In summer 2020, as recent W.F. West grad Cassy Schilter was heading into her senior year, she had already racked up plenty of community-college offers to play soccer at the next level.
It was nice having a variety of choices, but Schilter, a four-year starter for the Bearcats, was looking to continue her athletic and academic career at a university.
“One of my biggest goals was I wanted to push myself to try and get to a four-year,” Schilter said. “Part of that was I had to work hard to reach out to colleges and find ones that fit what I wanted in regards to size and the level of play.”
One night, while her mother, Michelle Schilter, was watching TV, KIRO 7 aired a segment recognizing Washington athletes who had signed with colleges. One girl from Woodland was heading to Rocky Mountain College. Michelle asked Cassy if she had ever heard of that university and she said she hadn’t.
So Cassy began researching the college in Billings, Montana. She soon found out it was everything she was looking for: size —not too big, not too small — location and level of play. The Battlin’ Bears compete in the Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC), affiliated with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
As fate would have it, the Battlin’ Bears were having an Identification (ID) camp at the end of the month, where the coaching staff invites high school players to assess their level of play and decide if they want to recruit any of them.
At the time, all of Schilter’s summer tournaments had been canceled due to the pandemic and she was getting limited training with her club team. It just made sense to go to Montana and check it out.
Schilter impressed the coaches at the weeklong camp, who told her they were interested but they wanted her to visit some other schools before she made her decision to commit. They wanted someone who was certain they wanted to be a Battlin’ Bear.
She called Rocky Mountain’s coaches back in November after she had visited a few other colleges, saying she still wanted to join the team. The Battlin’ Bears offered her a scholarship and she accepted.
Schilter began her soccer career at just 6 or 7 years old when her parents brought her to a youth recreation league in Chehalis.
“It was just something to keep me active. I liked being around my friends,” Schilter said. “It was just something like, ‘Oh, I play soccer after school.’”
She started playing club soccer at 10 or 11 years old, beginning with the local Volcano Select Soccer Club before switching to Blackhills FC. By the time she was 14, she was taking it seriously and began looking toward the future.
She went to her first ID camp her freshman year, which was her first exposure to the college recruiting process. By sophomore year, when she began looking at attending more ID camps, she realized she wanted to play college soccer and began working toward that goal.
College coaches are not allowed to formally contact high school recruits until the beginning of their junior year. For Schilter, it began with community colleges reaching out to her. One of the first was Portland Community College in Oregon.
But following an impressive junior season, she nabbed even more interest by earning first-team, all-2A Evergreen Conference honors at defender. After her senior year, she had tallied another all-league selection and was one of 14 players selected to The Chronicle’s 2021 All-Area Girls Soccer Team.
Now she’ll be taking her defensive skills to a Battlin’ Bears team that finished middle-of-the-pack in the CCC’s East Division during the 2020-21 season, going 4-4 overall and in conference.
“I’m most looking forward to experiencing a new level of play,” Schilter said. “And also, I’ll get to play a lot of people I know from other colleges. My parents will be able to come watch me. And also being around a new group of people. There’s a lot of players on the team coming from Europe and other states. I’ll get to meet a lot of new people. I’m excited to be in a new area and see what it’s like.”
As Schilter prepares to leave for Billings, Montana, on Saturday, she never planned on continuing her academic and athletic career in Big Sky Country, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Where would I have been if my mom wasn’t watching KIRO 7 news that night?” Schilter said.