Jonathan Alder standout soccer player Riley Gruenbaum has a closet full of red and black Alder gear.
Four years of varsity soccer with the Pioneers has provided her plenty of opportunities to gather the spirit wear. Thanks to signing a National Letter of Intent Wednesday, Feb. 1, to play the sport she loves at the University of Cincinnati, she won’t have to change her colors.
Gruenbaum, a first team All-Ohio selection last fall, is excited about what her future will be as a Bearcat athlete.
“This means a lot to me, this has been my goal for as long as I can remember,” Gruenbaum said. “When I first started playing soccer I’ve wanted to play college soccer.
“I had a sister who played at Ohio State and I always looked up to her, I always knew I wanted to do it. It was eighth grade going into high school that schools started talking to me and I started to realize that this was a possibility.”
Gruenbaum, who was recruited to be a defender at the college level proved that she has the ability to play just about anywhere on the field.
Last year Alder coach Matt Evans made a move during the season to take his standout defender and move her to the midfield. Gruenbaum excelled in her expanded offensive role, scoring 20 goals and assisting in 11 others.
“When I took over she was a defender, one of the best I had ever seen, the things that she can do on the field are impressive,” Evans said. “But this year we moved her to the middle and she took an even higher step up. She’s signing with Cincinnati as a defender, but she earned first team All-Ohio as a midfielder. That showed me just how special she is as a player.”
Gruenbaum chose University of Cincinnati over Ohio State, Louisville, Ohio University and UNC Wilmington. She said she had a comfort level with everyone surrounding the program.
“The people I came across and surrounding the program seemed to have a real interest in my success not only on the field but in the classroom,” she said. “It’s not just soccer focused or just school focused, it’s a good balance.”
The last couple years the University of Cincinnati women’s soccer program has really taken off. The Bearcats made the NCAA tournament a couple years ago and is now challenging for league titles.
Gruenbaum is the second player in as many seasons to commit to playing D-I soccer from the Alder program. Alivia Milesky earned All-MAC honors this past fall at Ohio University as a freshman. The program winning more and now producing D-I players has brought more attention to Evans and his Pioneers program.
“She brings a lot of stuff to the table,” Evans said. “With Alivia last year and Riley this year, having two D-I athletes has built excitement around our program. We have more girls out for our program now than we’ve ever had. She’s a huge part of it. The combination of winning districts (2015) and having two D-I players, has built an excitement for us and the future of our program.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.