Beaver Dam senior Afton Bartol has been busy the last couple of months thinking about her next step in life, mulling four colleges.
And after the 6-foot-2 center on Golden Beavers girls basketball team took three official visits in November, it was the last one she took that won her heart.
Bartol made a verbal commitment Friday to play women’s basketball at the University of Mary in Bismark, North Dakota, an NCAA Division II program. She selected the Marauders over fellow Division II schools William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, and Minot (N.D.) State, along with Division III UW-La Crosse.
“I would say it probably took me about a month to make my final decision, but Mary was the last school that I visited and I was hopeful I was going to choose the first DII school (William Jewell) that I visited. But their tuition was super expensive and their coach didn’t have a lot of (scholarship) money left,” Bartol said. “That kind of fell through, which was unfortunate, but I ended up really falling in love with Mary even though I didn’t know what to expect going into it.”
There were a few things that put Mary at the top of Bartol’s list.
Bartol has seen some old game film and got to attend one of the Marauders’ games while on a visit, where she noticed “they push the pace; their offensive pace is just like ours (at Beaver Dam) and their transition offense is super similar as well.
“Then how they pressure the ball at the halfcourt is something I really, really like. Just because I know, and I’ve seen first hand, how many easy buckets come for us from just pressuring at the halfcourt, and playing really, really awesome defense.”
It also helped that on her visit, she got to meet and hang out with current sophomore forward Gabbie Bohl, who was the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Freshman of the Year last season.
“Just seeing how they look in to her and utilize her at the college level was awesome, and just seeing how strong she is because we have pretty similar body types,” Bartol said. “Just seeing her, someone that could mentor me, that was awesome on the basketball aspect, and obviously the academics are really good there.
“It’s a private institution, so that was something that really drew me to it.”
Bartol said she intends to pursue a psychology degree, and doing some research beforehand then meeting with the head of the psychology at Mary enhanced her interest in the school.
“I want to study psychology, so once I get down to my junior and senior year, those really specified major classes, I’m going to be working with 10 other students,” Bartol said, adding that she also liked the fact the student-to-professor ratio at Mary is 13-1. “Just the opportunity to learn at just a hands-on format was super enticing for me. I also got to meet with the head of the psychology department and she was super supportive of — as of right now — what I see myself doing in the future. She was so excited and was like, ‘I really hope to see you next year. I can’t wait to help you and mentor you if you ever need anything.’
“She was definitely a big factor as well because obviously I’m going to be spending a lot of time with the psych professors if that’s what I continue to pursue, which is what I intend.”
Bartol said it was also comforting that the people at Mary reminded her a lot of the people in Beaver Dam.
“The people were super awesome,” she said. “The coaches are so nice and family-oriented, which is something I’m really going to value since I’m going to be 11 hours away from home.”