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Pinecrest Academy celebrates 4 athletes signing scholarships
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Pinecrest Academy seniors Ben Gobbel, from left, Erin Houlihan, Haley Jones and Nolan Stafford pose for pictures at their ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018 for signing letters of intent to play their respective sport in college. - photo by Ian Frazer

The night before her National Signing Day ceremony on Wednesday, Erin Houlihan came home from soccer practice and found a huge poster draped across her bed.

“Once a Paladin, Always a Paladin,” the sign read, accompanied by logos of her present and future schools, Pinecrest Academy and Furman University.

Houlihan, an All-County First Team honoree at midfielder for Pinecrest, had the poster with her when she signed her National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, but the ceremony effectively marked the end of her time as a high school athlete.

Like many players in the county, Houlihan plays at the U.S. Developmental Academy level of club soccer, with United Futbol Academy. And due to a new rule stating that DA players are no longer allowed to play for high school teams, Houlihan is now playing solely for her club.

She did get to keep one privilege that has been revoked from many of her club teammates, though. Some public schools aren’t allowing their DA players to sign their NLIs during the school ceremonies, given that the players are no longer part of the team.

“It stinks for them, a lot,” Houlihan said. “Because they put three years in, and I think that they should be justifiably able to sign there, in front of all their friends and family.”

For Pinecrest, though, the decision to let Houlihan up on the stage was an obvious one: She played there for three years, after all. And while the senior recognizes the utility and value of club play, Houlihan knows that there’s something special about playing for your school as well.

“I’ve put in so many years here at this school, so to be able to play for them and with their name on the back of my jersey is kind of like an honor,” Houlihan said. “Not that club isn’t an honor, but it’s just different.”

Houlihan was one of four Pinecrest students to sign on Wednesday. The others were: Ben Gobbel, to play baseball at Belmont Abbey College; Nolan Stafford, to play football at Washington University in St. Louis; and Haley Jones, to play lacrosse at Occidental College.