What kind of athlete commits to a college in fifth grade?
That's what Crestwood's Chandler Ackers did. Since fifth grade, she's been an All-State pick, a Futures Elite selection and a Junior National team member.
She capped her high school career as a state champion. For her achievements, Ackers earned The Times Leader Field Hockey Player of the Year honors.
The senior, who is heading to the University of Iowa, emerged as the most dominant player in the area this season.
Playing mainly at center back, Ackers had just one goal in her first 13 games. Crestwood won 11 of those games, nine via shutout. A talented goalie had a lot to do with those goose eggs, but the Comets' defense – anchored by Ackers – contributed as well.
Then things changed.
I think I knew it after the loss to Holy Redeemer, to be honest with you, said Ackers of what became a 15-game winning streak after a 3-1 loss to the Royals. It was such a horrible loss, we kind of gave up at the end … I told them we're not losing again.
Ackers grew up with many of the Comets' younger players, so she knew they would heed her call to victory.
They knew me, so it wasn't a big deal, Ackers said. They knew I'd be tough. And I'd tell them, get used to it. You're going to cry.
Ackers then asserted herself offensively, scoring eight of her nine goals after the loss to the Royals. When her team needed to avenge a 2011 PIAA loss to Greenwood during this season's state semifinals, it was Ackers delivering the game-winner in the second OT.
Days later, she got her 12th assist of the season on a penalty corner that netted Crestwood its state championship-winning goal. She was everywhere on the field at Whitehall that day – leading the offense into the circle and also making key defensive plays.
In the end, Ackers had the state gold some told her before the season might be out of reach.
Since my freshman year, we've had a lot of great athletes but for some reason we didn't all come together, Ackers said of some splendid Comets teams of recent years. It's just different this year. We're all really good friends on the field and off. We love each other.
Part of the difference for Chandler was having sister Hannah along for the run.
That's awesome, Chandler said of sharing the title chase. She's my best friend. I don't know what I'd do without her.
Having traveled plenty already – her favorite destination so far has been Vancouver to face a Canadian national squad – heading to Iowa is not a big deal. It's a little flatter than her native White Haven, but she is ready for the change.
I've wanted to go there since fifth grade, Ackers said. I went to their camp and just fell in love with them. That was (Comets assistant) Lissa's (Munley) sophomore year (at Iowa). I can't wait.
Her parents, Doreen and Gordy, made sure it was the right choice. They took Chandler to visit 36 colleges over the years. None were what Iowa is.
I tried to pick a school that fit me. I'm not a big-city person, Chandler said. We're a very tight-knit family. My social life really involves them. It's the four of us all the time.
Ackers knows her first college road game is at nearby Lafayette, bringing the family back together again. Like getting to Iowa, she can't wait.