Kaylee MacDannald strongly considered West Coast schools but kept an open mind on Oct. 4 when she and her mom visited College of Idaho.
Her conversion to a “Yote” was prompt.
“I immediately fell in love,” Manteca High’s senior softball standout said.
On Thursday, she affirmed her commitment to the private university out of Caldwell by signing a letter of intent inside a packed MHS Brasmer Library where she was joined by parents Neil and Sarah MacDannald, brother Kaden, friends, teammates, coaches, teachers and administrators.
Kaylee said that 15th-year C of I coach Al Mendiola offered the day of her visit, and that night over dinner she and her mom decided that the search was over. UC San Diego and Pacific University in Oregon were also in the running.
“The environment, the coaches, the team — it was just a family atmosphere and I felt so welcomed,” MacDannald said of the visit. She plans on studying special education and psychology.
College of Idaho is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Division II school that competes in the Cascade Collegiate Conference. The Yotes, or Coyotes, qualified for the NAIA National Championships last year and finished No. 20 in the final top-25 poll, marking the fifth time in program history that it finished nationally ranked. They placed third in the CCC and hit the 40-win barrier for the first time, going 40-17.
MacDannald said the team’s expectation for success was a determining factor. Mendiola is the program’s most successful coach with a 374-292-1 record that includes five NAIA National Championships appearances.
“I know they’re a very competitive team,” she said. “Their coach is all about doing things the right way, and that’s how I’ve been my whole life — competitive and doing it the right way. That was huge for me when I went there and saw that they were about winning and having fun. The team morals also fit mine.”
In MacDannald the Yotes get a versatile and athletic infielder who has played first base and shortstop for coach Josh Farris at Manteca.
“Initially, (Mendiola) recruited me because I’m a shortstop, but I’m playing wherever he wants me to play in the infield,” MacDannald said.
She’s coming off a career-best junior campaign in which she led the Buffaloes in most offensive categories such as batting average (.429), hits (30), runs scored (25), RBIs (18), doubles (five) and homers (three). MacDannald was named to the All-Valley Oak League first team after getting second-team honors twice as an underclassman.
MacDannald plays for the OC Batbusters 18-under travel-ball team coached by Todd Clark. She was previously with a now-defunct USA Elite team headed by Manteca High principal Frank Gonzales.
“It’s a huge relief, because it’s very stressful going through the recruiting process,” MacDannald said. “I’ve been going through it since I was a freshman, doing everything like signing up for NCSA (Next College Student Athlete) online, videos and showcases and camps and tournaments and visits.
“I am so appreciative for all the people in my life who affected me and helped me come to this stage. All my coaches, teammates, family, everyone — I have such a great support system that it made it easy.”