MEDINA — It’s been Miami of Ohio for a while for Maddie Stafford. The Medina junior made that official this weekend after yet another visit.
While schools like Northern Kentucky, Campbell (N.C.) and Xavier showed interested in the girls soccer standout, the RedHawks were always pulling at her heartstrings.
“Oh, boy, there’s lots of reasons,” Stafford said. “I’ve always loved Miami since I was really little. We used to go down to Miami in a showcase (for the Cleveland Futbol Club). I fell in love immediately with the campus.
“The aesthetic of the buildings, it was very collegiate. It had that very college vibe. I really liked that aspect of it. They play in the Mid-American Conference, so it’s a very competitive conference. It’s Division I, so I get to fulfill my dream of being a D-I college player, which is awesome, and I really love the new coaching staff. Courtney (Sirmans) is awesome.”
Sirmans’ vision might have been the biggest deciding factor for the holding midfielder.
An assistant at Rice the last three seasons, Sirmans helped the Owls to a 33-16-5 record with three straight 10-win seasons and a regular-season Conference USA crown. Last fall, Rice posted a 12-4-2, 9-0-1 record that included a school-record 11-game unbeaten streak.
That helped the Owls earn an at-large berth in the NCAA Division I Tournament and caught the attention of Miami, which hired her as head coach.
While the RedHawks are coming off a 2-15-1 season, they’re only two seasons removed from an 11-8-2 mark and three from back-to-back runner-up finishes in the MAC.
“(Sirmans) was telling me she’s really hoping to make her mark on the program,” Stafford said. “She really wants to bring in players that she thinks can strengthen Miami’s soccer team and get them back to how they used to perform.
“I think that’s really motivating. It makes you want to work a lot harder. I want to go out there and show them that we are good. We can be competitive and I know that’s what Courtney wants, too.”
The competition will start for Stafford in the fall of 2019. If no one transfers, Stafford will be in the mix with at least seven midfielders, who will be juniors when she arrives.
While she might play outside back as well, she’s ready to show the RedHawks why she was a vital part of a Medina team that went 15-2-2 and only allowed nine goals in 19 games.
Taking a redshirt doesn’t matter to the versatile Stafford.
“Obviously I want to go right in there and compete for a spot,” Stafford said. “But I understand there are older girls who are working hard and are just as good. You can learn a lot from the older girls. They’ve been there for three or four years. They’ve already played and know what it’s like to play at a collegiate level.”
Stafford, who carries a 3.3 grade-point average and is interested in architectural design, is ready to take the next step with Miami.
“I want to make their program better,” the 5-foot-8 Stafford said. “I’m very strong. I don’t score the goals, but I can set them up well. I can contribute. Obviously, I’m pretty tall. I’m athletic and fast. There are quite a few things I can bring to make Miami successful.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.