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Signing day: Stice signs with soon-to-be D-I North Alabama; five DeKalb athletes commit

Emma Stice signed a National Letter of Intent to play for an NCAA Division II school. By her sophomore year, she’ll be a D-I player without having to transfer.

The Sycamore senior signed with North Alabama on Wednesday, one of six local players honored with a ceremony at their school on National Signing Day – including four football players and a soccer player from DeKalb.

For the Barbs, Hanna Hickey signed with Truman State, while Jake Neidel made formal his commitment to Loras College, as did Eric Letterer with North Central. Cole Tucker signed with Northern Illinois, and Derek Kyler signed to play at Dartmouth.

Stice signed with the Lions, who will begin play at the D-I level in 2018.

“I knew it was an option; I knew they were trying to,” Stice said. “It didn’t really matter to me, but it was a bonus for sure.”

Stice is the second area player signed by North Alabama coach Chris Walker in as many years. Last year, Kayla Baum from DeKalb signed with the Lions and played four games for them this past season, but Walker said she transferred to be closer to home, leaving on good terms.

“It wasn’t like that influenced my decision (knowing Baum), but it kind of helped to know someone,” Stice said. “I kind of knew she was there, but I was interested in going in there anyway.”

Walker said he expects Stice to have an immediate impact.

“We see Emma playing virtually straight away,” Walker said. “She’s been to a couple of our camps and knows our returning players.”

Hickey also signed with a D-II soccer program in Truman State. She said she liked the academics at the Kirksville, Missouri, school.

“They have a really strong accounting program, and that’s what I really want to do,” Hickey said. “Plus, their team has won conference the past few years, so I felt it was a good fit academically and athletically.”

Hickey was one of five Barbs at a signing ceremony in the cafeteria at the school, attended by more than 200 people. The signings included a pair of D-I athletes in Tucker and Kyler. While Tucker will be playing close to home, his high school quarterback Kyler is heading to Dartmouth and the Ivy league.

Kyler said he was leaning toward Air Force, but once he visited Dartmouth, he was sold.

“Once I got there and I just realized what it was all about and what I was getting into, I thought it was the perfect fit for me,” Kyler said. “It was too much to pass up. Once I got there I felt like I fit in with the team and everyone treats you like family. It’s a small town, so it’s like the town is the whole campus. It’s nice the way the town revolves around the college and the college revolves around the town.”

DeKalb football also had a pair of players sign with D-III schools, including Letterer, a linebacker, signing with North Central in Naperville.

“It came down to the coaching staff and the players. They were great guys and made me feel at home,” Letterer said. “Plus with it being in Naperville, you can’t really beat that.”

Neidel said he was excited that he’d get a chance to start at cornerback as a freshman at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.

“I have a good chance to get playing time as a freshman, and that was intriguing to me, not have to sit that first year,” Neidel said.

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