Dexter's Aidan McConnell blazes a path to the University of Wisconsin

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Growing up and playing soccer, Dexter student-athlete Aidan McConnell took her own path and along the way saw some of her dreams come true.

Now she’s looking forward to the next chapter where she will go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and play for its soccer team.

A senior at Dexter High School, McConnell has a sense of pride and gratitude when looking back at the path she’s taken.

“To me the work and effort was not a sacrifice, but a great experience that allowed me to reach my dreams that I made as a little girl,” she told The Sun Times News. “All the practices and workouts were truly fun and stress relieving for me.

Her path is a unique one in that she didn’t play for the DHS soccer team, but rather she was part of a club team, called the Michigan Hawks. Her commitment to this team was important to her and because it played a 10-month season, which conflicted with the high school team's season, she wasn’t able to play during the spring at Dexter.

But that was okay, because playing with the Hawks did provide her with some great opportunities and experiences as well as the chance to make her dream of competing at the college level come true.

With the Hawks, she traveled the United States and made friends with many girls from around Michigan. It also gave her the opportunity to be scouted by youth national team coaches and college coaches.

McConnell played with the youth national team since January 2018. She's traveled all over the world with this team to countries like China, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Portugal. Just prior to the COVID pandemic, she and the team were working towards qualifying for the U-17 world cup in India. Unfortunately due to COVID, it was canceled.

“Ultimately, giving me opportunities to live out my dream of representing my country and playing in college,” she said of what being a part of the Michigan Hawks and in turn the national team has done for her.

As for her pick of a college, there are many reasons why she wants to go to Wisconsin.

For one, she said growing up near Ann Arbor allowed her to experience the feeling of a college town, and that’s something she hoped for in the place she goes to school.

“Madison not only gives you the college-town feeling, but also provided everything I wanted in a soccer program,” said McConnell. “A growing program, produces good players, and year after year competes for a national championship.”

And although Wisconsin is the right fit, it was still a tough decision.

But in the end, the decision was made easier because she was able to compare and contrast many different schools.

“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet coaches, visit many different schools, and learn about many different soccer programs,” she said.

In looking back at the path she's taken, she said she had a lot of support and encouragement along the way.

“My parents have definitely been one of my biggest support systems,” she said. “Day after day they would drive me to and from practice no matter where in Michigan it may be. They also allowed me to choose my path, and supported me with every decision I made.”

And she said her coaches also gave her a great support system.

“Pushing me to many limits mentally and physically. But also helped me become a better person along the way,” she said of her coaches.

In asking her what she would tell that younger person who might hear her story and want to follow in her footsteps, she said, “I would tell others to set achievable goals. That way you can have little victories on the road to your big goal.”

“Also to not be concerned with other people’s development,” McConnell said. “Focus on yourself, because all you can control is how hard you work and your attitude. Lastly, make sure you are doing it for you and not someone else. Have fun.”

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