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Ethan Coleman, a senior captain for the Walkersville High School (Md.) boys' varsity soccer team, was named the U.S. Army Impact Player of the Month.
Coleman was nominated by Lions head coach Phil Shortt.
"The three things we really stress with our players is having good character is first, having strong academics is second and being a soccer athlete is third," Shortt said. "Obviously, we want to be soccer athletes but we want to stress those things first. Ethan is kind of a shining example of our program."
Before long, soccer may well be on the back burner for Coleman, whose first choice after high school is to attend the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., to begin a military career similar to the one his mother, Tracy, had for 28 years.
"West Point's really important to me to go to because it's the top school to become an army officer, and I feel that I have a responsibility to serve my country," Coleman said. "That's the best way I think I can do that, by becoming an officer from West Point and learning from the best of the best in the army."
Coleman, who is carrying a 4.8 GPA, has already completed six AP courses -- and is on track to complete three more by the end of the school year. He's interested in pursuing engineering or political science in college, with Boston College, Maryland and Virginia being other options that intrigue him. But his first choice is West Point to follow in his mother's footsteps in the military; Tracy was an engineer in the U.S. Army.
"Most of her responsibilities were with rebuilding war-torn regions and teaching other people how to do that," Coleman said. "She had a one-year deployment in Afghanistan helping to rebuild the roads and schools and infrastructure there."
Shortt thinks West Point would be the perfect spot for Coleman.
"I can very well see him in a leadership or officer role in the army," Shortt said. "I think he's got that level of focus. He's got that level of drive and determination. I didn't serve in the U.S. Army; I have a U.S. Army family, practically every man in my family has served in the military. From what I've seen in my exposure to the military, Ethan would be a top candidate for them."
For now, Coleman has a high school soccer career to complete. Walkersville won five of their first nine matches. The Lions defeated Thomas Johnson and Urbana during that stretch, which Coleman said was big for the program.
The 2019 season marks Coleman's third year on the varsity squad. Shortt said Coleman played every position aside from goalkeeper as a sophomore and impressed with his consistently high effort level. Coleman later developed into the team's starting center back, the position he's playing as a senior.
"Mostly I just try to lead from the back," Coleman said. "In the back of the field, I have a very good view of everyone else while they're playing, and I try to make sure that people know when there's pressure, when they need to move the ball around, what are some good options. And then I try to hold our back line together as much as possible."
Coleman believes the program is trending in the right direction.
"It definitely has been improving since my freshman year," Coleman said. "We had a very limited pool of players to pull from, and that pool has grown a lot. There are a lot more kids coming in, and there are a lot of skilled underclassmen that are going to still be there after my class leaves. I think they can still do something pretty impressive even after all the seniors leave."
Watch video of the award presentation:
Caleigh Bernota, a senior at Tuscarora High School (Md.) and a middle hitter on the volleyball team, was also named the U.S. Army Impact Player of the Month. Bernota was nominated by Titans head coach Ricardo Vera, who also coaches Bernota in beach volleyball.
Vera said Bernota stood out as a coach at Tuscarora's summer volleyball camp. Two coaches canceled on Vera, so he turned to varsity players like Bernota to help out.
"She did a wonderful job," Vera said. "She was a good leader, great with the kids, made them work. Gave them the lowest group on a skill level and they [got better]. Everything was fantastic. ... She's always been steady, always learning. I can't say [enough] things about her. She's a fantastic player, willing to learn."
Bernota has been playing volleyball for about six years and has been a middle hitter on Tuscarora's varsity squad since her sophomore year. Bernota had 44 kills through the first three weeks of the season, according to Vera, who said she excels thanks in part to her court vision.
Bernota said her experience playing beach volleyball -- Vera has coached her the last three years in that -- is why she sees the court so well at the varsity level.
"I'm definitely more aware of everything that's going on around me," Bernota said. "Beach volleyball is two people, so you have to be very quick on your feet and you have to see the open court. Basically, it's caused my hitting percentage to go up because I now look for the open spots on the court, where their defense on the other team is lacking, so I'll hit the ball to that spot."
Vera also sees other benefits to playing on the beach, like how to strategize when serving.
"I'll serve to a different spot, I'll serve to the weaker player, I'll serve between the players, I'll serve to the corner to make it harder on them," Vera said. "That helps when you come back on the court -- you can start reading what's going on on the other side."
Bernota's college plans aren't set yet, but her first choice is to attend Stevenson University and play beach volleyball, a spring sport. She's interested in studying medicine or social services in college. Helping others would be nothing new for Bernota, whether it be serving as a coach at a volleyball camp or helping organize the volleyball team's contribution to Titan Pantry, a school initiative to provide food for those in need.
"One thing I value a lot is helping people," Bernota said, "so doing things like that makes me feel good and it helps people out, also."