The dream formed almost as soon as Caelan Gaul began playing soccer will become reality in a few short months.
Becoming a college athlete is no longer something the Polk County senior has to keep on her wish list.
Gaul made her plans to join Salem College’s soccer program official during a Thursday ceremony in Polk County High School’s auditorium, family and school officials present as Gaul inked a signing form with the Spirits.
“It feels really great,” Gaul said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to play with another team and continue growing as a player.
“I think since I started playing soccer this has been my dream. I really started getting into it during my 10th grade year and getting more serious about it.”
Gaul’s start to the shortened 2020 season reflected that dedication. She had four goals in Polk County’s first five games, including a three-goal effort in a win over Crest. That came after a sophomore season in which she had nine goals in 19 games.
The early flurry last spring caught the eye of Salem coaches, who began talking with Gaul and also followed her efforts with her travel squad, Carolina Foothills Club.
Gaul expects to play at forward once she joins Salem’s program. The Spirits compete at the NCAA Division III level and are members of the USA South Athletic Conference.
“I’m definitely nervous. Some of those girls are pretty good,” Gaul said of moving to the college level. “It’s an all-girls school and it’s a close community. You get a chance to know your professors, and I learn better in a small environment.
“The team is super awesome. All of the girls that I’ve met have been so nice, and when I talk to them, I feel like I’ve known them for a long time.”
Gaul plans to study business at Salem. First, though, she hopes to have a stellar senior season for Polk County. Practice officially begins on Monday.
“I missed not having a chance to play. It was a bummer, for sure,” Gaul said of the 2020 season cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to thank Coach (Lennox) Charles, Coach (George) Alley, my travel coaches and my parents, who drove me all over to play soccer.”