Photo: Craig Cappy North Gwinnett's Caroline Gualdoni (2) is defended by Grayson's Jessica Allen during a game last season.
When she began looking at college soccer programs as a North Gwinnett freshman, Caroline Gualdoni had a clear idea of her future.
"My first visit was to Georgia and it felt at home, like this is the place for me," the Bulldogs' central midfielder said. "Then I took a step back and visited a few other places, Auburn, UNC-Wilmington, Charleston, a bunch of places. ... I wanted to be in the Southeast, close to home, and I wanted to go in and build a program rather than sit and watch a program be built.
"The (Charleston) coach told me I'd be fighting for playing time my freshman year, where as at Georgia I may not be playing a lot until my sophomore or junior year. That practicing every day without seeing a game would be hard."
With that in mind, Gualdoni recently made her final decision. She committed to the College of Charleston.
The junior considered UNC-Wilmington and Auburn, but eventually narrowed it down to her two favorites, Charleston and Georgia. After months of pondering, she knew what was right.
"I just fell in love with the coaches, the school, it's by the beach, Charleston's beautiful," Gualdoni said. "I just loved everything about it."
The commitment also relieved a bit of pressure.
With a goal of playing college soccer, players always perform with the intent of impressing the recruiters. They wonder which schools will offer, where they should go. Those are over for Gualdoni, who has played club soccer with Atlanta Fire United since she began the sport.
"This past weekend, I was able to just play (soccer)," Gualdoni said. "It was like when I was little, just going out and playing. It almost made me love the game even more."
On the soccer field, Gualdoni is a force.
She played striker for years until her Olympic Development Program coach suggested a switch to the central midfield. From that point, she never left the position.
Her playmaking abilities have sparked North's attack the past two seasons, when she had 29 goals and 24 assists. She helped the Bulldogs to a state runner-up finish as a freshman starter, then to the state playoffs again last season. Along with forward Taylor Burns, a Southern Miss commitment, Gualdoni is expected to be a key leader again this season.