Lee County’s Alexis Roland, front row, center, smiles as she signs her scholarship to play soccer next season for nearby Darton State College. Roland was joined by, front row, from left, her father, Keith, and stepmother, Pam, as well as back row, from left, Lee County head coach Dave Baltenberger and Darton head coach Ken Veilands. (Timothy Threadcraft/Special to The Herald)
LEESBURG — Alexis Roland likes Southwest Georgia so much she didn’t need to look far when choosing a college.
The Lee County soccer standout picked Darton State College on Wednesday, signing with the NJCAA Division I powerhouse Wednesday in Leesburg.
“She’s a really hard worker and a really good kid. We only had her at Lee County for a year,” Lee County coach Dave Baltenberger said of Roland, who attended Lee County Middle School before moving to Valdosta for her first three years of high school. “She did everything we wanted from a player. She’s an encouraging teammate and has a good attitude; we really appreciate it. We would’ve loved to have her for all four years. I’m sure she would’ve made a big difference.”
As a senior with the Lady Trojans, Roland scored five goals and assisted six more. Though the team’s emotional season came to a close prematurely with a first-round loss in the GHSA Class AAAAA state tournament, she has no regrets about returning to Lee County for one last season.
“It was great,” said Roland of her time as a Lady Trojan. “It was only one year, but it was a good year.”
As the season progressed, Roland developed a relationship with Darton head coach Ken Veilands.
“We talked early on,” said Roland of her recruiting conversations, which stalled at one point before gaining steam again recently. “We kind of drifted away in the middle. It was off and then back on, and now here I am.”
According to Veilands, the culprit for the perceived lull in interest was a simple miscommunication.
“We started talking early in the high school season, watching her film and having conversations with her. She worked out and practiced with us too. We thought she would be a good fit for what our team needs in certain parts of the field. We almost had a snafu though; another school was recruiting her, and we ended up having some miscommunication. I almost lost her,” Veilands said Wednesday. “But we were able to reel her back in.”
Roland plans to play midfielder at Darton, where she will enroll sometime this summer.
“We’re looking at the center part of the field,” Veilands said. “That’s where we lose the most. We’re bringing in some dynamic forwards and very good defenders. That’s why it was so important for us to get Alexis on board. She’s a big piece of that puzzle.”
Roland hopes to contribute right away to a powerhouse Lady Cavs program that has been a mainstay at nationals the last few seasons.
“They said if I work hard, I’d probably play, so I’m definitely going to work hard,” she said. “I’m going to be living in the dorms, but I’ll still be home (from time to time). So if I need my Dad, he’s right there. He can cook me food and stuff, so I don’t have to go too far!”