Park Hill's Winebrenner commits to Notre Dame for soccer

Jenna Winebrenner can now rest easy after making a commitment to the University of Notre Dame late last month. BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Park Hill defender Jenna Winebrenner eyes a pass in a game against Lee’s Summit North on Monday, April 27 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex in Riverside, Mo.

Already a two-time Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association all-state selection, Park Hill’s junior defender received offers from colleges across the midwest before setting her sights on playing Atlantic Coast Conference soccer. Winebrenner’s parents told her she could attend three camps this summer to help her decide on a school — each of her destinations were in the ACC.

Notre Dame won out on the versatile star’s services. The Fighting Irish are currently 6-0 this season after going 14-6-2 in 2014 with a loss in the third round of the NCAA Championships.

“It felt great when I made the decision,” Winebrenner said. “I had a smile from ear to ear when I made the decision and made the call. It was all so stressful between school and club soccer and once you start getting deadlines (from coaches who want a decision on commitment). You are waiting for other schools to offer. Emotional, it was just stressful. I’ve never been happier going to practice without thinking about it.”

Winebrenner said her performance at the camps was important because a lot of the big schools do all of their recruiting there. She went to South Bend Ind. in late June before trips to Tallahassee, Fla. (Florida State) and Richmond, Va. (Virginia) in July while also preparing for the state, regional and national soccer tournaments with her club team — Futura Academy Forte Elite.

The camps featured day-long sessions of tactical training, which allowed coaches to assess, passing, dribbling, tackling and first touch abilities, along with film study and lectures before evening games.

When her club team qualified for nationals without giving up a goal, Winebrenner was eager to see if Notre Dame women’s soccer coach Theresa Romagnolo kept her promise to watch her play in Tulsa, Okla. Ultimately, Winebrenner’s team finished third with Romagnolo in attendance.

That cemented Winebrenner’s decision, which came down to her interactions with the Irish assistants during the camp and her parents’ eight-hour rule.

“They gave me the rule,” Winebrenner said. “Anything within eight hours they would drive and see me play. Anything less than eight hours away, they could drive to and make a weekend trip out of it. South Bend is exactly eight hours away so it’s a bonus for them to be able to come and see me play.”

The Winebrenners are no stranger to athletic success. Jenna’s older brother Cain Winebrenner runs track and cross country at the University of Missouri.