Dakota Lyons commits to Ohio State University for soccer


Ben Kanches

Freshman Dakota Lyons has verbally committed to Ohio State soccer to play on the attack.

It’s rare for a student athlete to commit to a Division One school, let alone a freshman.

But earlier this year, Dakota Lyons, a freshman at Libertyville High School, verbally committed to Ohio State University to play soccer.

Lyons has been playing soccer for eight years but didn’t fall in love with the sport immediately. She explained that her mom took her to a soccer-themed birthday party when she was 7 years old, and she hated it. A year later, her mom suggested that she try soccer again, and Lyons ended up loving it.

She took up soccer and played up an age-group until she was 13, then moved to a club in Lake Forest, where she played one year. After her time there, she moved to Eclipse Select Soccer Club, or Chicago Eclipse, as it’s commonly called, and has been playing there for two years now. Within Chicago Eclipse is the Elite Club National League, or ECNL, which is the league Lyons plays in.

She shared that her favorite thing about soccer is that “it’s a team sport, but on the outside, it’s so much individuality because you want to improve yourself, but on the field, everybody wants to improve themself while working together.”

 Lyons was born in 2003, which made her part of a team filled mostly with current sophomores. Lyons explained that “in the women’s soccer world, the recruiting process is very early, and fortunately I was on a team that was on the older side, so I was exposed to scouts earlier.”

A college cannot directly contact athletes, they have to go through the coach first. After a showcase, coaches are looking out for emails from colleges and will notify the player if there is a school interested in them. From there, it’s the athlete’s responsibility to call the school and talk about potential opportunities.

Lyons’s first showcase was in the summer of 2017, which was what sparked Ohio State’s interest in her. After competing in two more showcases, Lyons had narrowed her interest down to three schools: Colorado State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Ohio State University. By the end of the summer of 2017, Lyons had received offers from all three schools.

She was focused on these schools specifically because they are all ranked within the top four schools in the country for their veterinary programs, which is the field that Lyons is interested in entering. After much consideration, she decided on Ohio State, describing it as the “happy medium” distance-wise.

According to the NCAA, a verbal commitment is when a student-athlete agrees to play for a college before signing the National Letter of Intent (NLI). This commitment is not binding and can happen at any time. The NLI is a voluntary contract signed by the athlete to officially complete the recruiting process.

Lyons’s coach at the time, Marc McElligott, helped her through the recruitment process. He’d had many players go to Ohio State in the past and is confident that Lyons has a bright future there.

“At Eclipse Select, the quality of our teams always ensures that our players are among the most sought after players by the top colleges around the country,” McElligott shared over email. “I have no doubt that [Lyons] will continue that legacy with great success when she begins her college career.”

Lyons said the most influential person in her soccer career has been her mom: “I’m on my phone calling the [college] coach, and my mom’s by my side writing notes down, helping me ask questions, and she was just super supportive.”

Lyons’s teammate on Chicago Eclipse, Megan Hutchinson, highlighted her character over email: “[Lyons] is one of the nicest, funniest, [most] whole-hearted [people] you will ever meet. Whenever anyone is down, she will go out of her way and do anything to help make that person happy,” said Hutchinson, who is a freshman at Lincoln-Way Central High School in New Lenox, Illinois.

Lyons is not only a star athlete; she is also an exemplary student. She took Geometry Honors as an eighth grader, coming to LHS only for first period, then attending classes at Rondout School.

Mrs. Lisa Davis, a math teacher at LHS, had Lyons in her first period class last year. “When I picture Dakota in class last year, the words ‘determined’ and ‘friendly’ come to mind,” Mrs. Davis shared via email. “Even at 7:30 in the morning, she would walk in with a smile on her face.”

Lyons would often miss several days of school for soccer showcases, but would always ask for materials ahead of time in order to keep up with class, Mrs. Davis said.

Being an eighth grader in a class full of freshmen may seem overwhelming, but Lyons fit in well. According to Mrs. Davis, Lyons would actively participate in group projects, sharing that, “I honestly don’t know whether she knew some of her classmates beforehand or not, that’s how naturally she interacted with her classmates.”