Tandem's Irvin Eager for Challenge of College Soccer

Leci Irvin has been spending her summer running miles and sprints, all part of the conditioning program given to her by her soon-to-be new coaches at William & Mary.

"I've never really been faced with that before. "I've really just been thrown out onto the field and told to play," Irvin said of the drills, which are preparing her for a conditioning test when she first arrives on campus in late July. "But being in such an intense atmosphere, I think, will push me to become a better player. I think it will be really good for me in the long run."

Irvin -- who calls soccer "my passion and my love" -- has been playing the sport since third grade, when an arm injury forced her to give up gymnastics. She spent the last three years helping to build a dynasty at Tandem Friends, where the Badgers have won back-to-back-to-back VISAA Division 2 state titles.

Irvin admits that she didn't really consider college soccer an option -- "Honestly, I didn't think I was good enough," she admits with a laugh -- until a few years ago, when scouts starting showing up to watch her play. But once she realized it was possible, playing in college became her goal.

"It's definitely been a motivating force for me the last couple of years," Irvin said. "It's helped me find the confidence, and find a strong sense of self in myself. And I think it's important to follow through with that, into college, would be really great."

Irvin was named the state player of the year after scoring all four of Tandem's goals in a 4-0 win over Eastern Mennonite in May that clinched the Badgers' third straight title. She committed to William & Mary last November, choosing the Tribe over schools like Carnegie Mellon, East Carolina, and Longwood.

It's believed she is the first athlete from Tandem to receive a Division-I athletic scholarship, something she calls an "honor." Irvin says the Tribe's coaches plan to use her speed at either outside midfielder or forward.

And Irvin is working on that speed this summer. She says she'll need to be able to run two miles in less than 12 minutes next months, in addition to meeting certain times in some sprints. For Irvin, the conditioning work is the most tangible sign right now that the game will be different at the college level.

But she's looking forward to the challenge.

"Coming in as a freshman, I'm not really expecting to play that much," Irvin said. "Just because, it is a D-I college, and they have a huge recruiting pool that they can pull from, so the best of the best play on that team. But I'm really looking forward to finding my place, and just fitting into their team."

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