When Neco Maderitz first entered high school, she enrolled at Ursuline High School, choosing to gain the experience of playing in a highly competitive environment rather than regretting not doing so.
After one year, however, Maderitz returned to Girard, to a more familiar environment.
"I came back to Girard, and it was more of a fit for me at home," Maderitz said. "My parents graduated from Girard, all my sisters and brothers went to Girard, so it was a closer relationship to me, more connections."
That move has paid dividends for the senior pitcher, flourishing as the Indians' ace and earning a scholarship offer from Robert Morris, one she accepted Thursday morning by signing her National Letter of Intent inside the library at Girard High School. According to her coach Renny Paolone, Maderitz became the first Girard softball player to go to a Division I school.
Although Maderitz had a desire to play at the next level when she entered high school, she said she didn't expect to go to a Division I college, thinking she could go to a much smaller school.
"I wanted to play in college, but I wasn't expecting going to Division I and be able to play high-level softball," Maderitz said. "I was expecting more of a smaller, D-III school or something."
Paolone pointed to Maderitz's great work ethic as the reason she will play at such a high level, stating she does a lot of work outside of practice. That hard work has allowed the ace to accrue more than 30 wins in the circle the past two seasons, record two no-hitters (according to Paolone) and pitch a perfect game in the 2013 season opener over McDonald on Apr. 1.
"She's the kind of girl you can just count on," Paolone said. "She's a bulldog. She goes out there and she's on the mound and you know she's there. You can always count on her. The work ethic, it's impeccable. She's the kind of player you dream about when you're a coach. Give me five or six of her."
Just like her move back to Girard, the feel of Robert Morris' campus played a role in her decision. Maderitz said she chose Robert Morris as her destination because it had a similar atmosphere to her hometown.
"It's like a home away from home because Girard is a small town - everyone knows each other," Maderitz said. "When I go to Robert Morris, I can make personal relationships with different students and with my professors - just have that close relationship with everyone like I do at home. So, I'm not too far away on a big campus where I don't know anyone."
While Paolone said he's excited for one of the hardest working players he's ever coached, he also said he's happy for the Girard softball program, which will in successive seasons have their first two players go to Division I and Division II schools, respectively. Kylie Kulon signed for Gannon last year.
"I was so excited because it was so good for the school," Paolone said. "It just shows you don't have to be a big school if you do the work, if you have the work ethic."