BBA's Grace Pinkus verbally commits to UMass Amherst

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MANCHESTER — Burr and Burton girls soccer player Grace Pinkus will trade in her usual green for some maroon when she steps on the field for the 2020 season.

Pinkus, a junior at BBA, announced in mid-September her decision to verbally commit to play her collegiate soccer at Division I University of Massachusetts Amherst, of the Atlantic 10 Conference, beginning in the fall of 2020.

UMass showed interest in the Bulldogs forward a few months ago after a showcase for her club team in Massachusetts. Once she met the Minutewomen coaches and players, she fell in love with the idea of playing in Amherst.

"They reached out and let me know that they were interested, so I went to a clinic and I really liked it. I fell in love with coaching staff right away," Pinkus said. "That was probably the biggest deciding factor for me. A few weeks later, I went on my official visit and I loved everything about it. I met all the players and I spent the night with them."

Pinkus was getting offers from other schools, but when it came down to it, there was two she was seriously considering. For her, it was either UMass or Colgate, where her sister Hannah is a freshman on the women's soccer team.

"That was probably the hardest part. When do I separate myself from her," Pinkus said. "I really enjoyed playing with (Hannah) last year and the year before."

BBA coach Suzanne Mears has seen the growth of the junior over the years she's coached her and could not have been more proud of Pinkus for making this decision.

"It gives me jitters. I am so incredibly happy for her," Mears said. "Just knowing how hard she's worked for this on and off the field over the past few years. To see it pay off and have this opportunity in front of her, I could not be more proud of her."

Mears was a major supporter in Pinkus' decision process and was always there to lend any help she could.

"We have open lines of communication and she knew I was always willing to sit with her and chat with her, while she was going through this process," Mears said. "I knew she was going back and forth on some different offers that were out there. It's a really tough decision and she was really thorough in her thought process. She made the best decision for herself."

Pinkus has been a difference-maker ever since she stepped foot on the field in Manchester, but it was last season, when she really stepped out on the major stage as the Bulldogs' offensive leader.

During the 2017 season, where BBA made it to its third consecutive state championship game, Pinkus had 19 goals to lead the Bulldogs and had a pair of hat tricks as well. Through seven games this year, she has four goals and has routinely assisted on teammate's goals.

Pinkus becomes the third BBA girls soccer player in recent years to commit to play Division I soccer. Breukelen Woodard committed to play soccer at the University of South Carolina for the 2017 season and had four assists on a USC team that made it all the way to the NCAA tournament semifinals.

Grace's sister, Hannah, is playing Division I soccer with the Raiders and has made six starts so far this season as of September 30.

Along with those standouts, former BBA girls soccer player Georgia Lord is playing college soccer at Division III Williams College. Now in her sophomore season, Lord scored her first collegiate goal against Bates last month. Lord was a part of the 2017 squad that won a D-III national championship.

To be part of that legacy of strong players coming out of the BBA program is something Grace Pinkus is very proud of.

"This school has been known for producing so many good players," Grace Pinkus said. "Brooke starting us off with USC was unbelievable and then my sister at Colgate and Georgia, Suzanne has been more than proud of everyone."

"I've been extremely fortunate to coach some phenomenal soccer players," Mears added. "For her to continue that legacy, has to do with her work ethic. It's something we've established here in this program, but it also just says a lot about the individuals and what they're willing to do in-season and out of season and the commitment they're willing to give. If you work hard and are passionate and have a dream, it can come true."

Pinkus will join a UMass team that is trending in a very positive direction. After finishing last season at 7-9-2, the Minutewomen brought in a new coach, Jason Dowiak, for the 2018 season and it's paid major dividends.

UMass currently sits at 9-2 and is undefeated in A-10 play, while riding an eight-game winning streak.

While Pinkus won't join them for two more years, the upward trajectory of the program is clear.

"I saw them play last year and it's like night and day from last year to this year," she said. "I felt the energy that the coaches brought to the field and knew that was where I wanted to be. I felt comfortable with the girls."

She plans to go to chiropractic school after college, so she is thinking she'll major in biology or a related field while in Amherst, but hasn't committed to anything yet. With that in mind, the Minutewomen coaches made an effort to introduce Grace to the people she would be majoring with, which only made her feel more comfortable.

"Jason's energy is unbelievable," Pinkus said. "To see it in a game and to see how he coaches, I really liked it a lot."

For now, Pinkus' main focus is helping the Bulldogs for her final two seasons in Manchester. BBA had a tough schedule early in the season, but come off a 2-0 win against Rutland, where they feel like they turned a corner.

The goal of reaching a fourth consecutive state championship game is still on the radar for the Bulldogs.

BBA plays Brattleboro at home Wednesday.     

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@benningtonbanner.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.


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