Summer takes Liberty

Published 9:12 pm Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lakeland High School field hockey standout Summer Parker signed to play for Liberty University on Tuesday. From left: Tara Worley, Billy Parker, Summer Parker, Pam Parker and Courtney Parker.

Lakeland High School field hockey standout Summer Parker signed to play for Liberty University on Tuesday. From left: Tara Worley, Billy Parker, Summer Parker, Pam Parker and Courtney Parker.

After a college signing season marked by unexpected disappointment and uncertainty, Summer finally had her day in the sun.

Nearly three months after Lakeland senior field hockey star Summer Parker learned Radford University was discontinuing its field hockey program, she was able to sign on the dotted line to play for and attend Liberty University during a ceremony held at Lakeland High School on Tuesday.

“It’s like a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” Parker said. “I’m so happy to finally just have a decision where I’m going and can’t wait to be playing in the fall with them.”

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Parker found out the day before National Signing Day in February that Radford, the school she had orginally committed to, was discontinuing its field hockey program.

Suddenly, the Lady Cavaliers’ all-time leading goal scorer and the top scorer in Virginia for 2013, according to TopOfTheCircle.com, was without a college home. It would be hard to find another one this year, too, after all the top schools had just exhausted their budgets signing the talent they had been recruiting.

“We just kind of sent out an email: “Summer’s available, if anybody’s interested,’” said Parker’s mother, Pam Parker. “We thought it was pretty much over, because all the money and everything was gone, their teams were already picked.”

Being forced to sit out a year of field hockey appeared to be a likely scenario for Parker. After missing that much time at the college level, skills fade and it is very difficult to return to the game.

“And then Liberty contacted us like the next day,” Pam Parker said.

Summer’s father, Billy Parker said, “Actually, Liberty was her first choice.”

Summer Parker said that when she was a junior, “I’d really liked their school and program, but it just wasn’t working out money-wise there, so then I decided to go to Radford.”

But Parker and Liberty were able to arrive at a better financial agreement this time around because Liberty knew something it did not when Parker was a junior.

“They got to see her play her senior year,” Pam Parker said, and her husband added, “She had a good junior year, but her senior year was a lot better.”

In 2013, she scored 58 goals and handed out 22 assists, helping her team go 22-1 and reach its second state championship game in four years. She was also selected to the all-state first team and was named Player of the Year at the regional and conference levels.

Parker started playing when she was 7, and Tuesday was the culmination of a conscious effort since ninth grade to play her way to the next level. She was a second team all-state selection as a freshman and first team selection as a sophomore and junior.

“We’re just happy for her,” Billy Parker said. “She’s just worked so hard all these years.”

Summer Parker credited former Lakeland head coach Tara Worley for promoting her to colleges throughout high school.

Worley, helping organize the ceremony on Tuesday, said, “I’m just excited for her, just pleased that it’s worked out this way.”

Parker will be joining a Division I program that is currently only three years old. It also features a teammate from Lakeland’s 2010 state champion team, Megan Johnson, who will be a senior in the fall.

Getting playing time or perhaps even starting are among Parker’s goals for her freshman year.

Worley gave her opinion on what Parker, set to play forward, will bring to the Lady Flames.

“I know Summer’s abilities, I think, will shine there, if she gets her chance,” she said.