MANCHESTER >> Burr and Burton Academy sophomore Hannah Pinkus has made her decision and she's taking her talents to Hamilton, N.Y.
That's where Colgate University is, where Pinkus has verbally committed to play soccer for the Raiders, earning a significant athletic scholarship in the process.
"I visited [campus] at the beginning of February and I absolutely loved it," Pinkus said. "It had everything I loved. It's really similar to Manchester and BBA, a small school in a small town and I totally fell in love with it."
Pinkus had been informally scouted by schools since her eighth grade season playing for the FC Stars, a high-level club team based in Lancaster, Mass., just outside of Fitchburg. For the past few years, parents Brenton and Katie Pinkus have traveled regionally and nationwide to college showcases to get Hannah noticed.
"We travel for practice three nights a week," said Katie Pinkus, whose middle daughter Grace plays for the U-14 version of the Stars. "It's been a huge time commitment, but it's the best club in [the region] and now it's paying off. It's gotten her seen by the top coaches."
Colgate came on the radar along with a handful of other schools — UMass Amherst, Dartmouth, University of Rhode Island, University of New Hampshire, St. John's, Boston University and James Madison, just to name a few.
"[Colgate] contacted my [club] coach after a showcase, one of my best friends' dad went there," Hannah said. "It's a big relief to know where I want to be, it's a lot less stress as a junior and senior. A lot of the girls on the club team had already committed."
Katie Pinkus said that the similarities between Hamilton, N.Y. and Manchester made the choice a little easier for Hannah.
"It was easier to swallow for her," Katie said. "It gave her a kind of comfort, in addition to being a great academic school. And it's not that far away. She's had a parent at just about every game, so it's important to be within driving distance so we can continue to watch her grow. We've put in the time and commitment, now we can enjoy the fruits of that and watch her play."
Katie Pinkus said it has been a goal of Hannah's since she was 10 to play for a Division I college on a scholarship.
"Her dad had [a scholarship], so whatever we could do to help her reach her goal, we would do," Katie said. "It's a little overwhelming that she's accomplished this as a sophomore."
The soccer pedigree is strong in the Pinkus family. Hannah's father Brenton was born in South Africa and came to the United States after being recruited to play college soccer. After a year, he was picked up by Crystal Palace, a first division team in the Premier League in England but a foot injury ended his professional career.
A member of the 2015 Banner XI, Pinkus led the team in goals with 12 as the Bulldogs reached the Division I final. After the season, Pinkus also received the honor as one of the best 44 players in the Northeast by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and was one of only four sophomores chosen.
"She's strong, physical and a savvy athlete," said BBA coach Suzanne Mears in November. "She's so strong with her feet and in the air, with purpose — no one [else] could do that. She sees the pass and lanes and she executes from five to 40 yards, between two or three defenders into the net. It's just who she is as a player, competitive and skilled."
The women's soccer program at Colgate has been at or near the top of the Patriot League for years.
Over the last quarter-century, Coach Kathi Brawn has guided the Raiders to 12 Patriot League Championships, three ECAC titles, five NCAA Tournament appearances and a 226-138-28 record.
Mears, who will enter her third season coaching at BBA, said Pinkus' choice could have impacts greater than just for Hannah and her family.
"I'm so proud of her and happy for her and her family," Mears said. "All the time and energy put in is paying off and that goes a long way. It's motivating for young female athletes that if you work hard enough, you can do those things. She can be a role model. It's great for the school and the community."