Kaiti Mathey initially attended the University of Iowa, but it wasn't for her.
A few weeks later, she was enrolled at Sauk Valley Community College and a walk-on member of the Skyhawks softball team.
That was last school year. This year, the West Carroll High School graduate from Thomson is a captain for the national tournament-bound Skyhawks.
No. 10 seed Sauk Valley (34-13) opens the double-elimination Division II junior college national tournament in Clinton, Miss., with a 3:30 p.m. first-round matchup with No. 7 seed Highland, Kan., (37-8).
"I came in the very last day of registration," Mathey, a sophomore second baseman, recalled of her sudden switch to Sauk. "The softball team had been practicing for a week. I asked coach if I could walk on to the team. I'm glad he said I could."
The Skyhawks' other captain is Cali Bartholomew, a hearing-impaired sophomore outfielder/pitcher out of Harlem High School.
Bartholomew thinks her team is a bit of an underdog entering nationals.
"If you look at wins and losses, we have one of the higher losses," Bartholmew said in a phone interview with the help of teammate Therese Jender. "And, if you look at home runs, we have nine. Some teams there have 60 to 100. But, we know smart ball. We'll show them who we really are. Right now, we're peaking."
In his third season guiding the Skyhawks, coach Bob Lowe is taking them to a second national tournament. Partly due to weather, it took some time for this year's team to come together.
"Not being able to practice outside, it took us a while to find our identity and get going," Lowe said. "The second half of the season, we started to get it. I too had a better feel for my own team."
"At the beginning of the season, it looked promising," Mathey said. "In the middle of the season I got worried. We weren't beating teams I knew we could beat. We weren't playing to our potential."
That changed in the Skyhawks' last Arrowhead Conference game, a comeback win over Carl Sandburg.
"Since then, we've changed," Mathey said. "We like to do things the hard way. But, it's all been worth it."
(Skyhawks' national tournament opener)
Who: No. 10 seed Sauk Valley (34-13) vs. No. 7 Highland, Kan., (37-8)
What: National Junior College Athletic Association Division II national tournament
When: 3:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Traceway Park, Clinton, Miss.