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Morris makes it official with first choice
Sammie Morris is joined by Manteca High athletic director Dave Smith, head soccer coach Justin Coenenberg and her parents, Dave and Kim Morris, as she signs to compete for Humboldt State. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Humboldt State was Sammie Morris’ first choice all along.

At one point, she wondered if there would be any options available at all.

It all worked out well for Manteca High’s fleet-of-foot forward, whose nasty ankle injury crushed any hope of her getting attention from four-year college soccer programs during the always-pivotal junior year.

On Tuesday, with ankle fully healed, Morris signed a letter of intent to play for Humboldt State at the Manteca High library.

Morris amassed 51 goals as an underclassman during her first two seasons on Manteca’s varsity squad, but last year she played only a handful of Valley Oak League games and scored the Buffaloes’ lone goal in their 2-1 near-upset of Vista del Lago in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

She also didn’t get to participate in several club-soccer events where next-level coaches scour for young talent.

“I missed a really big showcase in Vegas,” Morris said. “That was really depressing because that’s where half of my club team (Manteca FC) got noticed and I didn’t.”

Morris didn’t give up, and she is thankful that Manteca head coach Justin Coenenberg didn’t either. He said he contacted about 200 college coaches with hopes of getting his standout striker on the radar. Coenenberg has had seven players, including Morris, sign to play for four-year universities in his four-plus years as coach.

“It was so hard,” Morris said of getting attention from college coaches while recovering from the brutal injury. “But the soccer program here was really supportive and helped me through it.”

Sonoma State, Fresno State and San Francisco State were among the interested parties, but after committing to Humboldt she turned down offers to try out for those squads. She got more than that from Converse College, an NCAA Division-II private school out of South Carolina that offered scholarship money.

“It was a little scary going that far away from home,” said Morris, who enjoyed her visit. “I’m just more comfortable being closer.”

Morris got to meet her future team in early January during a personal tryout, and a month later Humboldt State coach called to welcome her to the fold. She hopes give the Jacks, who were 1-13 last fall, an offensive boost after they scored just 15 goals in 14 matches in 2012.

Morris said the scholarship situation remains unsettled because of how late the commitment was made, but to her the hard part is finally over.

“I can’t get too comfortable because I don’t want my grades to slip or anything like that, but I’m content,” she said.

Morris plans on majoring in kinesiology and aspires to be a physical therapist.