Aug. 26—MITCHELL — Mia Mullenmeister is achieving something that hasn't been done before in Mitchell High School soccer history.
The Kernel goal-scoring dynamo has made plans to play Division I women's soccer at Utah State University, verbally committing to the Mountain West Conference school on Aug. 16 and accepting an athletic scholarship offer.
"I'm super excited. It's always been a dream of mine to go Division I and to get to see that happen, it's a great feeling," Mullenmeister said.
Only a junior, the 5-foot-6 forward scored a South Dakota-leading 21 goals last season as a sophomore and already has a four-goal game to her name this season, helping MHS pick up an Aug. 20 win at Spearfish.
She plays club soccer with the Dakota Alliance club out of Sioux Falls and has been a part of its Olympic Development Program team. Playing with Dakota Alliance, she played with under-17 team earlier this year in a tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is where Utah State coaches had the chance to watch her play.
"We kept in contact and then made a visit earlier in the summer and I just really enjoyed everything about the program," Mullenmeister said. "I really saw it as a place that was a great fit for me."
NCAA rules prohibit coaches and universities from making official contact with recruits until June 15 of a prospect's junior year. Mullenmeister said she was looking forward to that day but was expecting to go by without much attention. She found herself pleased when she had coaches texting her and making contact with her to gauge her interest.
"It was a good feeling to know that there was that interest at the Division I level, which is something I've really wanted to do for a long time," she said.
The Aggies play in the Mountain West Conference and were 13-6-3 last season under then-first-year head coach Manny Martins and reached the conference tournament semifinals. The campus is located in Logan, Utah, located about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City.
Mullenmeister said she was down to two college choices, South Dakota State and Utah State, but the interactions with the Aggies' coaching staff when she visited Logan were what tipped USU in her direction. She also had interest in Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
She also liked the campus and its psychology program, which she said she is currently considering studying. Mullenmeister said she was able to appreciate the Aggies program by watching the USU team practice, getting a sense of how she could fit into their program.
"I really enjoyed it and I felt like I could contribute to what they're doing," she said.
The Kernels have had a handful of players advance to play Division II soccer but Mullenmeister is believed to be breaking new ground, something she said is not lost on her. Soccer has only been sanctioned through MHS since the 2010 season.
"It's always been a great thing to represent Kernel soccer and to contribute to this program," Mullenmeister said. "It can be hard to get recognition playing soccer in South Dakota but to come from a small town and do this, it's an achievement."