(Feb. 6, 2015) Payton VanKirk’s travel team, the Sea Bay Lacrosse Club, is like one big family and she was looking for that same comfort level and atmosphere when she went to college. She found that within the University of Maryland Baltimore County program.
“The main reason I chose UMBC was, regardless of the really awesome academics aspect, my travel team is just a really big family and that was something that was really important to me. As soon as I stepped on the campus and met the girls on the team that was the feel I got and that’s what I really wanted,” she said. “I really liked the coaches and I loved the school. The girls were awesome and the team atmosphere and the team chemistry was so great. That’s what I really liked.”
During a visit to UMBC, VanKirk sat in on a biology class, met several players and stayed overnight. She felt she would fit in well there.
She verbally committed last January and signed her letter of intent this November.
“I was really excited to sign. It’s an amazing feeling,” the 17-year-old said. “It’s kind of like a big weight off your shoulders after so much hard work and so many years of high school and travel [ball].”
VanKirk was offered an athletic scholarship. The Stephen Decatur senior plans to major in media communications.
Division I lacrosse will be a year-round commitment and VanKirk thinks she will be able to balance academics and athletics.
“One of the main things I knew when I met all the girls and saw the support system and the family aspect that they have makes the transition into playing a sport in college a lot easier if you’re surrounded by people who really care about you and support you,” she said. “Academic-wise, I definitely want to graduate in four years and then depending on what field I want to go into and what area I want to live in when I’m older, maybe go to grad school … This summer I’m going to work really hard and train really hard to get ready for the incoming season and just work my hardest when I’m there.”
“She’s a phenomenal athlete, she’s a team player, she’s an impact player and she’s tough as nails,” Decatur lacrosse Coach Bob Musitano said. “She’s a good student-athlete. I think she’ll do fine. She’s very outgoing and social. She’s well balanced.”
VanKirk wrapped up her fourth and final season playing soccer for Decatur in October. She scored 11 goals and logged six assists and was named to the All-Bayside Conference Second Team.
She is currently in the middle of basketball season, where she has been a member of the team since her freshman year.
Before VanKirk heads off to UMBC, she will step on the lacrosse field one last time as a Seahawk. The midfielder/attacker will begin her fourth season competing for Decatur in mid-March.
“I’m really excited. I definitely think we can go undefeated and I definitely want to make it to the state championships,” VanKirk said.
VanKirk is looking forward to her last season at Decatur and she is anticipating her UMBC adventure.
“It’s been a really exciting experience and really awesome journey to get here. My family and my friends and coaches have been really supportive of me,” she said.