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WOMEN'S COLLEGE SOCCER: ATHENS' WALKER SIGNS TO PLAY AT DIV. I ST. BONAVENTURE (5 PHOTOS) (2022-01-07)

By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
ATHENS — Athens senior Hannah Walker will take the next step in her soccer career this fall at Division I St. Bonaventure after signing a National Letter-of-Intent Friday afternoon during a brief ceremony in the high school gym.

Walker knows it’s cliche, but she knew St. Bonaventure was the right place for her immediately.

“As soon as I stepped on campus, I got the feeling it was the place for me,” she said.

“I know everyone says that, but I couldn’t find a thing there I didn’t like,” noted Walker. “It was such a perfect fit.

“There is such a community feeling at St. Bonaventure … everyone knows everyone, and everyone loves everyone,” added Walker. “I’m really excited to be a part of that family.”

St. Bonaventure first hit Walker’s radar during her freshman year when then-Athens senior Rachel Hutchison signed to be a Bonnie.

“I didn’t know there was a St. Bonaventure until my freshman year when Rachel (Hutchison) was a senior.

“We checked it out, and really liked it,” said Walker. “It definitely helped that Rachel went there.”

Athens coach Rich Pitts has no doubt Walker will be successful at the next level.

“Her versatility is going to be a key.

“She played in the back for her club, she’s played in the midfield for us, and she was up top for us as a sophomore and junior,” said Pitts.

“I think if her coach has an opening, she might be able to steal a spot anywhere on the field,” Pitts added.

Walker believes she’s had good role models precede her, and knows what it takes to succeed. She also know she has work to do.

“I think playing with Emma Roe (currently playing soccer at Div. I Wagner) last year helped,” she said.

“And during my freshman year, watching how hard Rachel Hutchison (playing soccer at St. Bonaventure), Ari Gambrell (track at Div. 1 Bucknell), Emma Adams (softball at Div. I Albany), Emma Roe, and Hannah Blackman (soccer at Div. II Millersville) worked … that showed me how hard I have to work.

“The girls at that level are bigger, faster, stronger, I definitely have to work on that,” noted Walker. “I just need to keep working, and I’ll be ready by fall.”

Walker has played years of premier travel soccer, and believes that has prepared her for the next level.

“I played club (soccer) with Gabby Picco and Emma Roe … all the girls I played with at that level are playing college soccer,” she said. “Being around them, and playing with them really helped me.get better.

“I’ve had such great coaches, and such great role models my whole life,” added Walker. “I’ve been very lucky to be able to look up to those people, and see what it takes to be successful.”

Pitts believes Walker has all the physical tools and skills, but says the “mental part” will be her biggest challenge.

“I tell every girl the same thing: ‘When you go college, it’s all about the mental part.’

“All those girls, including Hannah, are talented enough to play at the Division I love, or they wouldn’t be recruited,” said Pitts.

“It all changes once you get there. It’s a business,” he noted. “The coaches are tough, and you have to be able to mentally prepare for that, and be in a good head space the whole season because it comes at you like a fire hose. I think that’s the biggest piece for her.

“I think having Rachel there will help, though” added Pitts.

Walker will major in physical education at St. Bonaventure.

“I’m planning on teaching and coaching in the future,” she said.

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IN PHOTO 1: Athens senior Hannah Walker. IN PHOTO 2: From left: Taylor Walker (sister), Heather Walker, Hannah Walker, and Damon Walker. … PHOTOS BY DAVID ALLIGER — TRAVELING PORTRAITS.

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