Brennan, Short joining forces with familiar face at Liberty University

MILFORD – A pair of southern Delaware All-State field hockey players – Darby Brennan (Milford High class of 2018) and Kira Short (Sussex Tech High class of 2018) – will both be heading down to Liberty University this fall, joining LU’s Division I field hockey program.

At LU, they’ll be joining forces and playing Lady Flames field hockey for a familiar face: 2010 Milford High graduate Nikki Parsley.

Parsley, an All-State field hockey player during her time at Milford, is entering her second season as head coach of the Lady Flames field hockey program.

Coach Parsley will begin her second season at the helm with a pair of southern Delaware-area All-State players at her disposal.

Both Darby and Kira were multi-sport stars during their respective high school careers, with Brennan winning a state title in softball and spending a season on the Milford swim team. Kira was also a member of the soccer and swim teams at Tech.

Brennan and Short

Darby and Kira first met through the Oranje Field Hockey Club when they were in seventh grade and have played both with each other (club) and against each other (high school) ever since.

Darby in action for the Lady Bucs last fall (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

“I joined Oranje in I think elementary school, just picking up tournaments and also playing some indoor and then Darby ended up joining a little bit later,” Short said. “We just got to know each other through that and it was just a lot of fun being able to play with her on a club team, grow up with her and then turn around and end up going to college together.”

“When I first went to Oranje, back when I was about seventh grade, she was there as well so we did outdoor tournaments together,” Brennan said. “So, we were already friends and played against each other in high school.

“I obviously already know she’s a great player, so the fact that someone from Delaware – who is basically from the same hometown – is getting to experience the same stuff as I am at LU is just so exciting. It’s just made our relationship even stronger.”

Recruitment process

While it may seem as though attending LU together was planned from the start, it wasn’t at all. It just kind of worked out that way in the end.

“It wasn’t planned at all, it really did just happen. I committed (to LU) and I thought that was final, but then coach Nikki wanted to bring in some new girls, so we had some international players added, then Kira was added too. It was just so crazy, I thought ‘wow, this girl’s from Delaware, we’ve already played together.’ It was so great.”

“It was awesome, you go to these bigger schools and you almost don’t even expect to see anyone from Delaware because it’s such a small state, so knowing Darby going in was just amazing,” added Short. “Then realizing coach Nikki is from Milford as well, it’s just so cool having so many – or at least two other people – around me going in from the same state.”

Darby officially signed her papers during a signing ceremony at Milford High in December of 2017 and Kira officially signed hers during a ceremony at Sussex Tech High in early May.

“I reached out to them about a clinic they were having, saying that I knew coming in I’d be a very late recruit, but I was still interested in the school – so I kind of reached out in that way. Then I went to the clinic and my offer to play developed out of that,” Short said of the recruitment process.

Summer Bridge 2018

Brennan and Short just spent a few weeks at LU, taking part in the school’s Summer Bridge program.

Kira in action for the Lady Ravens last fall (The Chronicle/Ben Heck).

The girls had the opportunity to meet the rest of the incoming freshmen and mingle with fellow student-athletes.

“I was down there for about three weeks,” Brennan said. “The first three days I was down there for field hockey summer camp, and then I stayed and did classes, training and just got to know the campus.”

“We just went down there and were able to train with our strength and conditioning coach, take a class and stay on campus for that time,” Short added. “The campus is amazing, it’s just beautiful there and I really enjoyed being able to get there before everyone else and get used to it and getting a feel for the environment.

“We met the incoming freshmen both on our team and also the incoming players for almost every other sport that’s going to be at Liberty and that was also just an amazing experience,” Short continued. “We’re all in the same boat, coming in together and learning how to balance both school and sports. It was cool talking and hanging out with them over that three-week period.”

“I honestly loved Summer Bridge,” Brennan continued. “The athletic and academic people worked so great with us. Going there this summer, it showed how privileged and lucky I’m going to be – I already am. It was great, I was able to bond with other teams and just meet so many new people and create long-lasting relationships in a matter of three weeks. It showed me that we have a supporting Flames family. It’s great going in to an environment where everyone’s open and everyone’s accepting.”

The girls have just a few days of summer left before heading back down to LU Tuesday, Aug. 7 and officially beginning fall practices the following day, Aug. 8.

Goals for freshman season

For Brennan, one of her big goals for her freshman season is to simply figure out her role on the team.

“My goal this year is to find my position on the team and if I do get playing time, to become a game changer,” she said. “My focus right now is to find my role, learn and build off the team. I want to watch the leaders and learn from them, because coming from Milford I was able to be a leader and now I want to transition that into Liberty and build off these leaders, so I can become just as great and just as impacting on the team.”

“As a team, we want to beat UConn,” said Short. “I know that going in and I kind of have that mindset as well – we want to come out on top of our conference. For me personally, I just want to come in and find a way to fit in with this team and just help us succeed overall.”

“Coming in as a freshman, I want to be in my best shape and I really want to push myself to where I can reach my potential and beyond,” Brennan said. “Coach Fleming definitely instilled a really hard-working mindset in me and taught me to never let someone out-work me. Carrying that into Liberty, I think it will benefit not only myself but the team too.”

Darby will be studying communications at Liberty and would like to break into the sports broadcasting world. She also hopes to receive a higher education upon completion of her bachelor’s degree.

Kira will be studying exercise science at Liberty and would also like to continue her education once she’s finished her undergraduate.

“I’m not really sure exactly where I want to end up, but I know that I kind of want to stay in the field of sports medicine and maybe continue my education in graduate school and see where that goes,” she said.

Liberty University opens the 2018 season with a pair of exhibition games against Wake Forest University (Thursday, Aug. 16 at 2 p.m.) and University of North Carolina (Saturday, Aug. 18 at 1 p.m.) before opening the regular season schedule at James Madison University Friday, Aug. 24.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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