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McDonogh soccer quartet excited to sign with four different ACC schools Wednesday

College soccer in the Carolina states will be getting a whole lot better after Wednesday, thanks to the powerhouse McDonogh boys and girls programs.

On Wednesday, when soccer players can sign their national letters of intent to receive athletic scholarships, four of the top players from the area will be seated at McDonogh to make things official.

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From the boys team, Michael DeShields will sign to play at Wake Forest, while Cale Thorne will be bound for Clemson. Both were All-Metro first-team defenders who led the No. 1 Eagles to a 20-0-1 season and the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crown.

From the girls team, which went 12-0, claimed the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference crown and finished No. 1 in the area and also in a national poll, Bridgette Andrzejewski will seal her dream of playing for North Carolina and Kia Rankin will be playing just east at North Carolina State. The two forwards are arguably the most prolific one-two scoring punch the metro area has ever had.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, which features all four teams, has long been a soccer hotbed and the four McDonogh players will help continue the trend.

"It's pretty cool. I think the best programs in the country are in the ACC and the fact we are all going down there kind of says something about what McDonogh has as far as its soccer programs. It's an honor for all of us to go to those great schools and a great accomplishment," said DeShields, a four-year starter who earned All-American honors this past fall.

Collectively, the four players played 16 seasons of varsity soccer, helped win five league championships (the girls won three IAAM titles with the boys taking two MIAA crowns) and regular mention on the All-Metro teams.

Andrzejewski was a four-time All-Metro first team selection who claimed All-Metro Player of the Year honors as a junior. She left the program with 107 goals and 38 assists in her career.

A U.S. national team pool player throughout her years at McDonogh, she always wanted to play at North Carolina, the country's most storied women's program and a winner of 22 NCAA titles.

"It's a dream I've been working hard for since I was little. I have a photo of me from first grade holding a Mia Hamm book," Andrzejewski said. "It's something I can't wait for. Knowing the success that North Carolina has had and me becoming a player in that program makes me so excited to try to accomplish all my goals for the future."

After earning All-Metro honors as a junior, Rankin had a breakthrough senior year with 21 goals and 19 assists to earn All-Metro Player of the Year honors. At N.C. State, she'll have a chance to make an immediate impact with the rebuilding Wolfpack, who went 4-15 this past season. Impressed with the coaching staff, players, the campus and the city of Raleigh, she quickly knew she found her future home when she first visited the school during the summer before her junior year.

"It was kind of funny because a couple months before that visit, we played a game down there in a tournament and I told my mom I could totally see myself here. And a couple months later I committed," she said.

DeShields and Thorne played together as central defenders with the Eagles posting 13 shutouts this season. And while they will be remembered at McDonogh for their cohesive play in back, each scored memorable goals in the biggest of games. As a sophomore, DeShields headed home the game-winning goal in overtime to beat St. Paul's in the conference title game. This season, the Eagles fell behind Archbishop Curley in the title game with Thorne scoring a tying goal late in the first half to steady the ship for a 2-1 comeback win.

In games and equally spirited practices, the two know how much each made the other better to become such fine players.

"To watch us on the field, I think we know each other better than we know ourselves," Thorne said. "I just loved paying with him and it's been great to come such a long way."

In the coming years, Andrzejewski will be sporting North Carolina blue with Rankin in N.C. State red. DeShields will have Wake Forest's black and old gold, while Thorne will be decked out in Clemson's orange and purple.

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It will be so strangely different for all of them — across the field instead of side by side. The bantering has already begun.

"Whenever it's brought up with Kia, I just joke and tell her how I can't wait for next year to beat her," Andrzejewski said. "It's going to be so great playing against Kia. Just talking about it, our eyes light up and we're just both excited about taking the next step and not being too far away from each other."

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Signing Day

Wednesday, Feb. 3 is the first day high school senior football, soccer and men's water polo players can sign a binding National Letter of Intent to attend and play for an NCAA school. Go to baltimoresun.com on Wednesday for signing day coverage to see where the top players in the metro area are headed.

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