Three Sussex Tech student-athletes moving on to college level

GEORGETOWN – Friday afternoon inside the Sussex Tech High gymnasium, a trio of senior student-athletes made their college decisions official in front of family and friends.

Kira Short will be playing field hockey at Liberty University next fall; Khalil Bolden and Jayla Mullen will both be extending their respective basketball careers next winter at Mid-Atlantic Christian University.

Kira Short

Short, a three-sport star during her Sussex Tech career, ultimately chose to further her field hockey career at the next level.

She had a bit of a late start into the recruitment process, but she is excited to see another four years on the field.

“For me, I was injured my sophomore year so I kind of lost that year of recruiting and then my junior year I was really just getting back,” she said. “So, I really didn’t get my recruiting process even going until almost my senior year. It was a really long process, but I ended up picking Liberty. It just has everything I could have wanted – academically and athletically.”

Kira Short and family (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

When Kira arrives on campus, she’ll be seeing some familiar southern Delaware faces. The head coach, Nikki Parsley, graduated from Milford High in 2010 and one of her fellow incoming freshmen, Darby Brennan, is also from Milford High.

“Initially, it didn’t really factor in,” Short said, when asked if the familiar faces had any impact on her decision. “I was just trying to find a place where I could continue my career and play hockey while also academically being able to study what I wanted to. But, it just turned out that Darby is going there and coach Nikki is from the area. So it just ended up being cool that I knew familiar people from the area.”

As far as her Sussex Tech career, Kira says it will be difficult not being able to come back and take another shot at a state title after coming so close her senior year.

The Lady Ravens went 9-5-1 under first-year head coach Mia Paltrineri in the fall of 2017 and made an impressive playoff run to the DIAA Div. I state championship game. The Ravens fell, 1-0, to Cape Henlopen.

“I’m going to miss a lot of my team, my coach and just the family that I had with Sussex Tech field hockey,” she said. “Of course, being that close to a championship and not being able to come back and win it next year is going to be hard, but I have a lot of faith in our team and the girls who are coming up. I think I’m leaving behind a good program.”

It came down to pursuing soccer and field hockey at the college level for Kira, but the fall 2017 run to the championship game helped her make her decision.

“I didn’t know if I wanted to pursue field hockey or soccer in college, but I wanted to continue being an athlete in school,” she said. “So, field hockey really just fell into place for me and then this past season at Sussex Tech just showed me more of how much I wanted to continue playing.”

Kira plans to study exercise science and would like to get into something sports medicine-related upon her graduation from Liberty.

Jayla Mullen

Mullen is coming off a career season with the Sussex Tech’s girls’ basketball program, a season in which the Lady Ravens captured the first Henlopen Conference championship in program history and made a second-round appearance in the state tournament.

Before being discovered by Mid-Atlantic Christian University at the Blue-Gold All-Star game this year, Mullen wasn’t even planning on playing basketball in college.

Jayla Mullen with coach Troxell and her family (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

“It was a big decision for me because I wasn’t planning on playing basketball, but this is just a really good opportunity,” she said. “I have been playing basketball my whole life, and I just have so much love for it, so I just thought that I had to play in college.”

“Midway through the season she had been having some health problems with her knees and trying to get into game shape for some of those games was tough, having to rest her. At that point, she wasn’t really sure about furthering her career in college,” said Sussex Tech head coach Justin Davis.

“She got back into the groove towards the end of our season and after the Blue-Gold game coach contacted her and she’s loved everything he’s had to offer. She went to visit, and she enjoyed it there, so I’m excited for her.”

Once she went down to the campus in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, both Mullen and head women’s basketball coach Charles Troxell knew it was a great fit.

“She came up for a visit really quickly after we started talking to her and when she came for a visit we sat down and talked,” said coach Troxell. “I knew the kind of player that she was and once we sat down and talked I told our admissions team ‘hey, she is a perfect fit for our school, for our program, we have to get this one.’ Some players, you just click with immediately and you know it’s a great fit. I’ve heard a lot of good things about her from a lot of different sources – even opposing coaches. So, I’ve heard from a lot of different places about what we were getting with her, and I was very pleased.”

While Jayla knows she’ll miss her time with her Lady Raven teammates, she’s also excited for her next chapter with the MACU women’s basketball program.

“It’s been amazing,” she said of her time at Tech. “I’m going to miss my team so much, we’re all so close I’m just really going to miss them but I’m ready for something new.”

Jayla plans on studying business at MACU and would like to become an actuary. Upon graduation from MACU, she plans to study another three years at graduate school, she says.

Khalil Bolden

For Bolden, everything happened pretty quickly.

The recruitment process, he says, started about a month ago and now, he’s officially signed on to extend his basketball career at Mid-Atlantic Christian University.

“I was at a workout and a recruiter who was there saw my game and told me he liked it,” Bolden said. “He gave me a couple of schools to choose from and MACU looked like it was a good fit for me. Then we went on a tour and I just thought it was a great school. I just felt good about everything. I could see myself going there.”

Khalil Bolden and family (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

“There were some things that they liked about him on tape – his leadership, his ability to distribute the ball and his ability to create his own shot has helped him to get an opportunity to play at the next level,” Sussex Tech head boys’ basketball coach Damon Ayers said of Bolden.

As a senior, Bolden helped coach Ayers turn the Sussex Tech basketball program around.

The Ravens went a combined 5-35 during Bolden’s sophomore and junior seasons. During his senior campaign, Tech went 16-4 and made a DIAA state quarterfinals appearance at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

Bolden is excited about the opportunity to attend the same college as Jayla, with both playing for the MACU basketball programs.

“We would always talk about what we’re going to do when we go to college – what if we went to different colleges? It’s going to be hard to see each other,” he said. “And then, somehow, God just put us at the same college. It’s a great thing, because God is a big part of our life and the fact it’s a Christian school is perfect.”

At MACU, Bolden is excited to play alongside a fellow face: Smyrna point guard Greg Bloodsworth.

“The recruiter told me a few other guys who were going there and one of the things that really made me want to go there is the point guard from Smyrna [Bloodsworth] is also going there. So, I thought, ‘okay, we could be a pretty good duo.’”

Bolden plans to study business and sports medicine.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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