Fagan signs with Lady Vols
After committing to the University of Tennessee last fall, Cornersville High School softball standout Haley Fagan made it official Thursday morning when she signed a letter of intent to play for the Lady Vols in the CHS' basketball gymnasium.
Decked out in orange along with several family members and friends, Fagan was happy to finally become a member of the Tennessee softball program and never wavered in her commitment to the Lady Vols despite being courted by fellow SEC programs Mississippi State, Alabama, and Georgia.
"I'm excited that I finally signed and by the fact that it's finally over. I've been looking forward to this day for a really long time," said Fagan. "I've always been a UT fan so that helped a lot in my decision and it was the first place that I visited. I already know people that go there and the softball girls are really nice. Plus they have a nursing program and that's what I want to do after college. After I committed I never considered another school."
Although she is believed to be the first Marshall County female athlete to sign with an SEC program straight out of high school, Fagan knows that she will have to compete for playing time when she joins the Lady Vols, who have advanced to the College World Series four times in the nine-year tenure of coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly.
"I'll definitely have to work hard because I know I'm not going to step right in without having proven anything yet," said Fagan.
Cornersville softball coach Spencer Mitchell, meanwhile, believes that Fagan will be a source of town pride when she suits up for Tennessee a little over a year from now and will serve as an inspiration to younger players in the area.
"I think for the Cornersville community it will be an opportunity to see someone from here play on television, which has probably never happened before," said Mitchell. "As for the softball program, it is something for everyone else to strive for and attempt to accomplish."
Despite compiling an impressive 15-3 record in the circle her first two years at Cornersville High School, Fagan didn't appear on Tennessee's radar until she played with Team Worth Gold in the summer of 2009. Fagan was the staff ace for the Nashville based travel ball team and helped lead them to the ASA National Championships.
"If I wouldn't have been with Team Worth, I probably wouldn't have been to the 16-and-under Nationals and UT likely would have never seen me. The girls on the team helped me too because if we hadn't won then we would have never gotten there," said Fagan.
While Fagan possesses all the physical tools and natural build of a pitcher, Team Worth coach Michael Connell believes that it is her mental attributes that have allowed her to flourish against some of the top competition in the country.
"It's a little unusual for girls from small communities to step up the way she did at that level of competition, but Haley has a different mentality. She plays like she's been competing at that level her whole life," said Connell. "Haley's just a gamer. She's always been strong mentally and plays with a high level of focus, which is rare for a high school athlete."
During her junior campaign, Fagan compiled a 14-8 record with Cornersville and was named District 11-A regular season MVP, but saw her season come to a premature end when she suffered a stress fracture in her left shin a week before the start of the playoffs.
Fagan, however, has made a full recovery from her injury and hopes to guide the Lady Bulldogs to their third Class A State Tournament appearance in four years after making a triumphant return to the circle this summer while playing with Team Worth Gold and the Chattanooga based Tennessee Fury Gold, which competed in the ESPN Rise tournament in Huntington Beach, Cal., in August.
"I want to win State this year because I think we have the talent to do it. I'm really motivated to prove myself after getting hurt last year," said Fagan.
Mitchell also echoes Fagan's sentiments, stating, "If everyone can stay healthy and we can hit the ball then we have a chance to make another run at the State Tournament. We've won over 100 games over the last four years and have played at a really high level. I'm anticipating a really interesting season with Haley being healthy."
Fagan is also a key member of the Cornersville basketball team and helped lead the Lady Bulldogs to the 2009 Class A State Tournament while being an All-District selection each of the last two years.
Despite suffering her leg injury six months earlier, Fagan said that Tennessee's coaches never encouraged her to stop playing basketball and solely concentrate on softball, stating," UT wasn't really worried about my injury and they told me it was fine if I played basketball because I could get hurt walking across the street. Mrs. Weekly told me that basketball was actually her favorite sport growing up."
Haley excels in the classroom as well and currently sports a 3.9 GPA along with being the president of the Cornersville Beta Club and a member of the school's Student Council. Fagan has also been involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes the last three years and was named Cornersville's Football Homecoming Queen and Miss CHS this Fall.
Barring another physical setback, Fagan should be in store for a banner senior year on the basketball court and on the softball diamond with the Lady Bulldogs.