For Fairfield Warde senior Hayley Coppola, the road to college soccer has not always been easy.

But, that road now has a destination.

Coppola, a three-year soccer player for the Mustangs has signed a National Letter of Intent to play college soccer at Tiffin University in Ohio.

"It should be a nice new experience," Coppola said. "I'm excited to be a Dragon."

The senior was able to garner a partial scholarship to Tiffin even despite not playing for the Mustangs soccer team her senior year. She also is a three-year competitor for Warde's golf team, and was the captain last season, and will be again in 2011.

Coppola picked Tiffin over High Point University in North Carolina and Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y. She chose the small school 51 miles southeast of Toledo for a litany of reasons, including the school's business, and more specifically sports management, major. She is interested in becoming a sports scouting agent, but also has coaching on her radar as well.

"I'd love to coach," Coppola said. "I see so much and pick up so much by playing goalie."

Along with the academic side of the coin, Coppola also is excited to play for the Dragons' coach Paula Fantini. Tiffin's second-year coach is even setting up a trip for her and her teammates to Sao Paulo, Brazil for the first two weeks of camp as a team building exercise.

"I'm so excited for preseason," she said. "[The trip to Brazil] should be a great team bonding experience."

What also set Tiffin aside for Coppola was its persistence. The school, and especially Fantini, have been keeping in contact with her to check-in and keep up with her progress.

"They've made me feel wanted," she said.

Coppola continues to work hard at her soccer, playing premier for Yankee United and the New England Comets, with hopes of seeing playing time for Tiffin come the fall. Fantini has told her that she will have the opportunity to play for the team even as a freshman.

"If I could see playing time as a freshman, that'd be great," she said.

For Coppola's mother, Jan and father Tony, the feeling of sending their youngest child off to a college almost 600 miles away is bittersweet. They've been shuttling both Hayley, and her older brother, Brian, around the region for soccer practices, games and tournaments for almost 20 years.

"I'm starting to get the empty nest syndrome," Jan said. "But I'm happy for her."

Jan did admit, however, that she and Tony will be trekking to Ohio whenever they can to see Coppola play. The Dragons are in the Great Lakes Interscholastic Athletic Conference, and many of their games are played in either Ohio or Michigan.

"We'll miss her, but we'll go and see her whenever we can," Jan said. "I'm comfortable that my daughter will be taken care of there."

With the knowledge of going to Tiffin and the whole college search process over with for Coppola, she can now set her sights on the Mustangs' golf season. She was second team All-FCIAC a year ago, and is hopeful that she and her golf team can continue their successes again this year.

"I definitely feel more relaxed," Coppola said. "Hopefully we can compete for a state or FCIAC championship this year."

Part of the allure of going to Tiffin for Coppola, as well, is becoming immersed in a new culture. She is not intimidated whatsoever in the concept of starting her adult life in a different state so far away.

However, she will have a Nutmegger on her team. Cromwell-native Nicole Iozzo is a member of Tiffin's soccer team. Even still, there are members of three different countries on the team, which will undoubtedly speed up the cultural curve.

"I'm excited for the new experience," Coppola said. "I'm excited to meet new soccer players from different states and countries."