Midway softball standout Rylie Williams details her challenging path to Wednesday's signing day.
SPIVEY’S CORNER — Playing just four games her sophomore year, then 15 this past spring as a junior, Midway infielder Rylie Williams didn’t experience the traditional spoils given to coveted softball recruits.
But as she inked a deal to play for The University of North Carolina at Greensboro during a ceremony inside the Raiders’ cafeteria Wednesday, it gave the three-sport athlete time to reflect on two of the hardest years of her prep career.
“A lot of my friends were committing to other places and choosing their schools and I just kept holding out and waiting,” Williams said, noting a host of other scholarship offers from D-I programs including Campbell and UNC Wilmington.
“That was really hard. I was worried and stressed.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic altered athletics routines for months, last year’s NCAA rules didn’t allow for in-person communication between high school players and college coaches, nor did it allow for campus visits.
Williams was still able to stay in touch with recruiters remotely and when the regulations for face-to-face meetings were lifted, she says her decision was a no-brainer.
“It was really the coaches. I loved the coaches from the start, as soon as I met them– they were amazing,” Williams said of the UNCG staff.
“And I love the way they teach. I love everyone there on the team ... they’re so sweet and so welcoming.
And I love that they build their program up and they’re a really good team right now. ... They’re winning championships, so that’s what I want to do.”
UNCG is coming off a 34-17 season in which it claimed a second Southern Conference title in four years, stamping another trip to the NCAA tournament.
Williams is no stranger to hoisting hardware, having helped the Lady Raiders to a pair of East Central Conference championships the past three seasons. She led the team in total hits, runs and RBIs as a junior last season that saw Midway (13-2) claim the conference title and advance to the second round of the state playoffs.
With all the raw talent and skills Williams displays on a consistent basis, Midway coach Susan Clark was succinct, yet deliberate in describing the intangibles that set the standout utility player apart from her peers.
“Tenacious. Driven. Hungry for victory and success for herself, as well as the team. Just a drive to be the best and beat the best,” Clark said.
“Leadership-wise, she shows the girls that it takes more than a two-hour practice after school. It’s a year-long dedication.”
As for Williams, a middle school dream created alongside her older sister– and current UNC Pembroke softball player– Sydney Williams, has become a reality.
The focus now shifts to assisting Midway’s basketball team reach new heights before finishing her final prep softball season, all the while hoping to empower the rising Lady Raiders prospects.
“I think it just shows the girls that you can work for what you want and that it’s out there, you just have to go for it yourself– just like Sydney did,” Williams said.
“And I hope these younger girls see that hard work can get you wherever you want as long as you put in the work and time for it.”
Donnell Coley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910 230-2040.