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Shaler grad DeLancy named All-American at Spring Arbor

| Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, 11:35 p.m.
Shaler grad Rachel DeLancey is a soccer All-American at NAIA Spring Arbor in Michigan.
Spring Arbor athletics
Shaler grad Rachel DeLancey is a soccer All-American at NAIA Spring Arbor in Michigan.

Rachel DeLancey had extra motivation to open up and start conversations with her peers after arriving at Spring Arbor (Mich.) University four years ago.

Attending college 326 miles away from her Glenshaw home, DeLancey was the lone Pennsylvania player on the Cougars' roster.

DeLancey first found out about the school by searching on Google for Christian colleges.

“I think it did help me connect because it helped me get out of my comfort zone and talk to everybody,” said DeLancey, a Shaler graduate. “There were groups of people who knew each other and stayed in a group. It helped me talk to everyone.”

DeLancey developed into a captain and the leader of a defense, playing center back despite her 5-foot-1 frame. She was chosen as second-team NAIA All-American last week, helping lead a defense that allowed five goals in 24 games.

Only allowing five goals puts the Cougars defense as second best in NAIA history.

“I feel like our whole team does well defensively, and we're an offensive-minded team,” DeLancey said. “The only way other teams would score would be off set pieces or corners. Whenever it came down to it, we never let the ball get past our side.”

Spring Arbor finished 22-1-1 and fell just short of defending its national title, falling 1-0 to the University of Northwestern Ohio.

Cougars coach Jason Crist was pleased with DeLancey's gradual progression.

“It's been a pretty amazing development,” Crist said. “She played as a freshman out of necessity as an outside back. She was a starter, but it was a struggle for her catching up to the college pace. She got her feet underneath her as a junior.”

Spring Arbor's entire program did. The Cougars won their first-ever national title by finishing 23-2-1 and beating Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) College, 3-0.

“We say it was a Cinderella junior year. Coming in as the sixth seed, winning was the last thing we expected,” DeLancey said. “This year, we had more expectations coming off a national title and didn't have an easy road in.”

The Cougars rolled en route to the finals, beating Rochester (5-0), Cumberland University (5-0), Vanguard (1-0) and Baker (2-0).

DeLancey played a big role in helping Spring Arbor return to the national championship.

She did so by bringing an outside perspective and becoming an indispensable communicator.

“She's a great listener,” Crist said. “Rachel's one of those players other players are comfortable approaching. If they've got something on their mind, Rachel is intuitive enough to pull someone aside and ask what's going on.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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