POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Hard work has its rewards.
Caitlin Peal has fought more than one battle in her brief lifetime, but the Point Pleasant senior had a lot of those previous efforts pay off after signing a letter of intent to continue her soccer career at the University of Charleston on Thursday, March 8, at the PPJSHS library in Mason County.
Peal — a three-year starter and four-year letterwinner — hasn’t had a stat-filled career full of gaudy numbers, but the jack-of-all-trades senior has been a key part of the Lady Knights’ successes over the past four years — including two years apiece at the Class AAA and Class AA ranks.
Peal produced only six goals and eight assists of her career, with most of those coming as a senior after spending her sophomore and juniors seasons as an outside back starter.
Her move to center middle last fall, however, proved beneficial as Peal scored a header during a 2-1 win over Sissonville in a Region IV, Section 1 semifinal at Ohio Valley Bank Track and Field.
Peal has quietly put together a solid high school resume, one that was noticed by the Golden Eagles — who are members of the Mountain East Conference in NCAA Division II competition.
When asked about her thoughts of being able to continue her soccer career at the collegiate level, Peal was quite humble about the opportunity — noting that this chance belonged to a lot more people than just her,
“It’s an incredibly proud moment, both for me and the people around me. There’s no way that I would have reached this point without the help of my family, my teammates and my coaches along the way,” Peal said. “If I had told my 12-year old self that I’d be here right now joining a college program for soccer, I never would have believed it. It’s a great honor to have an opportunity like this and I’m really looking forward to the next four years.”
Peal’s journey to college has not been the norm, rather it be from personal triumphs to simply getting better as a player to be on the field.
Peal battled health issues when she was younger, then had to battle teammates for playing time as a freshman at the Class AAA level in 2014.
Yet, for all of the obstacles, Peal always found a way to produce positive results as the years passed at Point Pleasant.
And, in an ironic way, it’s something that she welcomes facing again at UC — especially while pursuing another lifelong dream.
“I didn’t start as a freshman in high school, so I just kept working hard and continued improving my game. That’s basically where I am again at Charleston, so I know that I have to keep working and improving to get on the field. I’m excited because I know it won’t be easy, but I’m not afraid of challenges,” Peal said. “I was diagnosed with cancer at a really young age, but I was fortunate enough to beat it. It did teach me the importance of caring about people though, and that’s why I’ve always wanted to go into the nursing field.
“Charleston has a wonderful nursing program and I feel that they will have me well-prepared in my professional field of study … plus I get to keep playing soccer. It’s literally a dream come true.”
Peal becomes the second Lady Knight in as many years to sign with a collegiate program for soccer, joining former teammate and current University of Rio Grande freshman Chelsea Black.
PPHS girls soccer coach Chris Errett had high praise for his three-starter, noting that Peal is probably the player most deserving of a shot that he has ever coached.
He’s also proud that Point Pleasant is starting to draw the attention of some collegiate coaches on a regular basis.
“It’s another good day for the program because the girls are starting to see the benefits of hard work paying off. Obviously we are proud of Caitlin and happy to see her get an opportunity like this,” Errett said. “In all my years of coaching, I’ve never had a player improve as much from her freshman year to her senior year than Caitlin. I honestly think she still has yet to hit her peak as a player, so I’m excited to see what the future has in store for her.”
Errett — who just completed his fifth season at Point Pleasant — says the Golden Eagles are getting a pretty special person, rather it be on the field or in the world.
As he says, her versatility and approach are second to none.
“She’s played a lot of different positions during her time here at Point Pleasant. She has a very even skill set and isn’t afraid of playing anywhere on the field,” Errett said. “She’s a hard worker and a team-first player, so you can put any task in front of her and know that she’s going to do everything that she can to get positive results for the group.
“More than anything though, she is passionate — and that’s perhaps her greatest attribute. Charleston is getting a fine player, a fine student and a fine young lady.”
Peal — who currently carries a 3.3 grade-point average — says there were a lot of other factors that went into making a decision of this magnitude, including the campus and location.
In the end, Peal concluded that the University of Charleston was the perfect fit. She also noted that PPHS has helped prepare her for that next journey.
“The people were friendly and some of the views from campus are just breathtaking along the river. It also helps that it’s 45 minutes away from home, so my family and friends can come watch me play. It’s not too far away,” Peal said. “I feel Point Pleasant has prepared me for the challenge of playing at the next level, mainly because of the competition we’ve faced over the last four years in triple-A and double-A. I’m really excited to get started.”
Caitlin is the daughter of Dave and Christy Peal, who reside in Pliny, W.Va.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.