What ordinarily would be a no-brainer was far more complex for recent Kaneland graduate Delani Vest.
Vest, who planned to play college softball at Waubonsee Community College in the fall, received an 11th-hour, July scholarship offer from nearby Northern Illinois University to play the sport she loves at the Division I level.
Vest has long harbored major college softball ambitions but, for a teenage mom, the added time demands of playing at NIU required extensive discussion with her family. On Sunday, Vest decided to add Division-I softball player to her list of responsibilities, committing to the Huskies.
“It was actually kind of hard because I was deciding how it was going to be, being a D-I player and a mom, and it was pretty difficult,” Vest said. “But after realizing how much support I had behind me with my family, we were going to be able to make it work.”
The reigning Kane County Chronicle Softball Player of the Year was best known for her pitching at Kaneland but projects as an infielder at NIU.
A summer coaching change for the Huskies – Christina Sutcliffe was named the program’s new head coach in mid-June – and a strong season for Vest playing for the Wasco Diamonds travel program combined to create the unusual timing of a July scholarship offer for the coming school year.
Vest referenced a few other Division I softball players around the country who are also mothers, but acknowledged that, given the proximity to family, NIU was the only D-I school that would be workable. An Elburn resident, Vest expected to attend NIU two years from now.
“My plans were to go to NIU after Waubonsee and maybe not even play, but it’s really awesome that they came over and said they’re looking for a player,” Vest said. “It was really cool.”
Vest has a 1-year-old son, Braden, who she cares for with assistance from her parents, Kerry and Tammi. That support will be needed even more with the year-round training and amount of in-season travel that comes with the D-I territory.
A four-year varsity player, Vest missed most of her junior season at Kaneland after giving birth to Braden in March 2011. She re-established herself as a dynamic pitcher (20-3, 1.75 ERA) and offensive table-setter (.448 batting average) as a senior, saying she felt like her old self, albeit with slightly diminished footspeed.
Vest, who will be on a partial athletic scholarship at NIU, said she will continue to live with her parents as a freshman and likely move to DeKalb with Braden for her sophomore year.
Enthused as she is about establishing herself at the D-I level, Vest said she will miss the opportunity to play with a couple close friends at Waubonsee that she knows from the travel softball circuit.
“Some things I’m definitely going to be sad about is not playing with my two really good friends with travel, (Batavia graduate) Christine Lynam and (St. Charles East graduate) Casey Basic,” Vest said. “I was really looking forward to having two more years with them, but it’s a really awesome opportunity, and they’re really happy for me.”