ROCKINGHAM — A breakout senior season on the soccer field resulted in Jayla McDougald wanting to continue her playing career at the collegiate level.
That dream came true this week for the soon-to-be Richmond Senior High School graduate, who announced her verbal commitment to Shaw University.
In her post on Twitter, McDougald said this “was an opportunity I could not pass” and that she was “100% committed to Shaw University this fall to play the game I love most.”
A varsity striker for the Lady Raiders since the middle of her sophomore season, McDougald became the most recent Richmond student-athlete to weather the storm of the pandemic and get recruited to a college program.
She joins fellow senior teammate Caroline Whitley (Methodist University) as the second Lady Raider soccer player in this year’s graduating class to commit. Prior to committing to Shaw for soccer, McDougald was going to attend North Carolina A&T State University.
“I had a great season this year and I wanted to continue playing soccer,” McDougald said. “I think I made my decision to A&T too early, and I didn’t want to regret not playing if I had the chance.
“I was able to get a full scholarship between academics and athletics and it was something I couldn’t pass up,” she added. “What made me most want to play there was it being an HBCU, which was really important to me.”
McDougald also received interest from Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, The Citadel, Hampton University (Va.) and Jacksonville State University (Fla.). Following her decision to attend N.C. A&T on May 1, McDougald said two people really helped her make the switch to Shaw.
The first was former teammate and current Bears player Jayana Nicholson, who is a 2019 graduate from Richmond. McDougald said aside from Nicholson being “one of my best friends,” she told her a lot about Shaw’s program that made her want to play there.
The other was Shaw’s head soccer coach Randy McClure, who was in contact with McDougald a lot over the past month. McDougald said McClure made her “feel like it was a really good program” and that she “could be a part of the family there.”
In 15 games for Richmond this spring, McDougald led the Lady Raiders with 14 goals and added five assists.
Three different times, McDougald scored two goals in a game. They came in wins against Jack Britt, Hoke County and Purnell Swett high schools, and she found the back of the net at least once in 11 games.
McDougald’s 14 goals were fifth-best in the Sandhills Athletic Conference this year, which helped land her on her first All-Conference team.
During her four years at Richmond, McDougald also played basketball and volleyball, and was named to the All-SAC basketball team as a junior and senior. She said her time as a Lady Raider student-athlete, with the help of several coaches, helped prepare her for the next level.
“I love basketball and volleyball, too, but soccer has been the sport I’ve wanted to play most in college,” McDougald explained. “I’ve been going to camps and playing travel soccer since middle school.
“Coach (Chris) Larsen, Coach (Bennie) Howard and Coach (Michelle) Denson all believed in me enough to move me up to varsity in 10th grade,” she added. “They all taught me a lot of stuff, but Coach Howard really stayed on me to help me realize my full potential. Richmond soccer and my teammates made me a better player all around.”
McDougald will join a Bears team that played a shortened spring season in 2021 after not playing in the fall due to COVID-19. Shaw went 2-4-1 and will return to a full 21-game schedule this fall.
Shaw, a Division II program, competes in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Joerail White, a 2020 graduate from Richmond, also plays football for the Bears.
“I’m excited and ready to train some more and learn how to become a better soccer player,” McDougald said. “I also hope to help put Richmond County on the map.
“Jayana was one of my first friends on varsity and she has experience, which will help guide me through college,” she closed. “It’ll be great to have someone there to help me out.”
McDougald plans to major in mass communications with a focus in broadcasting or public relations.