By Joseph Staszewski
Kelly Licul had resigned herself to the fact that she wasn’t going to play Division I softball until Rhode Island came along. In her mind, a different route was originally just fine, but playing for the Rams was too good to pass up for the St. Francis Prep catcher.
“I really wanted to go to a D-II school so I could focus more on my academics,” Licul said. “Once I saw URI, I really couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”
The senior verbally committed to Rhode Island and coach Erin Layton last week on a partial athletic and academic scholarship. Licul chose the Rams over Georgian Court University, Dowling. St. John’s Fisher and Binghamton. She worked hard enough to score high on her ACT to ensure extra scholarship money.
Licul is the first Division-I softball player from St. Francis Prep since Nicole Nelson went to Providence in 1995, according to Terriers coach Ann Marie Rich.
“This is really big for her,” Rich said. “Her and her parents worked really hard to get her to this point.”
Licul fell in love with the campus, the program and all the school had to offer on an unofficial visit in late August. Rhode Island recently renovated its athletic facilities, but the choice was about more than sports for Licul. Rhode Island, unlike the other schools she was interested in, offers her desired field of study, physical therapy and sports management, as both majors and minors. Rhode Island also had a special pre-physical therapy program.
“I know that I could see myself there with or without softball,” she said.
The All-Queens First Team selection by the TimesLedger also built a good relationship with Layton. A few of her former Sudden Impact travel ball teammates play at Rhode Island and told her about the coach’s nurturing nature. Licul saw it firsthand during a game.
“She cares so much about her players and she treats them so well,” she said. “I went to one of their games once and it is kind of like they are her children.”
Licul has given St. Francis Prep plenty to smile about during her career, especially last season. She batted .426 and scored 17 runs. She hit a home run in a semifinal victory over Fontbonne to help SFP win its first CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens title since 2008. Behind the plate, she kept runners from stealing bases and helped develop young pitchers.
“They relied upon her a lot for the calls,” Rich said. “She’s come into her own to take total control of the game.”
Licul can just focus on that game now with her college decision behind her.
“I don’t have to be so stressed with the whole college thing,” Licul said. It’s just a blessing and I can’t really wait to be doing it.”