Oregon City's Reilly Combs, Amber Jewell, Lauren Levi, and Mya Pfenning accepted college offers to continue their playing careers

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Oregon City student-athletes (left to right) Mya Pfenning, Amber Jewll, Reilly Combs, and Lauren Levi made their college plans official during Wednesday's National Signing Day.Oregon City's Reilly Combs had advice for other high school athletes who aspire to play at the college level someday but don't have recruiters pursuing them: It's never too early to start marketing yourself.

Combs, the Pioneers' standout center back on the boys' soccer team, waited until the middle of his senior season to contact schools and was starting to think he might have missed the boat.

Fortunately, Combs' recruiting story had a happy ending Wednesday when he signed a National Letter of Intent to play NAIA men's soccer for the Oregon Tech Owls of Klamath Falls.

"It means a lot," Combs said. "I'm just excited to keep playing and just keep the dream going."

Joining Combs in Wednesday's National Signing Day celebration were Mya Pfenning, who accepted an offer to play NCAA Division II women's soccer at Regis University in Denver; Amber Jewell, who confirmed her plans to play NCAA Division III women's soccer at George Fox University in Newberg, and Lauren Levi, who committed to play NCAA Division III volleyball at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.

Combs, named to the all-Mt. Hood Conference boys' soccer first team last fall after leading the Pioneers (6-7-1, 4-2-1 Mt. Hood) to a berth in the Class 6A playoffs, said he contacted Oregon Tech coach Matt Munhall in October and went down to Klamath Falls a couple weeks after that to practice with the Owls.

Then Combs didn't hear much of anything for some time.

"I got kind of worried when it got near the end of the high school season," he said.

Combs, who also played club soccer for Eastside Timbers FC, got a second chance to impress Munhall at the Jan. 12-15 Winter College Showcase in Hillsboro.

"He liked what he saw and offered me a spot on the team," Combs said. "I'm really glad he gave me the opportunity to go to Oregon Tech."

The feeling is mutual.

"Reilly was a great surprise when he contacted us expressing his interest in our program," Munhall said in a news release. "We noticed right away that he has a strong technical foundation and he has played under some very good coaches during his career.

"We will look for Reilly to establish himself as a center back and help fill the void left by seniors that graduated our program in 2017."

Combs, who plans to pursue a bachelors degree in biology with an emphasis on physical therapy, said if he had it to do over again, he probably would have contacted colleges sooner.

"I waited a long time," he said. "Nobody should wait until the last couple months of your senior year. Contact college coaches early."

How early is "early?"

"Probably start contacting them sophomore year," Combs said. "And then you can email them junior year."

Opportunity knocks

Pfenning, a Class 6A All-State, first-team selection as a senior, got an assist from Thorns Academy coach Gaff Leyland, the former La Salle Prep girls' coach, who contacted Regis coach J.B. Belzer on her behalf.

"From there, Coach Belzer reached out to me and I sent him some videos," Pfenning said. "He got me on campus three weeks ago to meet the team. The place was beautiful, the school's Jesuit values really resonated with me, and the soccer program is really strong. It just felt like home there."

Pfenning also considered Western Oregon and Oregon Tech to continue her athletic career, and also looked at Gonzaga strictly for academic purposes, but couldn't turn down Regis where she plans to study psychology.

"It's really great," Pfenning said. "My passion is soccer, so I've always been growing my skills and always wanted to play college soccer. I'm really excited to have this opportunity."

Jewell, who served as a co-captain with Pfenning on this year's Oregon City girls' soccer team, said she had talked with Oregon State, and at one time was leaning toward the University of Idaho, but fell in love with George Fox after an official visit to the Newberg campus.

"I've known the coach (Cory Hand) for awhile, and he just asked me to come out and visit," said Jewell, who also played for Thorns Academy. "So, I went in mid-November and really liked it, the school met all my academic needs, and then he offered me a chance to play on the team."

Jewell plans to major in exercise science and hopes to someday work as a physical therapist.

"I want to go as far as I can with soccer and pursue the sport for as long as I can, so it means a lot to be able to play soccer in college," Jewell said.

Which way to PA?

Levi, the 5-foot-10 outside hitter, said she didn't find Juniata College.

Juniata found her during her club volleyball travels with the Oregon Juniors Volleyball Academy's 18 Blue team.

One of the Juniata assistants saw Levi at a tournament in Las Vegas in February of last year, and then Eagles head coach Heather Pavlik saw Levi a month later at a tournament in Denver.

"They got ahold of me a few weeks later," Levi said. "I actually was looking a lot at Oregon colleges only, because I was close to not wanting to leave home. But then I toured Pennsylvania and I really liked it."

Levi was offered a merit scholarship to attend Juniata, where she plans to major in elementary education.

"It means so much," she said. "I'm so obsessed with the sport and so excited to play in college."

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