Good friends and former First Presbyterian Christian Academy Highlander soccer teammates Kelsey Higgason and Brooke Standard on Friday penned their names to soccer scholarships to play for Armstrong Atlantic State University. The girls signed during separate ceremonies at their respective high schools.
Higgason, formerly a Highlander, will play out her senior year at Long County High School, where she was cheered on by family, friends and supporters from Long County and FPCA during her signing in the school’s media center. The Blue Tide’s soccer program is entering its second year, and Higgason is the first girls’ player to earn a soccer scholarship. Standard, who will finish her senior year at FPCA, made the trip to Ludowici to support her friend. Later that afternoon, the same large crowd of supporters headed to FPCA, where Standard signed her scholarship. Higgason, wearing an AASU shirt, was right there with her, continuing the celebration.
As Lady ’Landers, both girls started on the varsity squad in eighth grade. By the time they were sophomores, the duo led the FPCA girls to the state finals and finished as the Class AA state runners up. The following year, as juniors, the pair took the team to the finals again, this time claiming the Class AA state title.
Guiding them through their soccer careers was Hinesville Gator and FPCA head soccer coach Tom Sukaratana.
Sukaratana said Higgason and Standard were very young when they joined the Gator league, but both girls worked hard and performed so well that they eventually played on the boys’ squad.
“Those two are very special, and I watched them both grow up,” Sukaratana said. “Brooke will do fine. She is talented, has a strong character and is a great player. Kelsey is a strong player … she has come a long way, and I am very proud of her. There are no words to describe how much of a hard worker she is, and I always told her she would make it if she believed in herself.”
Sukaratana said he was thrilled to hear the pair wanted to attend AASU. He said Lady Pirate coach Eric Faulconer is a good friend, so he knows the girls will be in good hands as they progress to the next level. He said he warned Higgason and Standard that the hard work has yet to come but added he knows they are ready for the challenge.
“I tell them it is going to be more physical now and a faster pace ... but they’ve played on the boys’ team, so I think that will help them,” he said.
Higgason said signing to play soccer at the college level is something she has worked for throughout her career.
“I have dreamed of going to Armstrong my whole life and now finally … it’s so close,” she said.
After earning her bachelor’s, Higgason aspires to join the Peace Corps while working on a master’s degree and said she will study sociology and anthropology at AASU. She said the school has a great atmosphere and, more importantly, is still close to home.
“I have three little sisters and I want to be a part of their life,” she said. Higgason has attended all the soccer camps hosted by AASU throughout her high-school career and said Faulconer is much more than a soccer coach. “He is very positive … he is big on soccer, but he is more about us building our self confidence and preparing us for life after college,” she said.
As for having her FPCA teammate sign as well, Higgason said she is thrilled.
“I am excited because Brooke and I are so close and to be playing at the same college, it’s a miracle and a dream. It’s what I’ve always wished for her. I am so excited, and I am definitely going to be attending her signing today,” she said.
Standard has lofty goals for college as well. She plans to earn a doctorate degree to become a physical therapist. She said she is ready to play at the college level after years of playing on several boys’ teams; however, she fears leaving FPCA won’t be easy.
“I am going to miss my classmates most of all, but we grew up together and it’s been like a second family to me,” Standard said.
Higgason’s parents, Karen and Rusty, said they’re proud of their eldest daughter.
“This means a lot and especially that she picked a college that is close to home so she could be a part of her sisters’ lives and we can still make her games,” Karen Higgason said, adding that Kelsey is a great role model for her sisters.
“They’ve seen her struggle when she was younger … not wanting to go to practices or be the bench warmer,” Karen Higgason said. “So to watch her go from being the bench warmer, to going to practicing hard to be a better player and earn game time, and now getting to here to play at the college level is huge.”
“It’s a very special moment to see my oldest daughter signing for college and taking that step into adulthood,” Rusty Higgason said. “I’ve been watching her play since she was about 4 years old, and I think that as long as she is confident in her abilities, which she does so well, she will be great in college.”
Standard’s parents, Durand and Carla, were equally thrilled with their daughter’s accomplishments.
“Today is the result of a lot of work on her part,” Durand Standard said. “She has been very dedicated to the sport of soccer … traveling and playing with high-level teams. It will be exciting to see her go to the next level and play. We are elated that she chose Armstrong for her career path while at the same time be able to play soccer, which is her love and passion, and her mom and I get to go watch her games. She has a very good work ethic, so if she stays disciplined in her academics and soccer play, I think she will be fine.”
“It’s very overwhelming,” Carla Standard said. “And we are very proud of her and happy to see her going to Armstrong, where she can fulfill her dreams to play soccer and get her education at the same time.”
But no one was more proud than Standard’s grandmother, Retha.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “She is a natural athlete, and I am very proud of her. She has a good background and I would tell her to rely on it a lot … right now, it’s just hard to realize she will be graduating from high school. Time goes by so quickly.”