Former College of Southern Maryland women's soccer student-athlete Kayleigh Venis recently signed to continue her academic and athletic career at Catawba College.
Venis was the leading scorer for the Hawks during the spring 2021 season, her lone year with the program. She collected 13 goals over the season, which was third-most among Maryland JUCO and Region XX players.
Venis tallied a season-high seven goals on April 27, 2021, against the Anne Arundel Community College Riverhawks. She scored at least one goal in four of the five games of the season.
"CSM was a significant step for me," Venis said. "I had a fantastic coach who believed in me more than I could in myself. The school itself wants you to succeed and push you towards your goals. They help you in every aspect that you're struggling with."
Venis, from Prince Frederick, Maryland, and Calvert High School, said, "I signed with Catawba College last fall. However, Covid made it very hard to go. I didn't want to be far away from home and I was not prepared financially. Staying home at CSM provided me with opportunities to figure out my major and self-growth. I knew I was not mentally prepared to attend a four-year university last fall. I gained confidence with my academics and soccer at CSM. My coach from Catawba stayed in touch and would always ask me, "Are you ready yet?" I knew that it's time to take that next step. He made an offer that would fit me financially. Catawba offers my major and competitive soccer."
Venis spoke highly of CSM women's soccer head coach Charlie Raphael, saying, "Charlie always said that he would get me into any school that I wanted; I just had to put in the work towards it, and he will do the same. He's always supportive of any decision I make going forward. He was a great coach who made the CSM soccer team transform into a great success. He truly built a great program for girls who want to play soccer at a competitive level, whether they wanted to move forward or stay. Both are great options, but I don't think I would say this about the program if he wasn't the coach. I never had a coach who had such a positive outlook on the game and life. He was serious when needed, but the rest of the time, super easygoing and fun. That helped me the most because I knew that I could just play soccer for the love of the game, no worries."
Raphael, who was in his first year as head coach during the 2021 season, said, "The CSM women's soccer program is focused on preparing its players to succeed in the classroom and on the field at a four-year school. Kayleigh came to us to do just that and she is now on her way on the next step of her collegiate career. I am proud of her accomplishments and sad to see a player of her caliber go as she was an electrifying player."
Looking toward her future at Catawba, Venis said, "My coach is very excited about me coming and thinks that the school will be a great fit. He makes it very easy to say yes to coming because speaking to him is like a breath of fresh air. He's very motivated and believes in me, and thinks I can play a significant role at his school.
"I have been to Catawba many times before. It's a very adorable small school with many friendly people all around. Meeting my teammates was very nerve-racking, but they were so genuine and inviting."
Catawba College is an NCAA Division II school in Salisbury, North Carolina, that competes in the South Atlantic Conference.