By Ray Hamill — Eureka’s Keylei Carroll may still have some unfinished business to take care of on the high school soccer fields, but she’s already found a home at the next level.
The junior standout and co-MVP of the H-DNL this past fall announced on Tuesday that she has committed to play at UC Davis after graduation.
Carroll is the fifth Eureka student athlete to commit to compete at the Division-I collegiate level this year alone and the second from the stellar 2018 Loggers team, which finished the season undefeated and won a first-ever North Coast Section title for the program.
Playing in college has long been a dream for Carroll, who has loved the game of soccer for literally as long as she can remember after first being introduced to the game before she can even remember.
“My dad has been a big influence for me,” she said. “He put a soccer ball at my feet even before I could walk. My parents definitely pushed me to be the best.”
The tenacious Carroll could have taken her game to any number of colleges after playing for the NorCal Olympic Development Program in each of the past two years, including an invite to the very prestigious West Region ODP.
It was the connections she made with the program that led her to UC Davis, with three of her teammates on the ODP also committing to the Aggies, and after meeting with new head coach Tracy Hamm, she wasted little time in accepting their offer.
“Tracy and her coaching staff are what really sealed the deal for me,” the two-sport Eureka junior said. “They motivate, and also they really want to win. She calls us her recruitment babies. We’re the first class she gets to build around.”
And that means Carroll will join the Aggies with big expectations on her shoulders, although she’s not shying away from the challenge.
“(Hamm) expects us to come in and start,” Carroll said.
Eureka High head coach Tommy Learmouth also expects Carroll to have plenty of success at the Division-I level.
And he expects her to have a big influence on her new teammates in much the same way she has at Eureka.
“She has that natural leadership ability,” Learmouth said. “No matter what the score is her teammates will follow her.
“She’s always energetic and always ready to do what it takes to motivate everyone around her, even when they have nothing left to give.”
Carroll played a pivotal role on the 2018 undefeated Eureka NCS championship team, along with seniors Athena Miller and Olivia Stone, the latter of whom joined Division-I Portland State out of high school.
And those players, according to Carroll, as well as many others she has played with, have helped her get to where she is today.
“I really enjoy the Logger family,” Carroll said. “Everybody’s always so motivating.
“And all the memories I have with my teammates I’ll cherish forever. All my teammates are the reason I am where I am today, and all my coaches are the reason I am where I am today.”
The two-sport junior, who also is a basketball standout, has been keeping herself busy during the lockdown, although she admits it has hindered her offseason work in both sports, with travel team games put on hold.
Playing for the recently formed Sequoia FC, a soccer travel team out of Humboldt County, also has helped Carroll prepare for the college level.
For now, however, Carroll has her sights on closing out her high school career on a high and bringing the league title back to Eureka after Fortuna knocked off the two-time defending champions in the fall.
“I’m hoping we win league and honestly just have fun,” she said. “There are seven seniors on the team and we want to just have a good year before we all go off to college.”
And that’s not all.
“I want to go undefeated,” she added with a chuckle.
Carroll says she is unsure of what she will major in, but is leaning towards something in the dental field.
She follows in the footsteps of fellow Loggers Isaak Gutierrez (New Mexico football), Miles Meynell (UC Davis football), Alana Busby-Dunphy (Alabama women’s basketball) and Malia Guilbert (Sac State women’s crew), each of whom recently accepted scholarship offers to Division-I programs.