CAMDEN — Riane Woodard is leaving a soccer program where she personified the “it” player to become the newest member of a fledgling program at Indiana University East.
The Preble Shawnee senior midfielder signed a National Letter of Intent to attend the Richmond, Indiana school Friday, Nov. 11, in front of family, friends and teammates.
“I’m really, really excited about it. I went to two visits there for school and one to just meet the coach. I liked it. It’s not huge, but it’s not small,” Woodard said.
IU East, an NAIA member, will begin soccer next season.
“I didn’t want to go somewhere that was way too far where I wouldn’t be able to come home, but I wanted to go somewhere that was far enough where I could learn to have some responsibility and live on my own,” she said.
During her time at Preble Shawnee, she was part of a league championship team, two sectional championships and two district runners-up.
“(It was) awesome. We have some good numbers on the banner. We have a league, two sectionals and then district runners-up. It’s been an amazing experience with the team because the team is great. Everybody’s so nice and gets along,” Woodard said.
She is looking forward to being a member of the program’s first team.
“I’m just really excited. I’m going to put in some hard work so I can get to where I want to be at IU East. It’s such an honor to be the first team to play there,” she said.
IU East coach Shane Meridith said Woodard reached out to him and he liked what he saw in her as a person and a player.
“She reached out to me. We met and I was impressed with her and how she handled herself and conducted herself. It took me a few days to get over here, but I watched her play and she was, in my opinion, the best player on the field even though they lost. I was excited about the possibility of her being kind of what I call a ‘holding midfielder’ for us or certainly challenging for that position,” he said. “I feel great about who she is. I’m building a program and part of that build is with good people, and the Woodards seem like they are great, great people.”
Meridith believes the team has a chance to be good right from the start.
“Riane is going to be on the initial squad and that is very cool for me. To be the fledgling members of something, I think, is going to be special. I think we can really be good,” he said.
Preble Shawnee coach Kevin Schaeffer said Woodard has been the face of the program and the type of player he wants all who wear the Arrows’ uniform to be.
“She’s been that player who does what I’ve wanted them to do for 18 years. Having her kind of do that as a freshman and then continue to do that as a sophomore, as a junior, as a senior — it started to become, when players came in that’s what we expected them to play like. I think largely of her. She’s the player that kind of personified what I want our team to play like,” Schaeffer said.
On and off the field, Schaeffer said Woodard, who scored four goals and had seven assists this season, was a pleasure to have around.
“Aside from soccer, she has been one of the most pleasant kids I’ve ever had to be around. She plays with emotion on her sleeve and if you’ve ever watched her play you would know that. That’s the kind of player you want,” Schaeffer said. “You want a kid that you can tell what they’re feeling at that moment. That don’t hold anything back. They are emotional about the game.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH.