James Wood's Kerns signs to play soccer with Longwood

5fb5e67e183e2.imageWINCHESTER — One of the people in James Wood’s auditorium on Wednesday evening couldn’t help but remark, “It’s so quiet.”

Wednesday’s signing ceremony might not have had the buzz that a crowd of several dozen would deliver, but 13 people got to witness a pretty spectacular achievement.

Colonels senior goalkeeper Sadie Kerns signed a National Letter of Intent to play soccer for NCAA Division I Longwood University in Farmville. Kerns will receive a combination of athletic and academic scholarships that will cover more than half of her expenses.

The 5-foot-7 Kerns is the first James Wood girls’ soccer player to sign to play at the Division I level since 2015 graduate Alex Stanford, who had a four-year career that included All-Patriot League honors during her senior year for Lafayette College in Easton, Pa.

In a ceremony in which attendance was restricted because of Gov. Ralph Northam’s 25-person gathering limit, Kerns appreciated the chance to sign at school in front of friends, teammates, coaches and family. Wednesday was a moment she’s wanted to have for a long time.

“It means everything to me [to play in college],” said Kerns after the ceremony. “I’ve been dreaming of this since my freshman year in high school. It’s been my goal to play at a Division I school. It’s just the ultimate reward for the amount of hard work, sweat and tears I’ve put in over the years.”

Kerns has been James Wood’s starting goalkeeper throughout her career. She led the area in saves as a freshman (6.3 per game) and the following season she was a Region 4C and Class 4 Northwestern District First Team selection. She recorded 9.4 saves per game and a school-record 10 shutouts to lead the area. Kerns’ junior season was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Longwood — which competes in the Big South Conference — showed Kerns that Division I soccer could be a reality from the early stages of her high school career, with associate head coach and goalkeepers coach Rick Stoneman expressing interest in her ability. Kerns said Stoneman saw her play in some ID camps through Kerns’ travel team, Loudoun Soccer.

Kerns went to Longwood over the summer. Kerns couldn’t get the full experience due to COVID-19 recruiting limitations, but she toured the campus, the field and the locker room with senior defender Carrie Reaver.

“[Stoneman] has always been a coach that I’ve really connected with,” said Kerns, who also gets along with 27th-year head coach Todd Dyer [258-182-39 record overall]. “Eventually, he convinced me to come to campus. It was just an immediate love for the school, the campus, the community — I like the small-town feel — and the team itself. People say their team is a family, but they truly are. I made a connection with all the players.”

Kerns — who was offered a scholarship in August and gave her verbal commitment on Sept. 3 — said she’s already best friends with her future roommate, Grace Taylor of Pennsylvania.

Kerns will major in criminal justice and minor in psychology. Kerns said one of the Lancers players speaks highly of Longwood’s criminal justice program and has already made career connections that she can use after she graduates.

Kerns also considered Coastal Carolina, which offered her a spot on the team, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Kerns will join a Longwood team that went 6-9-2 overall and 4-4-2 in the Big South in 2019 (the Lancers did not play this fall due to COVID-19). Local graduates Danielle Toone (Clarke County, junior forward/midfielder) and Isabella Unrath (Sherando, freshman midfielder) are also members of the program.

James Wood girls’ soccer coach Donavan Russell said Kerns definitely has what it takes to make an impact with the Lancers because of her determination and skill set. Russell is a former James Wood and Bridgewater College goalkeeper, and his son Ethan is a freshman goalkeeper at NCAA Division I Mount St. Mary’s University.

“She moves quick,” Russell said. “She’s smart on her angles, which is something that’s really hard to teach. I think when she gets up there and adjusts to the speed of play and the shot power at the college level, once she kind of understands where that is, she can work on those things to get a little bit quicker, and she’ll be fine.

“Right now, her abilities are at the highest level as a high school goalkeeper. She’s that good.”

Russell said it’s been great watching her develop, and he’s glad she’s contributed as much as she has to James Wood when she could have easily chose to focus on club soccer.

“A lot of players of her caliber will skip [high school ball] and play for their clubs year round,” Russell said. “We’re happy to have her at James Wood and playing.

“We couldn’t be more proud of her. Good kid, good personality, great leader. She’s hard on the girls but at the same time she cares about them and lifts them up. She’s a real hard-nosed worker, and that rubs off on the girls.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
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