Lenawee County athletes stay in the home spotlight in AC sports

One of the biggest decisions a student athlete has to make is choosing where to continue his or her athletic career beyond high school. Besides just figuring out which coach or team atmosphere is the best fit, there are additional factors that weigh on a student’s mind. Do I choose to leave my own state in order to broaden my horizons? Do I choose to stay close to home so I can stay in touch with family more easily? Should I go to the school that my parents are suggesting, or go somewhere completely out of left field? While these may be difficult questions, there are some Adrian College athletes that have decided that home is where the heart is.

Isaiah Espinoza, Ashley Morris, and Noah Nieman are just some of the student athletes here at AC that grew up in Lenawee County. It’s a decision that seems to be paying off if their success in sports is any indication.

Espinoza and Nieman are both members of the men’s wrestling team and are making significant traction in the MIAA. Espinoza, a graduate of Adrian High School, took the mat wearing the Bulldog colors for the first time against Alma College on Jan. 10 after transferring from Northern Illinois. Since then, the freshman has been putting up impressive numbers. Espinoza delivered a 6-0 victory against Case Western on Jan. 17, followed by placing in the 285-pound quarterfinals at the Pete Willson Invitational on Jan. 25. Espinoza told the Daily Telegram that the reason he came back to Adrian was that he became quite homesick at Northern Illinois. Unlike Espinoza, sophomore Noah Nieman never left the county. Nieman is a graduate of Blissfield High School and has been making waves in the 149-pound division, having finished as the runner-up at the Pete Willson Invitational, finishing 4-1 overall by the end of the weekend. With the duo of Espinoza and Nieman, combined with other Lenawee County wrestlers such as Elijah Sanchez and Bryan Moore, it’s safe to say that the AC wrestling team has a plethora of local talents with limitless potential.

However, local athletes aren’t just on the mat, they’re also on the hardwood. Senior guard Ashley Morris of the AC women’s basketball team hails from Adrian, and decided that she was going to stay within the city limits in order to continue her athletic career.

“I chose to stay in Lenawee County because this is where I grew up,” said Morris.

Morris continues by stating that while she had opportunities to continue her athletic career elsewhere, she decided to stick with Adrian College because her mother, Kathy Morris, has been a basketball coach at AC for 26 years, so it made sense to go to a college where a family presence is already established.

The women’s basketball program is surely glad Morris decided to stay in Adrian. Among her other accomplishments, Morris recently posted a game high 17 points in a close win against St. Mary’s on Jan. 23, shooting 5-8 overall and was 6-7 at the free-throw line.

When asked if she felt a loyalty to the city of Adrian to play here since it’s where she grew up, Morris responded by saying that she had no particular loyalty to the town itself, but a lot of loyalty towards her mother, which is the main reason she decided to stay and play at AC. Additionally, Morris says that she has gotten more out of staying in Lenawee County than just playing basketball for her mother.

“Some of the best things that I’ve gotten out of staying in Lenawee County has to be being able to watch my two younger sisters play basketball and the support from all of my family,” said Morris.

One of the hardest decisions a student athlete has to make is choosing where they want to continue their athletic career after high school. To those athletes currently going through this tough process, don’t forget to keep in mind athletes such as Espinoza, Nieman, or Morris. Your next home might be closer than you think.

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