WILSON — One specific Lakewomen has a new voyage ahead.
Two weeks ago, the University at Buffalo's women's soccer program announced Wilson High School senior Skylar Munnikhuysen as part of its incoming class for the 2020 season. A three-sport standout for the Lakewomen, Munnikhuysen has blazed a trail throughout her entire athletics career.
"I think it's a really great opportunity for me because ever since I was younger I've dreamed about it," Munnikhuysen said of joining the Bulls' roster. "And it took a lot of hard work and dedication and sacrifice in other areas of my life to get where I want to be. I think it's gonna be really fruitful, it's gonna pay off, and it's gonna be a good experience."
Munnikhuysen might be a future Division I soccer player, but her success in other sports is notable. She is a two-time first team All-Niagara Orleans League selection in soccer, the reigning N-O player of the year in girls basketball and a six-time all-league honoree in track and field, including four first-team selections.
Wilson girls soccer coach Tom Baia has worked with Munnikhuysen since she was 4-year-old player, and he saw how seriously she began to take the game as high school neared. With the type of training she did outside of the lines, Baia was aware of how special an athlete he had coming through the pipeline.
"By the time she was in 11th grade, I always used to tell Skylar ... every time she would go out on the field, she was the best athlete on the field," Baia said. "And she's excelled at the high school level and now she's ready to challenge herself on the college level and I'm sure she's gonna be very successful. ... She was just bigger, stronger, faster than everybody. She was physical and she has, over the last few years, developed an incredible shot. She's evolved into a very good finisher and she checks a lot of the boxes of when it comes to getting to the next level.
" ... It's a great story about a kid who started playing soccer at a very young age and found that she liked it and worked hard at it and has found some great success. So obviously all of her coaches wish her well in the future and we'll keep our eyes on her."
Track and field is actually Munnikhuysen's most-decorated sport. She placed in sectionals as early as eighth grade. The senior was a long and triple jump league champion in 2018 and even set the program record with a 5-foot, 3-inch high jump that same year.
Girls T&F coach Jaime Lepsch is excited to work with Munnikhuysen one last season, as they try to get the UB commit to top the school's long jump record. Lepsch describes Munnikhuysen as a raw talent who has tons of grit, but the coach also said she's just a fun kid to be around, even as a student in class.
Lepsch has enjoyed seeing how dominant an athlete Munnikhuysen has been, even back in her youth sports days.
"When you fine tune all of those qualities that you can't teach kids, that's really how she kind of makes herself this amazing athlete," Lepsch said of her two-time team field events MVP. "... But she definitely loves the challenge. Tt was a unique experience coaching her and her sister (Shea) at the same time, watching that dynamic go back and forth of trying to (take) each other out, because they both jumped."
No matter what the task was, big or small, Lepsch said that Munnikhuysen would always give her all and never settled for anything less than her best. Lepsch even considered making Munnikhuysen a pentathlete at one point, not only because of her physical attributes, but for her mental makeup as well.
"Sometimes it's hard to find kids who have that drive, that grit, because you can't teach grit," Lepsch said. "And I definitely think it's harder to come across in female athletes."
Wilson girls basketball coach Brian Baker has seen his point guard grow from an elementary schooler at camps and an eighth grader who was moved up for sectionals to a three-time N-O League champion, a 2019 All-Western New York honorable mention and one of the key components to a sectional title team back in 2016-17. Baker is a huge fan of Munnikhuysen the young woman too, saying she's a "super" person to be around and that she "lights up a room."
Although he's disappointed he won't be seeing her play basketball at the next level, he knows how important basketball and track have been to her development.
"She came up young, she was forced into the starting role (as a freshman)," Baker said of Munnikhuysen, who is leading the team this winter with 17.5 points and 1.7 steals per game. " ... But she's been able to use those traits and characteristics with our players that have been coming up from the JV.
"... She's a mentor to the younger kids and there's a couple point guards down there that she's done a really good job explaining and showing things (to), on and off the court."
Like all three of her coaches, Munnikhuysen believes her three-sport high school career has prepared her for UB, particularly on the mental side. She acknowledged how each coach has shaped her as an athlete while keeping their focus on who she is as a person. Munnikhuysen took all of their words to heart because of how they dedicated themselves to making kids better people on and off the field.
Before she goes though, Munnikhuysen can secure her fourth league basketball title before the spring breaks for track. She just looks forward to what her and her team can do, not focusing on her own exploits.
"I think it's great because I get to experience (this season) with my team. It's just something we work all season long (for), as every other team does," Munnikhuysen said. "But I think we put in the extra time and we put in the film and we put in preparation and we work over the summers — like there's no offseason for us.
"And I think just getting the satisfaction of clinching that title ... (it'd be like) we got what we're working for."
Follow sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos. Also, tune in to Khari at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on WGR 550's 'Inside High School Sports,' as well as the 'Greater WNY Sports Connection' podcast, a collaboration with Jon Simon and WNY Athletics.