Vicenza high school senior ready for collegiate soccer
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – VICENZA, Italy - Cougars Girls’ soccer team players celebrate their goal by surrounding their captain Riley West during a home game against the Aviano Saints April 8, 22.

West and her team played again against Aviano during the final game of the Department of Defense Education Activity Europe Schools soccer championships in Kaiserslautern, Germany, May 19.

Vicenza defeated Aviano 2-0 to take the Division II title. (Photo Credit: Laura Kreider)
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Vicenza high school senior ready for collegiate soccer
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – VICENZA, Italy - Vicenza High School Senior Riley West poses for a picture after the college signing ceremony held at the Vicenza High School April 6, 2022. This fall, West will play in her home state of Georgia at Emmanuel College. (Photo Credit: Laura Kreider) VIEW ORIGINAL

VICENZA, Italy – When Riley West and her family moved to Vicenza at the start of the second semester of her senior year, she joined Vicenza High School’s soccer team.

Coach Adam Ridgley and her fellow players quickly became a second family to her.

“During the short time I have worked with her, I have come to appreciate the effort and positive attitude she brings to life,” said Ridgley.

On May 19, the Vicenza Cougars Girls' soccer team won the 2022 Department of Defense Education Activity Europe Schools soccer championships in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Vicenza defeated Aviano 2-0 to take the Division II title.

“This is my first season with the Cougars. It is hands down my favorite high school season ever,” she said. “I am beyond grateful the girls have trusted me to be a leader and spokesperson for them.”

Vicenza high school senior ready for collegiate soccer
VICENZA, Italy - Vicenza High School Senior Riley West makes a pass in midfield during a home game against the Aviano Saints April 8, 22. West and her team played again against Aviano during the final game of the Department of Defense Education Activity Europe Schools soccer championships in Kaiserslautern, Germany, May 19. Vicenza defeated Aviano 2-0 to take the Division II title. (Photo Credit: Laura Kreider) VIEW ORIGINAL

A captain, West enjoyed helping lead teammates in games, practices and events. Now, with the school year nearly at its end, West signed on to play next year at Emmanuel College.

Vicenza high school senior ready for collegiate soccer
VICENZA, Italy - Vicenza High School Senior Riley West poses for a picture after the college signing ceremony held at the Vicenza High School April 6, 2022. This fall, West will play in her home state of Georgia at Emmanuel College. (Photo Credit: Laura Kreider) VIEW ORIGINAL

West started playing soccer when she was 10, after watching her younger brother, Owen, play since he was three. Soccer looked like fun and she decided to be on a team with others. In her sophomore year, COVID-19 struck, while she was living in Georgia.

“I was devastated because my former high school team was heading towards playoffs with an undefeated season and ranked #5 in the nation,” West said.

Undeterred, West played daily on two nearby soccer fields, focusing on fitness and ball work. She sometimes thought COVID-19 restrictions would never be lifted. She thought she might never play soccer again. Eventually, her individual training helped her out. Games started rolling back around. In July 2021, Emmanuel’s coach watched her play with her club team Atlanta Fire United, and later asked her to visit the campus.

The women’s soccer team at Emmanuel plays in the NCAA Division II in Conference Carolinas. She was impressed with the college team’s friendliness and hospitality.

“It felt like a family there,” said West, who plans to major in biology. “The community is very close and it was very easy to see that.”

Vicenza high school senior ready for collegiate soccer
VICENZA, Italy - Vicenza High School Senior Riley West (center), her parents Josh and Sarah and her brother Owen, 15, pose for a picture after the college signing ceremony held at the Vicenza High School April 6, 2022. This fall, West will play in her home state of Georgia at Emmanuel College.

After West and her family moved to Vicenza at the start of the second semester of her senior year, she joined Vicenza High School’s soccer team. West and the Cougars Girls' soccer team won the 2022 Department of Defense Education Activity Europe Schools soccer championships, Division II title, in Kaiserslautern, Germany, May 19. (Photo Credit: Laura Kreider)
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One of the VHS educators, Desiree Thomas, Business and Computer Science, thinks that DoDEA schools allow military-connected students like West to transfer schools and hit the ground running more seamlessly.

“At schools like Vicenza, educators and peers know and understand what it is like to be uprooted and relocated, and the resilience and determination required to stay on track to meet graduation requirements and to achieve personal goals,” Thomas said.