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Jade Hudson attended a soccer camp at the University of South Carolina Upstate during the summer after 10th-grade and was so enamored with the school that she immediately put it on her list of potential places to play soccer.

Despite a head coaching change and a major overhaul, the school stayed on Hudson’s list and she on theirs, and, last week, the Huntingtown senior signed her letter of intent to continue her soccer career with the Spartans.

“I’m really excited because I played ever since I was little, so it’s always been a dream of mine to play a higher level of soccer,” said Hudson, who will only make her official visit to the school this weekend. “It’s like all the hard work I put into soccer has paid off, and now I’m good to go and play at a Division I school and carry on my love of soccer. I really love to play soccer, and I don’t think I could not play soccer.”

Huntingtown head coach Jill Twetten said the school is a great fit for Hudson, who plans to major in nursing.

“I’m very, very excited,” Twetten said, “and I know she’s very happy.”

The 17-year-old Hudson traveled to the Spartanburg, South Carolina-based campus at the end of the summer in 2011 and, a few weeks later during an unofficial visit, she was offered a scholarship from then-coach Renee Lopez.

“I really liked the school; I liked the area, and my main thing was academics first,” said Hudson, who liked the school but didn’t give a definitive answer at the time. “I wanted to go to a school where I’d like the school even if I got hurt and couldn’t play soccer. I also like the south a lot and the warm weather.”

Hudson also considered Wingate University in North Carolina.

“I think the location, the nursing program and I think the fact she’s getting academic money, as well, is good for her,” Twetten said of Hudson. “I think it’s a good place for her to go in and put her stamp on things. That’ll be a good opportunity for her to step in and take charge.”

The Spartans underwent drastic action in 2011 when head coach Abby Minihan was hired following a 3-13-2 season in which they scored just six goals (0.30 per game). Minihan’s team had a 3-15 overall record last season (1-8 Atlantic Sun Conference), during which the Spartans were shut out 12 times and out-scored 52-5.

That threw a bit of a wrench into Hudson’s plans after she’d been dealing Lopez.

“I was lucky [Minihan] paid attention to the other coach’s lists because if she hadn’t, then I wouldn’t have been able to commit,” Hudson said. “I kind of had to start [the recruiting process] over in a way.”

She visited again last August when she was one of a select few for an ID camp at the school, and that visit made her realize that maybe, just maybe, she could play at the collegiate level.

“I wasn’t expecting to play Division I soccer. I had to sit down and weigh the pros and cons on my own, and then when I was asked to come down there for a camp, I was hesitant on going, but once I was there, it really changed my mind. The atmosphere really changed my mind.”

Hudson was a varsity midfielder at Calvert High School her freshman year and, after transferring to Huntingtown, she played forward her sophomore and junior seasons before moving back to defense for her senior campaign. “We lost [most of our] defense so moved her to the back,” Twetten said. “[But] it seemed like when we really needed a goal, she was the one you put in there. She’s one of those players that buzz the defenders because she’s so feisty. Being a defender, you need a totally different mentality to play in the back, but when she’s on, she’s on, and that’s when she’s focused and not rattled in the back.”

Hudson helped anchor a back Huntingtown line that allowed 16 goals in 24 games and posted eight shutouts on its way to a 17-3 overall record. The Hurricanes won the Class 3A South Region title, tied for first place in the SMAC with Calvert, Leonardtown and North Point.

The Huntingtown resident said she is preparing for life as a Division I athlete by doing a crossfit program and keeping her skills sharp as a member of her travel team, the Maryland Nike Rush. She thinks coming in Minihan’s second season is a big plus.

“I think it will be a good time for me to come in and transition with the team and see what she’s expecting and what she wants the change to be,” Hudson said.

She also said that she’s the take-charge kind of player who is not afraid to speak her mind.

‘I’m not afraid to step up to the plate if something needs to be done, and I’m not shy on the field at all,” she said. “I will say what needs to be said in order for us to be successful. That’s the way I’ve always been. I’m not necessarily a leader in that way, but if someone needs something, I’m always there for them. On the field, it’s not about what your feelings are about someone or if someone hurts your feelings, it’s about being successful as a team because you’re only as strong as your weakest player. I take it upon myself to do that.”

Twetten said it’s important for Hudson to keep her emotions in check.

“I think she needs to stay focused and just play, don’t get too emotional,” Twetten said. “[But then again] sometimes with Jade, emotional games are when she steps up. Games against Calvert and Northern are always when she steps up to play. I just think she needs to be a leader on the field and stay focused.”

Hudson, who verbally committed to attend USC Upstate in September 2012 but only signed her national letter of intent last Wednesday, said her Year 1 goal will be to play at the same level as the college athletes.

“My goals are to be in shape, be up with the girls playing there and be able to play with other teams because Division I sports are really intense,” she said. “So, I need to go in and work as hard as I can to see the field as much as I can as a freshman and just do the best that I can.”