TRAVERSE CITY — Maya Dean went her own way.
It led her to Bowling Green State University.
The Traverse City West senior hasn’t played soccer for the Titans since her sophomore year, but signed last week with the Division 1 Mid-American Conference program after playing last season with Midwest United FC Development Academy instead.
She intends to return to the Grand Rapids-based team this spring.
Two seasons ago, Dean formed a potent three-headed monster along with Jaelyn Dobrowolski and Makenna DeVries that Big North Conference foes couldn’t contain.
“She made a big impact coming in,” West head coach Chelsey Griesinger said. “Just one year, but it was a big impact and we enjoyed having her on the team and I think a lot of the girls learned a lot from her playing with her. So that one year made a big difference.”
Dobrowolski signed with fellow MAC member Central Michigan University at the same table in West’s athletic commons. Next year, the two will face off against each other at least once a season, and possibly more if they meet in the league tournament like last year, when the Falcons claimed the conference title over the Chippewas.
Bowling Green is also the alma mater of Griesinger’s husband, Matt, West’s boys soccer coach.
“He’s so excited,” Dean said. “The day I told him that I was going to commit, he’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can give you some of my old gear and you can give me some of your new gear. If you want.’ So cute.”
“Mainly in Michigan, high schools don’t get a ton of recognition by college coaches. So, developmental Academy plays teams from all across the region, and we get the opportunity to play in showcases like in Florida or, California, Colorado. So you just get to travel to a lot of places far away and see a lot of different coaches and areas.”
“That’s going to be great,” Dean said. “I’m excited to see her. It’ll be nice to continue our little frenemy. I mean, we’ve always been friends up till now but now I guess we’ll still be friends. I’ll just like seeing her after the games, before the games and catching up with her, not losing our connection.”
Two of Dean’s Midwest United teammates are headed to fellow MAC rival Western Michigan.
Playing with Midwest United FC has helped her game and given her extra exposure to college scouts, but it also came with a price.
“My parents are the biggest part of how I was able to do that,” Dean said. “They drive me down, so I can do work on my homework in the car. It’s not been difficult. Every online assignment I have to pull up before I leave in the car. There’s been a lot of late nights getting home. Last year, practices were at 6:30 p.m. downstate. I get home at like 11 o’clock. But this year, I get home at like 9 o’clock or 9:30.”
Midwest United qualified for national in San Diego last season, falling to Florida’s IMG Academy.
Bowling Green was actually the last school Dean looked at.
She visited Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Toledo, CMU and Ohio University, among others.
“I’ve been talking to the (BGSU) coaches since the past fall,” said Dean, who is undecided on a major. “But my first time on campus I just fell in love with it immediately and they were so welcoming and all the players were so welcoming, they just made it feel like that’s where I wanted to be.”
As a sophomore, the midfielder earned first-team all-Big North Conference, all-district and all-region while drawing all-state honorable mention in Division 1. She assisted on 20 goals and scored nine of her own.