Friday, July 16, 2004

Hemming ready to go

The talented Londoner hopes to have his college soccer career back on track after he was forced to sit out the final 10 games last season because he had played in the CPSL
RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

London soccer star Tyler Hemming isn't sure what kind of degree he'll end up with when he finishes his four years at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y.
If his first NCAA season is any indication, he'll be well-versed to major in drama.
Last fall, the talented centre-back started his U.S. college career in fine fashion, helping lead the surprising Hawks to as high as a No. 9 ranking in an NCAA Division I national men's soccer poll.
But Hemming's season was quickly slide-tackled when he was forced to sit out while his school investigated his eligibility after learning he had previously played with London City of the Canadian Professional Soccer League.
Though Hemming never got paid in the CPSL and City remains an all-amateur team, he ended up missing the final 10 games of his freshman season and he's still not sure how far his suspension will carry in his sophomore year.
"In the best-case scenario, I go back next month and am allowed to play right away," the 19-year-old Saunders grad said. "There's still a chance I'll have to sit out another 10 games."
One source close to the situation said Hemming, at worst, will grab pine time for an additional six games and then be home-free the rest of the year and his NCAA career.
It wasn't the only thing on his mind this summer. Hemming still had to worry about what kind of soccer program Hartwick would support when he returned.
During the offseason, the college's men's soccer team and women's water polo squad were ticketed to drop to NCAA Division III status. But an alumni fundraising blitz saved the day in late May.
"It was unbelievable, the target was $3 million and they raised $2 million in under three months to keep us in Division I," Hemming said. "It'd be a great story, after all that's happened, if we could go on and win a national championship."
First, Hartwick has to qualify for the NCAA's 48-team national championship tournament. Incredibly, it didn't happen last year.
"We all felt pretty bad about that," Hemming said. "We finished 15-2-2 in our league, the school's best finish since 1994, we were ranked ninth for a while and still didn't get in.
"Our coach (Ian McIntyre) said it had nothing to do with me, that it was the quality of our schedule that hurt us. I don't know why -- I thought we played a lot of the good teams. But we're making sure this year that a lot of our non-conference games are against some of the best teams in the country."
Even with his feet finally planted in the college game, Hemming continues to keep an eye on pro opportunities here and abroad.
"I want to be at the point where I can play soccer to earn a living," he said. "I'd love to go to Europe, that's the dream, but at one point you have to decide whether it's better to try to go there or try for Major League Soccer and the A-League."
This summer, he's playing with London Hungarians of the Western Ontario Soccer League's premier division.
There's a chance Hartwick will come to London for an exhibition game against a local side, possibly Hemming's old London City mates.
That, of course, will have to be cleared with the NCAA. Tyler Hemming has had enough drama for one year.


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