Two more Columbia County athletes will compete at the collegiate level next year after a pair of signing ceremonies last week.
Lakeside senior Joe Hastings signed to play soccer at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., while homeschooler Courtney Rauscher committed to play tennis at Virginia Tech.
HASTINGS, A senior soccer player at Lakeside, will play midfield for the Panthers this spring with his college future already secure.
The senior has spent all three of his previous high school years on the varsity squad as the top left-footer on the team.
He'll do the same on a college team heading into its fifth year as a program.
"It'll be a little different, but I'm excited," Hastings said. "Today is all about God, family, my teammates, coaches and friends. Without them I never would have gotten here."
Hastings has been a staple on the Lakeside soccer field since his freshman year. As a sophomore he finished off a corner kick from a teammate and turned it into the game-winning goal over Ware County in a 3-2 state playoff upset.
"That's probably my best memory from here," Hastings said. "Hopefully this year we can get Lakeside soccer back to what it was five or six years ago."
Hastings said that effort will start with an old rivalry.
"We're going to beat Greenbrier this year," he said. "Seriously. We will."
Rauscher doesn't have a rival in the Augusta area. She simply doesn't get beat.
"Courtney's in a different stratosphere than anybody else in the area," Petersburg Racquet Club tennis director Craig Jones said. "When she's at full speed she has to play men and college people because she beats everyone else. There's not a high school boy in town that can beat her."
That's why Rauscher was heavily recruited by Illinois, Colorado and North Carolina State. Eventually, she chose Virginia Tech.
"I've said all along she's the best player I've ever worked with, hands down," Jones said. "Best female player for sure -- hands down the best."
Those are big words coming from a coach who has worked with dozens of high schoolers who have gone on to play at the NCAA Division I level.
For Rauscher, 17, the decision was simple.
"I got along with the team and the coach, and the campus is really pretty," she said. "That, and I always wanted to go to a school with big football and basketball programs so I can experience that."
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