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Franklin Regional's Roberge signs with Northwestern soccer

Matt Grubba | Murrysville Star
Franklin Regional senior Mike Roberge, sitting at center, signed his National Letter of Intent to join the men's soccer team at Northwestern in the fall. Joining him for the signing were, sitting, his parents, Tris and Jim; and in back, FR athletic director Zach Kessler, his younger brother, Jake, and FR boys soccer coach Ryan Montgomery.

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Injuries marred Mike Roberge's 2012, but in 2013, the Franklin Regional senior will get a fresh start with a new team.

Roberge signed his National Letter of Intent to join the men's soccer team at Northwestern on Feb. 6, the first day of the open signing period, and his family and coach were at his side when he put pen to paper in the high school's guidance office.

By accepting the offer to play for the Wildcats, Roberge is making good on a verbal commitment he made last spring. He picked the Big Ten school over a group of other schools that made offers, including Xavier and Lafayette, which Roberge said were the other two in his top three.

“It's nice to have all this done, since I've been verbally committed since May,” Roberge said. “It's good to send that letter in and know that I'm officially going there now.”

The senior was the leading scorer for Franklin Regional and his Beadling Soccer Club team in 2011, but an ankle injury that he suffered with Beadling last year put him out of action for both teams in the late summer and fall.

Northwestern's commitment to Roberge never wavered, and the FR senior got support from the Northwestern coaching staff, led by head coach Tim Lenahan.

“My coach (Lenahan) called me and told me to get ready for next year,” Roberge said. “He said to do what I had to do during fall and winter to prepare for spring and fall of this year.”

Roberge is one of two players from western Pennsylvania who will be headed to Northwestern in the fall, as his Beadling teammate and Montour senior Nathan Dearth is also signed with the Wildcats. Together, they will join a team that went 13-6-4 last season and lost to Louisville in the third round (Round of 16) in the NCAA Tournament.

First impressions are important, and Northwestern ended up on Roberge's radar with a small assist from Big Ten opponent Penn State. The first look Roberge got at his future team came in a conference game on Oct. 16, 2011, and a Nittany Lions' loss turned into a gain for the team from just north of Chicago.

“We used to go up every year with the high school team to watch Penn State play on a Sunday,” Roberge said. “We went up there, and Northwestern won, 1-0, on a diving header. I remember that game — good memories.”

One game wasn't all that drew Roberge to Northwestern. His two visits to the campus also sold the senior, who intends to study economics in college.

“No. 1 is the great location. Chicago is an amazing city,” Roberge said. “It's just a beautiful campus, right on Lake Michigan. The great campus and great (athletic) facilities, together with soccer and academics, really made it a great fit for me.”

Making the leap to the Big Ten is a big jump from WPIAL soccer, but Roberge should be prepared after winning two Region 1 titles and twice going to the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships with his Beadling team.

As the most successful boys club team from western Pennsylvania in more than a decade, Roberge's team produced eight players who signed scholarship offers from Division I colleges during the first week of the signing period, while others will sign later or play at smaller colleges.

“Watching (Northwestern's) games on TV and going to a couple of their games this year, I can really see myself fitting in there,” Roberge said. “The speed and style of play and the way they use their forwards, I can see myself fitting in well.

“I'm ready for the level of competiton. It'll be fun to take that leap. It's not going to be easy, and there will be a lot of hard work that goes into it, but I'm excited to push myself to get better.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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