McCallie School senior Thomas Priest signed a national letter of intent Wednesday to play NCAA Division I soccer at Lipscomb University.
Priest is a midfielder for the Blue Tornado but has been a high-scoring forward in club soccer and has played forward also in the Olympic Development Program, and he could play outside back as a college freshman just so Lipscomb can get him on the field, McCallie coach Chris Cushenbery said.
He pretty much can do it all, in other words.
This will be Cushenbery's sixth season to coach Priest, and he shared three aspects of the Signal Mountain resident.
"First, Thomas is defined by excellence — on the field, in the classroom and as a person," Cushenbery said. "Two, he possesses the greatest mix of confidence and humility I believe I have ever coached. He's so coachable and so in tune to his teammates, and he has great confidence that stems from his hard work. That extends to the classroom: He takes all the hardest classes.
"And third, he is the ultimate team player. He's been a facilitator on offense, and he steps back and makes sure we're balanced defensively for counterattacks. He's been one of the 10 best players in the city the last few years, but he's always done what we've asked even if it's meant not as much personal glory."
Priest was first-team all-state last spring, when McCallie won a state championship, and he has started every game in a career with team records of 16-1-1, 13-3-3 and 14-1-4.
He had talks also with Alabama-Huntsville, High Point and Wheaton but was drawn to the Nashville school for athletic and atmospheric reasons.
"I liked the culture at Lipscomb," Priest said. "The quality of soccer there is so high. They went to the NCAA tournament last year for the first time in program history, and there is definitely a resurgence there. And the Christian culture there is important to me."facebook
Abbie Vibbert a Lee signee
Baylor School center back Abbie Vibbert, a former forward who helped the Lady Red Raiders go undefeated on the way to the 2017 state championship after losing in the final and the quarterfinals in 2015 and 2016, signed Wednesday to move on to another perennial area power, Lee University.
The Cleveland-based Lady Flames won four consecutive NAIA national titles before moving up to NCAA Division II and quickly has made nationals at the new level. A Cleveland resident, Vibbert had paid attention to Lee for several years, and though she "went through a phase" of wanting to go away from home for college, she ultimately couldn't deny her fondness for the Lee program and campus.
"I love the school so much, so after the coaches talked to me I knew I had to go there," she said.
"She played with us in the playoffs in 2015 (after transferring from McMinn County) and the next two years, and she had nine goals and three assists as a center back," Baylor coach Curtis Blair said. "She saved a bunch of goals for us.
"The best part about her is that she's a tough kid with a soccer brain. She sees things before they happen. She's versatile and willing to play wherever for the betterment of the team. She's selfless."
Vibbert also considered Maryville, Trevecca Nazarene and Belmont.
Berry for Anna Salisbury
Girls Preparatory School also celebrated Wednesday a center back moving forward: Anna Salisbury to Division III member Berry College.
"We have relied on her extensively to shoulder the defensive workload for the team," Bruisers coach Patrick Winecoff said. "Anna's work ethic, love for her teammates and leadership have propelled the GPS soccer program to the state semifinals twice (2015 and 2017) and to a state championship in 2014."
In her four-year career the Bruisers went 41-13-6 with 31 shutouts, and she started all but one of those games.
Salisbury said she picked Berry not only for its scenic campus and wide variety of activities but also for the welcoming reception she felt there.
"And as president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at GPS, I also love the religious opportunities Berry offers, while still being open to all faith backgrounds," she said. "I am a part of Young Life, and I love that Berry orfers that as well."