Soccer in the Bluegrass State: Monroe’s Snyder finds a home at Midway

MIDWAY, Ky. — Sometimes it takes a while to find the right path. Sometimes you just don’t know for sure until the daily merry-go-round stops at a place you never expected.

Regan Snyder can smile because her story is just like that. It’s all working out, even if her future wasn’t so clear just a couple years ago.

Snyder has come a long way since graduating from Monroe High School in 2015. She is working toward a business degree in the classroom while earning spots among the NAIA statistical leaders in women’s soccer here at Midway University.

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Perhaps you’ve never heard of Midway. It’s a private, liberal arts-based institution that’s affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and located about 20 minutes northwest of Lexington. The total enrollment is around 1,700. The campus is actually on a 200-acre working horse farm.

“I’m very blessed,” said Snyder, sitting for an interview Wednesday afternoon inside the McManis Student Center. “I’m grateful for everybody supporting me. I’m grateful for my teammates, my coaches, my parents, my family and my friends.”

She’s a 5-foot-7 junior forward for the Eagles and a senior academically. Snyder plans to play in the fall of 2019, then graduate midyear and hopefully move on to a master’s program at Midway.

The soccer piece has taken her to new heights of recognition. Snyder has already collected an Offensive Player of the Week award from the River States Conference this season. Through five games, she’s accumulated 18 points on eight goals and two assists.

Snyder leads the RSC in points and goals per game. She’s also in the national Top 10 in those categories.

“It’s not surprising at all to me,” said Sherrill Smith, Midway’s fourth-year head coach. “You’re looking at a player that is totally dedicated to the game. She doesn’t look for shortcuts. She’s one of those young ladies that comes to practice with the understanding that, ‘I’m going to get better and I’m going to improve those around me.’ ”

At this point, Snyder just wants to play more games. Inclement weather has taken a bite out of the Eagles’ schedule.

“It helps a lot having such fantastic teammates behind me. I just seem to be in the right place at the right time,” Snyder said. “We’re very strong. We have a great midfield, and we have some girls that can service the ball in. I think that’s where we struggled some in years past.”

Her three-year Midway career has included 23 goals and six assists. Snyder was a scorer at Monroe, totaling 38 points as a senior.

Not long thereafter, she thought her soccer career was over.

Coming out of Monroe, Snyder was committed to play at Eastern Kentucky University. She spent time with the team during the summer before her freshman year, but a couple days before school started, she decided to come home and just be a student at Wright State.

Snyder attended WSU for the entire school year, yet discovered something along the way. She missed soccer. She missed the game that she’d been playing since she was big enough to walk.

Fortunately, St. Catharine (Ky.) College came calling. Specifically, soccer coach Paul Patton. Snyder was ready to transfer to St. Catharine and return to the sport.

And then came a stunning announcement on June 1, 2016. St. Catharine was closing.

Snyder wasn’t sure where her road would lead next. But St. Catharine had a “teach-out” agreement with several schools — meaning students could easily transfer to any of those places — and Midway was one of them.

Midway was an all-female school that was transitioning to accepting men for the 2016-17 school year. St. Catharine coaches and players started to make the switch to Midway. And Snyder had a new collegiate home.

“The majority of the girls were coming to Midway,” she said. “We all decided to look at Midway and they matched everything that St. Catharine was going to award us, so we decided it would be the best move.”

Smith, a longtime Kentucky high school coach, had been brought in to rebuild the Midway program. In 2015, his first year, the Eagles went 2-12.

“When I first saw it, I have to be honest, it looked rough,” Snyder said of the soccer program. “They didn’t have very many girls. I think they played one game with nine or 10 girls. They couldn’t even fill out 11 starting positions, let alone having any subs.”

Snyder came in knowing nobody, so it was all a new adventure to her. She also had to get used to playing again, which wasn’t easy.

“I don’t usually let myself get out of shape, and there is a way different shape between just working out in the gym and playing a soccer game,” Snyder said. “It was very frustrating at first. My first preseason, my ankles were the size of probably the soccer ball. My body was yelling at me. It didn’t understand why I was going back to soccer after I quit. It probably took my whole first season to really come back.”

Her skills weren’t gone. She tallied seven goals and one assist in her first season in a Midway uniform, and the Eagles went 9-4-2.

Last year, Snyder put up eight goals and three assists as the No. 2 scorer behind senior Kindsay Miller-Riney, who had 13 goals and three assists. Midway went 7-7-1.

The stage was set for Snyder this fall, and she has taken off for the 3-2 Eagles. She’s scored in every game but one. On Sept. 22, Snyder collected her first career hat trick against Kentucky Christian.

“Last year I was moved back into the midfield more, so I didn’t have as many opportunities to score,” Snyder said. “We had a great scorer last year, and we worked very well together. You have to evolve to what your program needs, and that’s what I feel like I’ve done.”

She admitted that being among the national statistical leaders is a little overwhelming.

“It was a shock at first,” Snyder said. “Scoring is what I do. That’s given me a very big adrenaline rush throughout my soccer career. I’m really trying to reach double digits in scoring, but I also want to up my assists to help other people score.”

Her game is speed and skill and adaptability. Smith said another year of strength training should make her even more dynamic as a senior.

“I don’t want her to be content,” said Smith, noting that Snyder went through a captains-in-training program and is now a captain’s assistant. “I want her to embrace her success and move on to the next level of greatness.”

Midway is a school that stresses community service and involvement. The women’s soccer program is very much a part of that and received the Team Impact Award from the school last spring.

There’s all kinds of community service being done year-round at Midway. Smith rattled off a long list of drives and building projects and spending time with area senior citizens and children.

“This isn’t a dress rehearsal,” Smith said. “This is the real thing. We’re preparing them for life.”

Snyder said she has an affinity for playing bingo with seniors.

“It’s fun, and it’s good to see that they’re having fun too,” Snyder said. “I know sometimes it can get a little boring living there. They really enjoy seeing us, and we enjoy seeing them.”

She’s an excellent student, earning an RSC Scholar-Athlete award last year. She likes the academic atmosphere in the small-school setting.

“At bigger schools, you can get lost in the crowd,” Snyder said. “But here at Midway, all my professors know me by name. They all know who’s who. They all come to our games. It’s really nice to actually feel like you’re somebody here.”

On the soccer field, the Eagles’ goal is to make it to the conference tournament (six of the 10 teams will advance). Smith expects the program to continue to grow and improve as he “recruits the globe.”

“I don’t find it difficult at all,” he said of recruiting at a small NAIA school. “It’s a beautiful campus. The setting is outstanding. You have horse farms. You have beautiful homes. You’re within reach of major cities, but it’s small enough that we can enjoy the calmness of it all. I’ve had girls that have gone only through our virtual tour and came here and loved it without even setting foot on campus.”

Snyder, 22, said her father Chris is a regular at her games … Midway is only about two hours from Monroe. The Eagles are scheduled to get back on the field Saturday afternoon when Brescia (Ky.) comes to town.

“I absolutely did not think I would ever be playing soccer again when I was at Wright State,” Snyder said. “But then you miss it, I got a great opportunity, and here I am. I’m excited for the rest of this year and seeing where it goes.”

By The Numbers

Here are Regan Snyder’s statistics during her three seasons with the Midway University women’s soccer team:

2016: 15 games, 12 starts, seven goals, one assist

2017: 14 games, 14 starts, eight goals, three assists

2018: 5 games, 5 starts, eight goals, two assists

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