On the trip back to Cumming on Monday, through Little Rock and Memphis and Birmingham and Atlanta, Carsen Parker and Brooke Pirkle figured out their future.
The West Forsyth sophomores were coming back from a visit to the University of Arkansas and the Lady Razorbacks’ women’s soccer team with their families. Crammed inside a rented minivan, they had 12 hours and 735 miles to talk about everything they’d heard and seen.
“It was a long drive,” Parker said, “so we had a lot to talk about.”
They eventually came to the mutual conclusion to verbally commit to play at Arkansas. As non-binding commitments, Parker and Pirkle won’t be able to officially sign with the Lady Razorbacks until November of their senior year. But both said they’re confident in their decision.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I was going there,” Pirkle said. “Once I got there I absolutely fell in love with it.”
“We loved it – the campus, the coaches, the players,” Parker said. “Everything about it really suits us.”
The duo made an immediate impact for West last season as freshmen for a Lady Wolverines team that went 8-9-0 overall and 3-4-0 in Region 6-AAAAAA, with three of the region losses coming by one goal.
Parker and Pirkle committed to an Arkansas program that’s blossomed under head coach Colby Hale. The Lady Razorbacks went 9-7-6 last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
But Arkansas wasn’t on Parker or Pirkle’s radar until New Year’s.
The story Pirkle tells is one of a serendipitous collision. Parker and Pirkle were at Disney playing with their United Futbol Academy club team, and so was an Arkansas assistant coach, scouting talent. One day during the tournament, the Arkansas assistant walked to his car to get a jacket; it was cold. On the way he saw Parker and Pirkle’s coach, Iggy Moleka. The two knew each other, and the Arkansas assistant asked Moleka if he had any players worth watching over the next couple of days.
“So he was like, ‘Yeah, I have these two players on one of my teams,’” Pirkle said. “You can watch them.”
The assistant watched their first two games. Intrigued, Hale watched parts of their other two. Ever since, Pirkle said, Hale and his staff vied for the two to visit Fayetteville. When they did this past weekend, they were blown away by the campus, the facilities, the team and the coaching staff.
“We both knew that we were going to [commit],” Parker said.
And so they did Monday – first Pirkle when she got home, then Parker after practice with the West girls’ basketball team.
They considered the cons of such a decision.
The distance? Neither said they ever imagined going to school so far from home.
“But it made it so much easier having [Parker] there,” Pirkle said.
The timing? Both said it felt weird to commit with two and a half years of high school left.
“Every sport is different with how early [players] commit,” Parker said. “We were a little late in getting in touch with colleges, believe it or not.”