This past fall, Tooele’s McKenna Banks and Madelyn Tate were part of a massive 12-player senior class that helped put the Buffaloes’ girls soccer program on the map with their play on the pitch.
Now, Banks and Tate will take the Tooele name to a level it has never seen before. Banks signed a national Letter-of-Intent to play college soccer at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa, while Tate received an academic scholarship and has been invited to suit up for the women’s soccer squad at Utah State University-Eastern in Price. The duo will become the first girls soccer players in Tooele High’s history to play collegiately.
“It’s historic,” Tooele girls soccer coach Stephen Duggan said. “They become standard-bearers for the players coming behind them. Now, the players coming behind them know the players from our program are good enough to play at that (college) level.”
Banks made her decision official on National Signing Day on Wednesday afternoon. She joins an Iowa Western squad that has had success on a national level, having won the national title in 2013.
“The tipping point was probably realizing how good of a program they have,” she said, noting that IWCC was fourth nationally this year. “I definitely didn’t want to stop (playing) after high school. I feel like I’m the type of player who’s not about to stop. I have so much ahead of me and I want to make a name for my family and my school.”
Banks’ signing capped a successful high school career that saw her become one of the premier goal-scorers in Class 3A as a junior, and she was well on her way to a similarly strong senior year before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. She said she should be able to resume training in April, with her sights set on being fully healthy by the time Iowa Western’s season starts next fall.
“Tearing my ACL was probably the hardest part of my senior year,” she said. “I couldn’t do anything. I went from being this big athlete to literally going home and thinking, ‘what do I do now?’ I think moving on to college soccer is kind of a redemption for me — realizing that this isn’t the end, I’m going to get better and hopefully move on to something bigger and better.”
Tate, an Academic All-State selection as a senior, is going to USU-Eastern to continue a soccer career that has gone on as long as she can remember. She said she is thrilled for the opportunity to continue playing the game she loves.
“I’ve been playing soccer for almost 15 years, so I’d like to thank all the coaches that have brought me up to this, my teammates that have challenged me and my parents and family,” she said. “It’s become part of my identity. If I were to not play soccer in college, I would have no idea what to do or what clubs to join because I’ve just grown up with soccer.”
Tate is proud of the role she played in helping Tooele soccer go from rock bottom to one of the more respected programs in the state in a short period of time.
“We’ve grown a ton,” she said. “My class — we came in and I feel like we changed the program. We’d all played soccer together and we worked well as a team.”
Duggan was thrilled that the two players are getting the opportunity not only to play soccer at the next level, but to get a quality education at the same time.
“Apart from the historic fact of them going on and playing soccer at a collegiate level, they’re changing their lives,” Duggan said. “They’re getting a foot up in life and that’s going to make a huge difference to them. I have no doubt they’ll both be highly successful as players, but this will help them be highly successful outside the sport. That, to me, is the biggest thing.”
Editor’s note: If you are aware of any other high school athletes in Tooele County who have signed national Letters-of-Intent to play collegiate sports, email firstname.lastname@example.org.