September 12, 2008
By David Driver
For the Stafford County Sun
Used with permission
Not long ago, Brittany Croce of Stafford played soccer in front of several college coaches. It was the fall of her senior season at North Stafford High, where she was the Northwest Region’s player of the year.
The Washington Area Girls Soccer event was held near Germantown, Md., and most of the coaches sat on the opposite side of the field from the players.
But not Paul Cairney, the head coach of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
“Who is this guy?” Croce said to herself.
Cairney sat near the players’ bench, and Croce said that only added to her anxiety of playing in front of coaches who could decide her college future.
Croce knew very little about UNC-Wilmington, except that the men’s basketball team at the school had recently played in the NCAA tournament. Even though she had been recruited by Virginia
Commonwealth and American universities, Croce decided to attend UNC-W after visiting the school, located just minutes from the Atlantic Ocean.
“I really liked both schools,” she said of VCU and AU. “I just thought UNC-W was a good fit. I didn’t want to be too close to home. I wanted to try a new place.”
Croce is now a starting=2 0junior midfielder and one of three captains for the Seahawks in women’s soccer. She had two assists earlier this season in a game against Charlotte.
“We lost two or three pretty big starters” from last year, said Croce, who added several freshmen have made up for that loss. “We didn’t get worse. We definitely got better.”
Croce is majoring in political science and Spanish and expects to graduate in the spring. She has one more year of athletic eligibility after this fall season since she did not play soccer as a college sophomore.
“I decided I wanted to transfer but then changed my mind,” Croce said of her absence from the team in 2006.
Croce had thought about transferring to George Mason University, but decided to stay in Wilmington. She knows some of the Mason players, and is gearing up for Oct. 12 when the Seahawks play in
Fairfax against the Patriots in a Colonial Athletic Association contest.
“I am so excited,” she said. Croce expects to have several family and friends on hand for that game. She is the oldest of 11 children. One of her sisters is a sophomore at Mountain View High School.
Her family lived in California for several years before moving to Stafford just before Croce entered high school.
Croce had two assists in the first four games this season for the Seahawks. UNC-W began the season w ith a record of 1-2-1, with a win against Gardner-Webb, losses to Charlotte and Wake Forest and a tie against South Carolina.
She played in 16 games as a freshman and made four starts. Last year as a junior she again played in 16 games, with four starts, and had an assist in a 3-2 win against Delaware.