It took only two years for the Brownwood Lady Lions and Howard Payne Lady Jackets soccer programs to cross paths.

Brownwood senior Ta’Kenda Cotton recently signed a national letter of intent to join the Lady Jackets soccer team for the fall season. Both the Lady Lions and Lady Jackets have played two full seasons.

In her junior year, Cotton led Brownwood in scoring with over 30 goals en route to earning first-team all-district honors. The Lady Lions finished with a 9-10-1 overall record in their first year, but Cotton opted to sit out her senior season.

The layoff did not deter HPU head coach Sam McCutchen, who raved about Cotton’s potential as a Lady Jacket.

“She’s an incredible player and a tremendous athlete,” said McCutchen. “The three greatest attributes any athlete can have are speed, speed and more speed. I’ve never seen a kid so fast in my life on a soccer field and I’ve had some great ones, two or three all-state MVPs. She has that, and she knows how to finish, which is another great talent to have. With the right supporting cast, she could really be a plus.”

Cotton chose to stay home and play at Howard Payne, despite receiving interest from two-year program Hill College.

“Hill College was looking at me, but my dad (Alton Cotton) is really good friends with the HPU soccer coach, so we decided to go there,” Cotton said. “They have a good soccer program.” A high school standout in volleyball and track as well, Cotton believes her speed will help instantly at the collegiate level.

“I bring a lot of speed to the program and I can help by using my ability to score some goals,” Cotton said. “I want to play my best and see if I can play against older girls at a new level. I just want to do a good job.”

Cotton is one of 16 recruits headed to Howard Payne this season, which is easily the largest class of recruits the Lady Jackets have welcomed. McCutchen mentioned the scoring potential Cotton and other incoming freshmen possess could result in the Lady Jackets becoming the most dangerous offensive unit in the American Southwest Conference in the future.

“The first year we had six recruits, last year we could have up to eight and this year we’ll bring in an additional 16 players after losing three to graduation,” McCutchen said. “Ta’Kenda’s one of the top prospects brought in a from a host of quality prospects from places like the Metroplex, Houston and the Austin-San Antonio corridor.

“It’s easy to see the difference a couple of recruits can make, just look at the women’s basketball program. Getting two or three in a year can really have a positive impact for the next three to four years of a program.”

As for Cotton’s immediate impact in college, grades are most important for the expected kineisology major. Then, Cotton would like to help HPU earn its first conference title.

“I want to get good grades first, then I’d like to win a championship,” Cotton said.

McCutchen pointed to that statement as an example of Cotton’s character.

“She has a wonderful heart, she’s a great competitor and a good person, which is what we like about her,” McCutchen said. “We think she’ll be a very good fit here at Howard Payne.”

McCutchen also is looking forward to welcoming more Lady Lions into the Lady Jacket family in the future.

“Howard Payne has a great relationship with Brownwood and this will make it even better, having a hometown girl who’s so talented coming here to play soccer,” McCutchen said.