Arianna Paulson knew two years ago that she wanted to play softball at Brigham Young University.
On Monday, she made it official.
The Payson High senior signed a National Letter of Intent in Provo, Utah to accept a softball scholarship.
“I briefly looked at a couple of other schools, but BYU was definitely my top choice,” Paulson said. “And they offered me a scholarship a couple of years ago. So, that’s the one I took.”
She gave a verbal commitment shortly after her family moved to Payson from Miamisburg, Ohio before her sophomore year. Nothing has changed since, except that Paulson has developed into one of the best players in Arizona.
She became the first Payson softball player named Small School Player of the Year by The Arizona Republic after last season, when she helped the Longhorns to a 29-5 record and a second consecutive appearance in the Division III state semifinals.
She also made the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III All-State and All-Section III first teams in online voting by coaches.
Paulson hit .648 and led PHS with 47 RBIs and 18 doubles.
Although she can play multiple positions, she’s expected to pitch for the Cougars. As the Longhorns’ ace last season, Paulson went 16-0 with a 0.86 earned run average and 174 strikeouts in 89 innings.
“She throws six pitches, maybe seven now because she was working on another,” said new PHS varsity softball head coach Kadi Tenney. “That’s her advantage because she can throw six pitches well. Sure, she’s fast, but she has so much variety to keep batters guessing. They never know what they’re getting. She can work around batters’ strengths and pinpoint and focus on their weaknesses. She’s a smart pitcher, which is great.”
Smart is correct. Paulson has a grade point average above 4.0 and scored high on both her ACT and SAT. She has applied for and is likely to receive academic scholarships.
Tenney said Paulson has put in the work needed to develop into a standout student-athlete.
“Arianna has earned it,” the coach said. “She is extremely hard working and dedicated. She has been willing to sacrifice social activities to put in the work to be a Division I player. She’s not just a pitcher. She plays many other positions very well. She’s played everywhere except catcher. I would feel confident putting her anywhere on the field.
“And she’s an outstanding hitter. She’s an outstanding young lady.”
She’s played club softball since she was 9. She normally plays first or third base when not pitching on those teams.
She has a good idea of what she wants to study.
“I think I’m going to study exercise science,” she said. “I want to do something pre-med, for sure; then move on to medical school. So I’ll be able to play softball, get a good education and everything at the place I want to be.”
She already had a connection to BYU as her parents, Amy and Toby Paulson, both went there. And her brother, Sterling, a 2011 graduate of Miamisburg (Ohio) High, is a member of the BYU rugby team. Her sister, Arissa, a sophomore pitcher on the PHS varsity next spring, has also verbally committed to play softball at BYU.
“My parents had a really big impact and they’ve always coached me and pushed me and they’re a large part of where I am today,” she said.
She comes from an athletic family. Both parents played sports in high school and her father played football at BYU before injuries ended his college athletic career. And, in addition to her older brother and Arissa, the other three children in the family are also athletes. Her sister Aubrielle, 13, is an eighth-grader who plays softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer. And her younger brother Brinton, 12, is a sixth-grader who wrestles and plays football and basketball.
She said she enjoys pitching because she can control the game from the circle.