Isabelle Parson of Guelph has about three months until she starts her next athletic and academic adventure.
Last fall Parson, who turned 18 last week, committed to attending the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, on a combined academic/athletic scholarship. She’ll be joining Mary’s varsity Marauders women’s soccer squad.
She hopes to be playing outside back for the Marauders in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play. It’s an NCAA Division 2 league with a field of 16 teams.
“I used to play centre back, but the last two years I switched,” Parson says. “I really like outside back because I get a lot of running in, up and down the field playing offence and defence.”
She’ll be studying biology with the aim of getting into pre-veterinary.
Wait, what? She’ll be going to North Dakota to study pre-veterinary when she grew up in Guelph where there’s a university renowned for its veterinary studies?
“I get that question a lot,” she says. “It's mostly for my soccer. It's definitely a higher pace and I've always been dreaming since I was 10 years old of going to the U.S., playing as high as possible. Their veterinarian program and biology, it's supposed to be a really great school for that as well.
“I love travelling and I just wanted a new environment.”
School-wise, the University of Mary’s campus is very similar to the University of Guelph as both are relatively small campuses. Mary, though, is located by itself away from the city of Bismarck while the U of G is within Guelph’s city limits.
“I really like it,” Parson says of Mary’s campus. “It's about a 10-minute drive from the city of Bismarck and it's up kind of in hills and mountains kind of thing. They have a really nice view into where the river is.
“It's a small campus. It's like a five-minute walk from the dorms to all the things. They have a football field and a training field there so it's perfect for working out and everything. The dorms are really nice.”
Parson started her final season of District 10 high school soccer last week. Due to a foot injury during her Grade 9 year and then the global pandemic wiping out high school spring sports the last two years, it’ll also be the Grade 12 student’s first full season with the Centennial Spartans.
“Grade 9, I had a foot injury so I just did B girls,” she says. “I just did a tournament with them. Sadly, I missed that one year.”
Parson has visited the Mary campus a couple of times. Her first visit was around Halloween and that didn’t scare her off as that’s when she signed on to attend the school. She had verbally committed a couple of months earlier.
“I got to see one of their final games over Halloween time,” she says of her first visit. “It was raining during it, but it was still a lot of fun. It was definitely different than I think Canadians think soccer in university is. It's big. The community comes out and other teams come out and support.
“Our games for school, no one really comes out.”
Mary finished sixth in the conference last season, but dropped its only game of the conference championship tournament. They were strong at home, going 5-1-2 overall in games on their campus, but were 4-6-1 in games away from campus.
Parson won’t be the lone Canadian on the squad as defender Olivia Buckle from Chilliwack, B.C., will be in her sophomore year with the team.
This summer Parson is to play for FC Berlin Academy of Kitchener in the Western Region Soccer League’s Ladies U21 league.
“We start games in May,” Parson says of the U21 squad. “They go all the way through, except I'll be leaving the start of August, end of July.”
That’s when she’s to leave to join the Mary Marauders.
While the first day of classes is a month or so later, the Marauders start their workouts and preseason the day after Parson’s move-in day. The first game of their 19-game schedule comes a couple of weeks later on Aug. 20.
While it will be Parson’s first time away from home for more than a weekend, she knows she’s not going to be all alone.
“I'm still going to be with people 24/7 and I'll be calling my parents so much and they'll be coming down,” she says. “I'm super excited.”
And there will be plenty of help available for her academics if it’s required. However, a lot of that help might come from her teammates.
“A lot of the incoming freshmen are also taking bio so we can support each other,” she says.
And what is she most looking forward to?
“Definitely my team, meeting new people and getting kind of a brand new family sort of thing,” she answers. “I'm going to be with them all the time.”