New Jersey Youth Soccer recently hosted its 32nd Annual NJYS Awards Dinner presented by RWJBarnabas Health, where many players, coaches and members of the soccer community were celebrated at the Pines Manor in Edison, N.J. Included in the ceremony was the announcement of the 2019 Jeanine Willis Scholarship recipients, with Laurel Teel and Jesse Ryan receiving the honors.
The Jeanine Willis Scholarship was established by NJ Youth Soccer to honor the numerous contributions that Jeanine Willis made to youth soccer in the State of New Jersey and beyond. She was the first NJYS Executive Director, served as a member of the NJYS Board of Directors and is a member of the NJYS Hall of Fame. Each year, NJ Youth Soccer awards this scholarship to deserving college-bound high school seniors who have participated in the NJYS State Cup Program.
Like Jeanine Willis, Girl Scouts and soccer have both played prominent roles in the life of Laurel Teel. She has played with Watchung Hills Elite Fusion since her freshman year of high school, participating in both futsal and outdoor NJYS State Cups competition. She has also played within New Jersey ODP and was selected onto the 2017-18 team for her age group. Further, she plays on her high school team and is very active on campus there as well. Teel will be continuing her soccer career this fall when she begins playing at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
“I really enjoy the parallel between volunteering and soccer,” said Teel. “At Gettysburg, I hope to continue volunteering at camps so I can work with younger soccer players. I want to keep my love for the game going.”
At the age of five, Jesse Ryan began playing soccer at the recreation level. He joined his first travel team three years later, and he has continued to play soccer through high school and with his club team. Additionally, he has spent the past four years competing with New Jersey ODP, which has led him to opportunities with the Region 1 ODP Team in Italy and at IMG Academy.
“Winning this scholarship means everything to me,” said Ryan. “Without the NJYS State Cup, I feel as though I may have become stagnant in my progression as a soccer player without the unique tournament experience that I was able to compete in. My constant hunger to improve is due to the competitive nature that NJYS has provided me throughout my many years with the association.”
Ryan notes two significant memories from his time as a youth soccer player being when his team won the MOSA Cup when he was 12 and when he competed for an NJYS State Cup championship in 2017.