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Bates' quest helps land D-I soccer scholarship

When it came to picking a college, South Medford senior Amber Bates left very little to chance.

The standout goalkeeper was intent on playing Division I soccer and getting a good education; she is intent on becoming the first member of her family to graduate from a four-year college. She knew she'd need a healthy scholarship to meet those goals.

So as a junior, she pored over a book listing scholarships for female athletes, soccer players and academic scholarships. Then she fired off letters to 66 schools.

I just had it in my mind that I wanted to play Division I soccer and nothing in my power was going to stop me, not even money if I could help it, she said.

When the schools replied, she spent hours paring down her options and even came up with a rating system to compare the institutions.

The hard work paid off. She signed a letter of intent to play soccer at the University of San Francisco earlier this month.

With all the responses, the task of choosing a school was like a whole other class, she said. It just happened that the University of San Francisco scored the highest or fit better than any other school.

Bates, a second-team all-state selection as a senior and an honorable mention pick as a junior, will receive a partial athletic scholarship her freshman year with the potential of growing to almost a full-ride her final three years.

She carries a 3.75 GPA and was also awarded a large academic scholarship. All told, about 85 percent of her first-year costs to the private university will be covered.

I knew somehow it could work out and it did because of my grades, she said. I had always done well in school and the hard work paid off. It helped me get good financial aid from the school.

Bates plans to enter a pre-physical-therapy program at San Francisco. She visited the campus and decided it was the place for her.

I've always wanted to spend some time in that city, and this a perfect opportunity to do that, she said.

Bates, who helped South to two Southern Oregon Conference titles, will join a program that has a pair of goalkeepers entering their senior seasons.

They are great to have in front of me, she said. Probably what got me though was their goalkeepers coach, Tony Howard. When he first called, he was excited. He was excited about the program, excited about me, and excited about the future.

So far, a lot of coaches were interested but not excited.

San Francisco finished second in the West Coast Conference last season. Coach Jean Paul Verhees said he's glad to have Bates aboard.

Amber made a super impression on us during her recruiting visit, he said. She is a diamond in the rough, so to speak, and will challenge both of the senior goalkeepers this season.

Bates said she has been told that if she outperforms the seniors that she will see playing time.

Now that I've signed, I know the hardest work I have ever had to put into goalkeeping is still to come, she said. Sure, I've worked hard in years past and accomplished a great deal but this is a whole other level that I'm stepping into.