Center back Chandler Manning the first soccer player in Sterlington High school history to receive a scholarship Wednesday morning.
Chandler Manning is having a wonderful week. On Monday, she helped the Sterlington Lady Panthers win their first playoff game in the five-year history of the program. Two days later, she became the school's first-ever college signee.
With family, friends and teammates looking on, Manning signed a national letter-of-intent to attend Hampton (Virginia) University on Wednesday morning in the SHS activities building.
"It's incredible to have all of this happening, especially my senior year," Manning said. "Just being able to take in the freshmen that just camp up, and have all of us playing together is one of the best feelings ever."
Manning's week has a chance to get even better as the Lady Panthers visit Episcopal of Acadiana for the Division IV quarterfinals Friday at 4 p.m.
"It's kind of been a whirlwind for Chandler lately," Sterlington coach Lori Bruscato said. "I know she's excited to still be playing here, and she's been looking forward to signing day."
Manning was attracted to Hampton after attending soccer camp on the HU campus last year.
"I was looking at a couple of other schools, but Hampton felt like home," Manning said. "When I was there last year, I was able to meet some of the girls who worked the camp. I actually committed last January, but I wanted to see what was going to happen in life."
Upon taking her official visit last month, Manning was convinced that Hampton was the right place for her.
"When I went back for my official visit, I loved it just as much as I did the first time. Ever since, I was gung ho for Hampton," Manning said. "Coach (Frank) Hughes is incredible. I can't wait to play for him."
Manning, who plays center back and midfield for the Lady Panthers was signed as a center back by the Pirates.
Bruscato, a former ULM softball player, is confident the 5-10 Manning will succeed at the college level.
"Chandler definitely makes a big impression on everybody we play," Bruscato said. "They always talk about No. 24 because of her athleticism and the way she plays the game. She's so strong and physical."
Manning's athleticism is an inherited trait. It all started with her grandfather, Billy Manning, who played football and coached with the legendary Eddie Robinson at Grambling State University. Her father, Ché Manning, played basketball at Xavier University of New Orleans. Her brother, Ché Manning II, is an offensive lineman at Grambling and wears his grandfather's former uniform number. An uncle, Reginald Manning, ran track at Southern University.
Chandler Manning says her parents, Ché and Cynthia Manning, never pressured her to play sports.
"My parents have always been supportive of me doing whatever makes me happy as long as I kept my grades up," Chandler Manning said. "It was always up to me whether or not I played. I definitely have the best support system anyone could ask for."
Manning has fulfilled her end of the bargain academically, compiling a 3.35 grade point average while scoring 23 on her ACT.
At Hampton, Manning plans to major in kinesiolgy. Eventually, she plans to attend medical school and become a plastic surgeon.
Early on, it was clear that Manning was a gifted athlete. The only question was which sport was her favorite.
"Since I was 7, I have talked about playing a college sport. I played five sports — soccer, softball, basketball, track and cross country — said Manning, who now focuses exclusively on soccer. "When I got to the seventh or eighth grade, I knew soccer was something I wanted to do for as long as I could. Playing soccer became a dream. I'm just glad the dream came true."