Alyssa Buddle figured there was no time like the present to make her college decision.
With college softball coaches locking up the class of 2014 at a rapid pace Buddle, a junior catcher at South Elgin, didn't hesitate to say yes last weekend when James Madison University coach Mickey Dean made her an offer of a full-ride scholarship.
"I've been looking at a lot of schools and I wanted to play softball on scholarship in college," said Buddle, a Bartlett resident, Thursday night. "This was the right time to sign."
With Dean, the head coach of the NPF's Chicago Bandits from 2004-10, in his first year as JMU's head coach, the Dukes are preparing to enter the Big East Conference next year, which was another of the deciding factors for Buddle.
"I just loved everything about the school athletically and academically," said Buddle, who will study either business or education at James Madison, which is located in Harrisonburg, Va. "It's a young program that's moving to a great conference. They're building a $27 million stadium, their indoor facilities are great and the campus is beautiful. Everything they said and everything I saw, I knew it was the right place for me."
James Madison finished 30-26 overall last season and was 15-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Buddle said she also considered Saint Louis University and DePaul, as well as Miami of Ohio before a coaching change took place at that school.
"I always had a dream of playing in the Big Ten," she said. "But knowing I'll only have four years of softball left in my life when I get to college, going to a school where I can play as a freshman was important to me."
Buddle has been one of the top producing offensive players in the Chicago area since she started playing softball at South Elgin. Last season she hit .511 with 3 home runs, 22 RBI and 17 doubles. She also had an .830 slugging percentage, a .552 on-base percentage and only struck out 9 times in 106 at-bats.
She is the second South Elgin softball player to accept a Division I scholarship, following 2009 Daily Herald all-area Fox Valley captain Kim Pierce, who played at Indiana State.
"It's a big step for her," said South Elgin coach Jason Schaal. "Now she can take a deep breath and relax a little. (Dean) told her catcher was a position they were looking to fill and she's got a good opportunity there. I think she'll do well and she'll play against great competition and that's what she wanted."
Buddle is also happy to have her college choice made.
"I'm excited," she said. "Now I can go out and play for fun and have all the stress gone."