By Josh Brown
TIPP CITY — Claire Hinkle didn’t think playing college soccer was in the cards.
“I’d really put soccer on the back burner,” the Tippecanoe senior said. “I wasn’t even sure if I really wanted to do this. Then the opportunity came along to play ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) soccer, and there was just no way I could possibly turn this down.”
Hinkle — a two-sport star for the Red Devils, playing girls soccer in the fall and basketball in the winter — inked a deal to attend the University of Pittsburgh and play for the Panthers in the fall.
“If you would have told me a year ago that I would be going to Pitt, I would have thought you were insane,” Hinkle said. “It all really happened in the span of a week or two, also. It just happened so fast. But when Pitt’s coach called and showed an interest, I felt like maybe I’m a little better than I thought.”
That’s something of an understatement.
Hinkle finished her career with the Red Devils as one of the most dominant goalies in the state’s history, sitting in fifth place atop the all-time recordboard for shutouts in a career with 42, tied with Bellbrook’s Ann Demeter and one behind Cincinnati Madeira’s Caitlyn McCullough and Mason’s Erika Flanders. She posted 12 of those shutouts in her freshman season, a season that ended in a regional runner-up finish.
After posting 12 more as a sophomore and 10 as a junior, she added eight more this season and led the Devils to another regional runner-up finish. Hinkle also played on Tippecanoe’s girls basketball team which qualified for the regional title all four years of her high school career.
All of which led to the Panthers taking an interest.
“Their new coach they brought in (Randy Waldrum) has won national championships, and they’re all just really incredible people,” Hinkle said. “The girls on the team are all really talented and nice, and it’s a really good school, too. And it’s also not too far from home, so my parents can still come watch me play.”
The biggest deciding factor for Hinkle, though, was likely her new teammates.
“I went there a couple weeks before signing, went to a practice, and some of the girls just ran up to me and started hugging me like I was already on the team,” she said. “It was awesome.”
Hinkle plans on studying finance or economics in class — and she’s going to get a quick start on that, too.
“I report on June 20 for summer school,” she said. “I’m going to work out until then and spend as much time with my friends and family as possible. But seriously, if you told me a year ago that this would be happening, I would’ve called you insane.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.