home, it was packed and I had a hat trick.”
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