All hailing from Fayette County, Meosha Hatcher, Taylor Marks, Jessica Sauer, and Paige Betsill were part of the national runner-up soccer squad at Columbus State this season. (Photos Courtesy of Columbus State Athletics)

csuby Russell Cooks

Sports are big time throughout America, and they can seem even more important in a small, close-knit community like Fayette County. Imagine this. You have played soccer against someone since elementary school, and now you are actually teammates. How does the transition go from battling against someone for a number of years to actually working together to accomplish a mission? At Columbus State University, it has gone just fine for four young ladies who grew together on the Fayette County soccer fields who now are teammates and came within one win of a national championship.
Meosha Hatcher, Taylor Marks, Paige Betsill, and Jessica Sauer all grew up in the Fayette County School System and are now teammates at Columbus State. Hatcher and Marks were teammates at Whitewater High School, while Betsill played at Starr’s Mill, and Sauer played at Sandy Creek.
It’s been a life in soccer for the girls. Marks said, “I have played soccer since I was three-years-old and never wanted to try any other sports. I tried basketball for a few years in middle school, but I loved soccer too much to sacrifice time playing it for another sport.”
Hatcher added, “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play soccer. I have tried almost every sport out there, but soccer is the one I fell in love with and I chose to stick with it.”
Betsill replied, “I started when I was eight-years-old and have played ever since.”
They have competed with and against each other for many years. Hatcher said, “Tink (Taylor Marks) and I have been teammates since 2007. Luckily for me, she has never been an enemy. Jessica and I played on the same team for several years. It was not until high school that we had to start playing against one another.”
Betsill replied, “I have known Meosha the longest because we both trained with Glen Fox for goalkeeping. I knew of Taylor and Jess but never personally knew them until I came to Columbus.”
Marks added, “I have known Meosha since around 2007. We went to the same high school, Whitewater. She is one grade ahead of me. We also played on the same club team the last few years of high school. Jessica also played on the same club with us, Concorde Fire South coached by Steve Muccillo. Jessica and I went to different high schools, she to Sandy Creek, so we played against each other for four years. Paige is two years younger than me, so I played against her in high school for two years.”
They’ve had their fair share of memorable moments as competitors.
Betsill said, “I remember Taylor and Meosha beat us during my sophomore year of high school in the final four. That was a really tough loss.”
Marks added, “Playing against Starr’s Mill was always a tough game and very competitive, so I just remember the feeling of getting pumped up for a rival game is my most memorable moment playing against Paige.”
“My most memorable moment is when we went to England and competed overseas. We met a lot of amazing people and explored a lot of amazing places together. I mean who wouldn’t want to go on a trip with their best friends”, added Hatcher.
Columbus State University head coach, Jay Entlich said, “We have been blessed over the past 12 years of recruiting some of the best players in the country that some have come out of the Fayette County area. When I first started at CSU, we recruited several high schoolss very heavily to include Starr’s Mill, McIntosh, and Whitewater and also several clubs who have players from that area like AFC Lightning, Concorde Fire, and Lazers.
Local players have played a big role in the rise of the Cougars.
“This past season was a historic season with Taylor Marks leading the way as a Captain on our National Champion Finalist campaign. Paige Betsill and Meosha Hatcher were also very important factors in our run as both of them got time in goal. Jessica Sauer has been a two-year starter on our back line and helped lead us to an Elite 8 and a top five finish in 2014. Back in the day, we had All Americans and All Region players from Starr’s Mill in Gina Goforth and Kelly Myles.  We also have tabs on several players who currently reside in the area that will be attending CSU in 2016, 2017, and even a 2018 commitment.”
For the girls, battling in college has been even more fun doing it with familiar faces.
“Besides the road to the national championship (game), experiencing Meosha scoring her first college goal was the best memory of her I have,” said Marks. “The whole team was so excited for her! The most memorable moment of Paige is her getting smashed in the face on the first play of her first collegiate soccer game. A memorable moment I have with Jess is when we played in our breast cancer awareness game and we worked together to earn a goal for our team.”
Hatcher added, “The most memorable moment is when Paige got kicked in the face during her very first college game. As soon as we knew she was alright, it became much funnier.”
“This whole season was memorable, but going to the national championship together was the best experience”, added Betsill.
Hatcher said, “I have played on a club team with Tink and Jess throughout high school, so the transition was easy. I am happy that I have gotten to know Paige. It is easy to transition from competitor to teammate when you know that person is on your side giving as much as you are for the team.”
Betsill added, “It changes your perspective of a person. You still compete against each other daily, but it is to make each other better”
“It was pretty cool to be able to continue my relationships with these girls and especially with Paige. Now, I know her as a teammate versus ‘the enemy’,” added Marks.
They had different routes to CSU, but they’re all glad they made it.
Betsill said, “I mainly chose Columbus because it was close to home, in state, and has a great soccer program”
Marks added, “It’s a funny story about my choice to play at Columbus. When Meosha committed a year before me, she said ‘Taylor I can’t wait for you to come play at CSU with me.’ And I thought Meosha I haven’t even looked at that school, much less any school yet. Little did I know a year later I would be signing to play for the Lady Cougars. Since then, Meosha has claimed the title of a fortune teller of my life.”
“It is very weird how we all ended up here. I originally chose Columbus State because it was somewhere that I thought no one else would be. I had a feeling Taylor would join me here, but I never imagined getting to be together with so many of my friends again”, added Hatcher.
This season saw the Cougars piled up a sterling 22-3-1 record ending with a 2-0 loss to Grand Valley in the championship game. It was an experience they won’t forget as they aim for a title next year.
Marks said, “(It was) surreal in that I never imagined going into college that I would have the privilege to be a part of a team to experience so much success. But at the same time, I had so much faith and belief in our team that with everyone’s energy and talent winning games was expected. Losing the championship game is probably the most heartbreaking thing I have ever experienced, and it will forever be my best and worst memory”
Hatcher replied, “It’s exciting and awful. Many good moments and many bad. There is a lot more pressure here. There are also a lot of moments where you’re helping your teammates out while you yourself are struggling. There are also a lot of incredible, unforgettable, fun memories you make on that journey that makes it all worth it. Although, once the journey is over and you’re not on that winning side, it feels like crap.”
Betsill added, “It was a dream come true. I chose Columbus knowing that it would be my best shot at going to a national championship, and experiencing that feeling during my first year of college soccer was amazing.”
The journey for Marks and Hatcher has been much longer than with the other teammates. When asked how it feels to be concluding another chapter of their journey together, Hatcher said, “It is such a blessing to have had Taylor as my teammate for so long. She is one of my best friends, and I love seeing the player and person she has become. It feels like she has been here my whole life, and she is definitely the person that gets me through my ups and downs. It is all because she knows me so well.”
Marks replied, “Meesh is one of my best friends and I’ve loved every bus ride, game, and practice we have shared together over the years. It will definitely be weird without her on the team next year!”
There is still much to accomplish.
Betsill added, “I will continue to train and get in fall season shape. I plan to sharpen my skills and work hard to win a championship.”
“My goals for this summer is to stay in shape and continue getting touches on the ball so we will be sharp when we come back as a team for preseason. Our coaches did a great job of keeping us fit during our offseason, and I think it is important to maintain that high level,” added Marks.
They have big goals for next season.
“I want to be able to help the team continue to grow and potentially play more this next season. I will compete every day and hopefully become a better player with each practice and game,” said Betsill.
Hatcher said, “My goal for next season is to watch Taylor not only lead the team to a national champion, but to also see her score the winning goal. I can see Taylor’s future so I pretty positive that I will get to achieve this goal.”
Marks said, “In my mind, the end goal always has been and always will be to win a national championship. Anything less will be disappointing.”