A season-ending knee injury during her senior season cost Jona Charles a leg up in recruiting, but she’s still going to get paid to get her kicks.
Charles and Science Hill teammate Timbra DeLaney each recently signed to play soccer in college. DeLaney, a striker, will play for Virginia Intermont. Charles is headed to Truett-McConnell in Cleveland, Ga.
Charles was a four-year starter at Science Hill. She was the district goalkeeper of the year in 2011 and ’12, but felt she needed to save her stock following a meniscus injury against CAK on Sept. 22.
So she rehabbed hard from surgery and was able to compete with her Knoxville club team, FC Alliance, in Georgia the first weekend in December. The trip took her near Cleveland, and Charles parlayed it into a visit to coach David McDowell’s program at Truett-McConnell. McDowell had initially contacted Charles around the time she was injured, and maintained contact thereafter.
“I was released from doctors to play that week,” Charles said. “So Coach Mac scheduled an official visit with me, and after doing an overnight with the team, going to some classes and practicing with the Truett soccer team, I knew this was where God wanted me to be. I love that it is a Christian school and that I can stay spiritually grounded while balancing my academics and athletics.”
McDowell likes her well-roundedness on and off the field.
“Jona has a lot of drive and commitment and will positively impact our program with her will to win and passion for the game,” McDowell said. “Her versatility of being able to play in goal and the field will give us a few options, although I will want to solidify which position this is early in her college career. Her Christian character will be important for our program too, and I believe we are getting an important student-athlete that will help build on a strong foundation we already have.”
Charles will always feel like part of the Hilltopper family. Her mother Kym might be spotted taking up tickets at a basketball game. Jona’s brother Noah is a freshman on the basketball team and her father Gilbert played on Science Hill’s state championship team in 1990.
“The fun that we had winning the state … was some of the best times of our lives,” Gilbert said. “But seeing your daughter be able to further her career doing what she loves and paying for her education, there’s no comparison to that.”
Jona’s favorite memories at Science Hill include road trips, breaking in freshmen each year with long, hot two-a-days and, of course, beating Dobyns-Bennett.
“There is no better feeling to a highly competitive player than beating your rival,” she said. “DB always brings it, and we have answered them with wins in my four years. I will never forget those matches.”
DeLaney delivered the go-ahead goal in Science Hill’s district-championship victory against D-B her junior season, and describes defeating the Lady Indians as “the best feeling ever.”
She scored 14 goals as a senior, including the match-winner in a 1-0 regional victory against Sevier County. DeLaney also assisted 12 goals last season.
She was a four-year starter and a 2011 all-state player.
“Not only will she make an immediate offensive impact on our conference, Timbra is a tremendous person and will bring a lot of positive energy to our campus community,” Virginia Intermont coach Katy Stigers said. “I am really looking forward to what she does during her career here. … Any time you can bring a player who has 40 points in 22 games, that’s a step forward. Timbra has been successful at a very competitive club level with FC Alliance in Knoxville in addition to her high school play. She’s ready to contribute at the college level.”
DeLaney’s parents are Tasha and Tim, who played football and wrestled at Science Hill. Her brother T.J. is a Hilltoppers running back.
“The reason why I chose VI is because it’s close to home and family, and it’s a good school,” DeLaney said. “The coach really seemed to care about growing her program there at VI and she made me want to be a part of that.”