HOOSICK, N.Y. -- Hoosick Falls Central School senior Alice Hayden has played competitive soccer for more than half her life.
Now, after a high school career where she was named New York state player of the year in 2011 among many other accolades, Hayden will move on to the next level and fulfill a dream she had as a child playing in the Hoosick youth leagues.
Hayden made her college choice official on Friday, signing with Division II women's soccer powerhouse Saint Rose.
"It's a big deal, obviously," Hayden said. "It's very special after all the hard work and dedication and late practices. It took lots of work, and it was a really great moment."
Saint Rose won the Division II national championship in 2011 and reached the national semifinals for the fifth straight year in 2012. The team has complied a 111-10-6 record in that time. They are led by Laurie Darling Gutheil.
"I talked to Coach Gutheil and she is really high on Alice's physicalness and athleticism," said Hoosick Falls coach Tom Husser. "I think she could step right in there. She has more upside to give; Saint Rose got a good one."
Over the past two seasons, Hayden scored 17 goals and had 25 assists, but it was her stellar defense that led the Panthers to back-to-back state crowns. During the Panthers championship runs, Hayden usually guarded the opponent's best player and rendered them useless.
Hayden, the 2011 Banner XI player of the year as a defender, chose St. Rose over Siena, among other schools vying for her talents.
"There's a good balance between academics and athletics," said Hayden, who plans to major in biology. "It's a good school academically, but also a very competitive level of soccer."
Husser admitted that there was probably some luck involved.
"We go to the Saint Rose camp that Coach Gutheil runs for four days in the preseason," Husser said. "So she has seen Alice play. The other part is that Alice is good academically as well, so she'll get scholarships both academically and athletically."
Hayden's parents, John and Kimberly Hayden, watched Alice sign her letter along with nearly 50 friends, family and teammates.
"She's worked extremely hard over the last several years," John Hayden said. "It's exciting for us because it's close by, we'll get a chance to see her play. It'll be a good fit for her. The coach is very passionate and a strong female role model for Alice as she grows and moves forward."
Hayden will be joined by another Section II star, South Glens Falls' Sammy Blizzard, one of the top scorers in section history, who signed her letter to play for the Golden Knights last week.
"It was incredible," said Alice Hayden, talking about the signing. "I had all my friends coming up, saying ‘You have your signing today.' Tom has been texting. It's definitely important to me and I'm proud to play in college."