Cary-Grove’s Jenna Stayart knew Tennessee was a school that interested her. It was onlyt a matter of catching the Volunteers’ attention.
Finally, after a showcase with her club team, Eclipse Select, the Tennessee coaching staff reached out to Stayart in October. In the span of a little more than a week, Stayart visited the Knoxville, Tennessee, campus and committed to play Division I soccer there.
“I kind of just fell in love with everything,” Stayart said. “The campus is so nice, and I loved the coaching staff, the whole soccer program overall.”
Stayart, a junior at C-G, chose Tennessee over other top choices Missouri and Louisville. She said there also was some interest from Big Ten and Ivy League schools.
Stayart led C-G with 28 goals last season. The Trojans shared the Fox Valley Conference title and won their third consecutive IHSA Class 3A regional championship. She was a Northwest Herald First-Team All-Area selection.
She has two more seasons remaining with the Trojans, but already has her college destination figured out.
“I know that the SEC is a huge conference and super competitive,” Stayart said. “That was my biggest motivation as I narrowed it down to those few schools. I was really interested in the SEC because of how big the other schools are that are in the conference. I know how competitive and intense the conference is.”
Stayart will join former Eclipse teammate Isabella Cook (York) at Tennessee. Maya Neal (Neuqua Valley), another former Eclipse player, was a senior on this year’s Vols team.
Stayart is a scoring machine for the Trojans as a forward and midfielder. She plays mostly midfield for her club team, and the plan is to play midfield at the college level, but that’s not set in stone. She said she feels as if she knows the field pretty well.
“I like to look to go forward toward the goal,” Stayart said. “Very aggressive and competitive. I definitely always want to win. I think my technical ability is pretty good with making those final passes in the final third and just the little things.”
Tennessee has reached the NCAA tournament 12 times since 2001, most recently in 2017 and 2018. In 2018, the Vols reached the NCAA quarterfinals.
The Trojans have produced a number of D-I soccer talents in recent years. Twins Kailyn and McKenna Sheehan, seniors on last year’s team, now play at D-I Florida Gulf Coast and Missouri, respectively. Frankie Frericks, a 2017 C-G grad, is a junior at Stetson after transferring from Creighton.
“It was pretty important,” Stayart said. “I’ve always wanted to play college soccer, but also be at one of those big schools that does get an opportunity to play for a national title. That was cool to see that Tennessee’s always up there.”