Darcy Cunningham committed to her “dream school” this week, avoiding potential soccer agony.
Had she not clicked so well with NCAA Division III Washington University in St. Louis, Cunningham, a St. Charles East senior forward, admitted she might not have pursued the sport at a different school.
“Wash U,” as it’s called colloquially, carries a history of athletic success but has long held a more formidable academic reputation.
“I knew I didn’t want to sacrifice my academics at all,” Cunningham said, “and I knew with it being D-III, it wouldn’t consume my life.”
With no school to worry about this summer, Cunningham internalized soccer again on the heels of the Saints’ banner 2014 season.
Ranking second on the team in goals and first in assists with 15 apiece, she helped East to a Class 3A state runner-up finish.
During many days after the state tournament, she joined boys players in captain’s scrimmages at the East practice field, which usually entailed an hour of playing before fun competitions at the end.
“I got close with a couple of guys on the team, and I’m going to be cheering them on this fall,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham’s roots hardly left her when she traveled to a camp at Baylor last month. St. Charles native Marci Jobson coaches Bears women’s soccer at the Waco, Texas, university, and welcomed Cunningham with another Saint: Jobson’s niece, Claire Rasmussen.
When some Texas-bred campers took to teasing the northerners about their accents, Jobson readily stumped for St. Charles and its soccer culture. Jobson, who, like Cunningham, wore No. 9 in high school, helped St. Charles High to state titles in 1992 and 1994, as well as a third-place finish in 1993.
“It was all about excelling and putting in all the work,” Cunningham said.
Around the same time of the Baylor camp, Cunningham attended camp at Washington University, whose staff she first encountered and communicated with during a club showcase in St. Louis her sophomore year. Cunningham competes for Campton United in the offseason.
Washington University coach Jim Conlon observed Cunningham with a little extra attention after the Saints’ spring success and caught up with her about the past year of schoolwork and soccer.
Neither discussion lagged. Cunningham holds a 5.78 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale, ranking third in a class of about 600, she said.
Everything built toward Cunningham sending her high school transcripts to Wash U. Conlon and Co. liked what they saw, and Cunningham committed Thursday.
“Before all this, I was thinking about applying to 11 different colleges, so I knew that was going to be nerve-racking,” Cunningham said. “It’s a relief just being able to focus on my senior year and soccer at East.”
Cunningham said she has shown an early interest in studying medicine, developing a curiosity about orthopaedic surgery after a knee injury earlier in her prep career.