In her search to find out what sport she was best at, Tara Shipp immersed herself in basketball and soccer as a youth, then carried both sports with her to her days at Cedar High.
On Wednesday afternoon, Shipp cemented her decision to play soccer at the next level, signing a National Letter of Intent to play for the University of Utah.
Shipp was the wall as goalkeeper for a Lady Reds team that beat Juan Diego and reached the 3A state title game in 2011, and followed up with a quarterfinal appearance this fall. She also averages 10 points and five rebounds a game for a Cedar team that has won 12 of its last 13 games and is ranked No. 1 in 3A by the Deseret News.
“It’s a dream come true, and a relief to know where I’m going for the next couple of years,” Shipp said. “I thought when I was younger I could go D-1 in soccer over basketball, but I wanted to keep trying, so I worked at both over the last couple of years.
“It was hard, but I wanted the focus to be on which sport would give me the better education. That was a huge deciding factor.”
And Utah won out.
Shipp will be joining a Utes squad that was 3-7-1 in Pac-12 play last fall and tied for ninth with Oregon, a half-game behind Washington and Southern Cal.
“The campus was amazing and the coaches were super welcoming,” Shipp said of her visit to Utah. “The team lost two seniors, but did pretty well. They’re a solid program that’s improving.”
One of the highlight from 2012 for the Utes was a 1-0 win over BYU on Aug. 23, one of only two defeats the Cougars suffered all season.
As for her family, Shipp said they don’t show particular loyalty to either school, but she has “a couple of BYU shirts.”
“I guess we’ll have to really become Utah fans now,” she said.
Cedar soccer coach Scott Kamachi was among the proud supporters who attended Shipp’s signing.
“It’s exciting for her to go up there and have all those experiences,” Kamachi said. “Playing the Pac-12 schools, the travel, and playing at that level, she’s worked hard and got good grades. She deserves it.
“When someone like her goes to the next level, it’s not one person, but a community that helps her out.”
Shipp’s father, Rex, said his daughter’s ambition and drive was always there from the start.
“She played hard and well at both sports with the intention of playing on,” Shipp said. “I’ve asked her numerous times, but she never indicated a preference.”
Shipp will join her cousin Snow Canyon Autumn Shipp, who signed on with a softball scholarship to Utah, as roommates.
Washington County athletes head north
It was a busy day for Region 9 as Southern Utah athletes made the next step in their sporting careers, officially signing with colleges both local and afar.
Those heading northward include Dixie High quarterback Blake Barney, who signed with Weber State last week and will join the football team upon completion of an LDS Mission in 2015.
“I went out and visited (Weber) a couple of weeks ago and just loved the campus and coaches and it seemed like the coaches really wanted me to be a part of their program,” said Barney, who led the Flyers to a State Championship and garnered the 3A MVP award from numerous media outlets.
“Weber wants me to try and play QB,” he continued. “Other schools wanted me to be a safety, or receiver. (Weber) felt like a really good fit for me. And it’s pretty close to home.”
With Desert Hills’ Ty Rutledge and Josh Anderson committed to SUU and gearing up for LDS Missions of their own, 2015 could turn out to be a reunion of sorts when the two teams meet.
“It’s just the next level of Region 9 football,” Barney said. “It’ll be a rivalry from Weber up to SUU. It’ll be fun to do that.”
Other signers include a number of Pine View athletes — Cody Boyer, Melissa Judd and Kirsten Anderson.
Boyer committed to Utah State and plans on joining the Aggies football team in January.
“It has a great family atmosphere,” Boyer said of the USU campus. “I really enjoyed being up there every time I went to check it out. It was really fun.”
The 6-foot-6, 280-pounder committed to Utah State as a junior and was described as “long-levered, tall, (and) athletic” by head coach Matt Wells.
Judd committed to USU-Eastern’s volleyball program, after being impressed by the school’s overall quality.
“They have high standards and (their volleyball team) has a pretty good record lately,” she said.
Anderson will play softball at Salt Lake Community College.
“It was my best scholarship offer and it’s closer to home than all of my other offers,” she said. “I love St. George, I’ve lived here my whole life, but I’m really excited for the opportunities I have coming up.”
Snow Canyon offensive tackle Austin Best said he signed with DSC and plans to enroll in the fall. At 6-foot-4, 350 pounds, Best was a force at tackle for the Warriors and expects to play on the offensive line at DSC. His brother R.J. — part of the 2006 Snow Canyon team that reached the 3A final — will transfer from Snow College to play defense for the Red Storm.