Nov. 14—RUSSELL — Signing Day is a special moment for any player.
It's a bigger celebration when you can share the experience with teammates, family and friends as they fulfill their dreams too.
Russell's Shaelyn Steele, Ava Quinn and Bella Quinn all signed their National Letter of Intent for their future college destinations in front of a big crowd at Marvin Meredith Gym on Friday.
Bella Quinn and Steele will stay on the basketball court at the next level. Ava Quinn prepares for her next opportunity on the college pitch.
Steele has been a staple of the Red Devils backcourt since the seventh grade. The senior has posted over 2,300 career points, according to the KHSAA website, and has dominated games with her speed, scoring ability and relentless work ethic.
Steele envisions that her attributes will translate to the college hardwood. She will play at Penn State next year.
"They get up and down the floor and push the pace," Steele said. "They press. It will all fit my style pretty well. I've talked to some of the other players that have played in college. It's a big difference from high school. It's really competitive and physical. But once you get there, and you start working out with those types of players, it will be fine."
The Nittany Lions went 14-17 last season and only 4-14 in the Big Ten Conference, but the team has won their first three games this year. Steele said she's grown close with the Penn State coaching staff. When she met her future team on a campus visit, she could instantly envision playing with them.
Steele had already put the prized signature on her letter during the first day of the signing period because the Nittany Lions requested it. The second signature meant even more because she did it with people who mean the world to her.
"You have to be confident going into a place like that and playing for a Power 5 conference team," Steele said. "I believe I can go out there and play. Even when I signed the first morning, it was surreal, signing with Penn State. The whole process has produced a lot of emotions."
Bella Quinn will be a member of the Kutztown Golden Bears next fall. The Division II school is located in southeastern Pennsylvania and Kutztown competes in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. The Golden Bears completed a 15-15 season in 2022-23 and finished in the conference quarterfinals.
Bella Quinn was impressed by the coaching staff and feels that she can contribute right away.
"They recruited me for about a year or so," Bella Quinn said. "We played in some (AAU) tournaments down in Pennsylvania. I started a relationship with them. I really like the coaching staff there and I love everything else about it."
Bella Quinn felt wanted by her new team and coaches after visiting the campus. It seemed like a college town and that added to its small-town charm.
"They said I can make an impact coming in as a freshman," Bella Quinn said. "It will really be exciting to play in a competitive conference. I'll be somewhere we could win our conference and make it further in the postseason. It's a very small town but everybody there is really close. The main street in town is only like a mile and a half long. It had a nice home vibe."
Russell coach Mandy Layne said she was filled with pride watching her players start the next phase of their playing career. It will help the confidence level of any player knowing a coach wants you to be part of their program.
Kutztown coach Janet Malouf is a four-time PSAC Coach of the year and the all-time winningest coach in program history. Carolyn Kieger begins her fifth year on the Penn State sideline. The Nittany Lions have increased their win total in each of the last four seasons.
"Shaylen already plays really fast," Layne said. "She's also a physical player and a good defender. I know from playing college basketball, that's three things you have to be able to adjust to along with your strength and physicality. It's going to translate well."
"It's always a great situation when a coach really wants you there," she added. "I really want Bella to see the whole process. Her college coach was super supportive. It will be good for Bella to have someone that believes in her. She always challenges herself. She wants to show that her size does not matter. She's become a great defender and shooter. She likes to get after it."
Ava Quinn closed out her final season at Russell with a 19-2 record, a district and region championship and an appearance in the state quarterfinals on the home pitch.
The senior collected 23 goals and 35 assists. She claimed the school's career assist record with 74. Bella Quinn said a team camp in Virginia during her sophomore year allowed college coaches to get a glimpse of future recruiting prospects. The midfielder caught the eye of Longwood University.
Todd Dyer has coached the Division I school since the program's inception in 1993. He is a Longwood alumnus and a former Big South Coach of the Year.
"When we were allowed to talk, I could go to camp, talk to him and see his coaching style," Ava Quinn said. "I like his personality and how he related to his players. We kept that relationship going and I made a visit to campus where I met the girls on the team. They really made it feel like home. When you find that school, you just know it's the one you want to go to."
Ava Quinn keeps a list of goals she set for herself. She's checked off every item on her high school list and now she has a new itinerary for college. Her ultimate goal is to keep winning matches that will allow her to compete in the NCAA Tournament one day even if it means learning new positions on the field.
'I was recruited to play in the midfield," Ava Quinn said. "Positions can change a lot at a new place when you get up there. I hope it's going to be in the midfield. The team's offense is possession-oriented. I'm excited to see how that will go when I get up there."
Russell soccer coach John Perry has had a sideline seat to watch Ava Quinn control a match with her passing ability and leadership qualities. He's confident she will do the same for the Lancers.
"I don't think Longwood is looking for her to step in and be a 50-goal scorer," Perry said. "I think they do have plans for her to be a playmaker and a strong central midfielder."
"It's always great to see high school players check that last box after four years," he added. "I have no doubt that Ava already has another list going. It will be fun to watch."
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