06/15/12 — Woodard signs with Mount Olive College

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Woodard signs with Mount Olive College

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 15, 2012 1:48 PM

Hannah Woodard didn't need a second chance to make a first impression on Mount Olive College head softball coach Jaime Kylis.

And there has been no need to try again.

The recent Princeton High graduate garnered considerable attention during a hitting camp conducted by Kylis two summers ago. Her work ethic and desire to get better left an imprint on the 10th-year Trojans coach, who instantly felt Woodard could contribute to the program.

Woodard realized her dream of playing college softball could come true at MOC.

So, she made it official Wednesday afternoon.

Flanked by her parents, Kenny and Karen, and dignitaries from the Princeton High administrative and athletic departments, Woodard signed a national letter-of-intent to play for the Trojans. Coaches from Division III Methodist University and Division I Campbell showed interest in her, but she chose to stay close to home.

"I've been to Mount Olive before and I love the campus," Woodard said. "Reality set in (after my sophomore year) because I knew I only had two more years to figure something out. Having an opportunity play softball in college is great.

"I am nervous, but real excited about it."

Woodard helped guide Princeton to three consecutive Carolina 1-A Conference regular-season championships and a final four appearance at Walnut Creek in 2011. The Bulldogs posted a 52-23 record during that span that included three trips to the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.

She cranked out 15 home runs during her three-year varsity career, including a walk-off blast against county rival West Johnston earlier this spring.

Kylis compared Woodard to Katherine Cahoon, who walked on as a freshman and left as an All-Southeast Region outfielder and team captain. Cahoon possessed raw talent and wanted to get better.

"(Kat) had the will to learn and just needed to be coached on a higher level," Kylis said. "I see that in Hannah. It's players like Hannah that keep our program strong, players that have a ton of heart and just want a chance to play at a higher level."

Woodard is expected to patrol the outfield as she did at Princeton and with the Carolina Stingers travel ball team based in Clinton. However, Kylis could move the fleet-footed Woodard to the left side of the plate to maximize her speed, which could undoubtedly put considerable pressure on opposing defenses.

MOC had 32 steals as a team last season and had the second-highest scoring offense in Conference Carolinas play with 254 runs. Eventual league champion King (Tenn.) College had 263.

The Trojans logged a 31-17 worksheet, won the Conference Carolinas East Division title, but endured a disappointing opening-day exit from the conference tournament.

"I know there will be some (challenges)," said Woodard, who is active in FFA and plans to major in agriculture business. "I just have to have confidence in myself ... stick with it. I will definitely have to keep focus and work hard.

"It's a big commitment and I'm ready for it."