Submitted By Hugh Mulligan
When Kaylee Underwood was growing up in a small Illinois town, she was drawn to a softball field not far from her home. She fell in love with the game as she watched the women of Aurora University compete and began to wonder and hope that…well, maybe, just maybe someday she could play that game, maybe for that same Aurora Spartan team. A couple of years ago, Kaylee’s family moved to San Antonio and Underwood enrolled at O’Connor High School. But Kaylee never let go of that dream and recently it all happened. She has given her commitment to Aurora University and will be playing for them next year.
It was back in October 2015 that Assistance for Qualified Underprivileged Athletic Scholars (AQUAS) first reached out to Spartan Head Coach Mike McKenzie to make him aware of Underwood’s “dream” and her softball stats. He was impressed with her stats and her video and in that first conversation, revealed that he was going to lose his whole starting outfield to graduation in 2017. Due to her high academic performance at O’Connor High School, she will receive substantial financial aid from Aurora.
Aurora is a private, non-profit liberal arts university located In Aurora, Illinois, 40 miles west of Chicago. The college enrolls about 5000 students seeking bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. It is an NCAA Division III school that athletically competes in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.
A 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, AQUAS identifies underserved high school athletes who have demonstrated high academic performance. These students may not have received much national visibility for a number of reasons; consequently college coaches are not aware of their skills. AQUAS overcomes that problem as it puts these selected students in front of collegiate athletic departments throughout the country until the right academic and athletic matches are found.
Paul Greco, Head Coach of the San Antonio Wildcats, introduced Underwood to AQUAS. Athletes don’t play for Greco and his club team unless they have demonstrated academic excellence in their schoolwork and know the importance of “team” on the softball diamond. When Greco recommends a player, AQUAS personnel know that this will be an extremely focused individual with the grit and determination to succeed in college, both academically and athletically.
“Thus we have Kaylee Underwood who exhibits the determination of an AQUAS scholar-athlete and the class of a most respectful young lady,” commented COL Hugh Mulligan CEO of AQUAS. “She was being pursued by many collegiate softball programs nationally but went with her heart.”
Sarah Clausen, a member of the coaching staff at AU, said that Coach McKenzie and the other coaches on the staff are really excited that Underwood has chosen Aurora.